91 x 91 cm: acrylic on linen
“We were climbing Parnngurr hill; we were frightened. Kartiya (Europeans) would walk around, trying to catch Martu people. We would run up the hill and hide. We watched them catch people. We were eating flour that white people gave us. It was horrible. From [Parnngurr rockhole], we got in the truck and went with the white people to Jigalong. Kumpaya [Girgirba], Jakayu [Biljabu] and Ngamaru [Bidu], we were all on top of the hill looking at the white people.”
– Bugai Whyoulter
Parnngurr rockhole is located just south of Parnngurr Aboriginal community. This site lies within Bugai’s ngurra (home Country, camp), the area which she knew intimately and travelled extensively with her family in her youth. For many Martu, including Bugai, Parnngurr also signifies the location at which their nomadic bush life came to an end. Poignantly described here by Bugai, it was here that a group of 29 Martu were picked up by the Native Welfare Department to be taken to Jigalong Mission in 1963. Collectively the group had come to the decision to move to the mission as a result of an extended drought, which had caused a scarcity in food and water resources. The group also wanted to join their families, who had already moved to Jigalong.
At the junction of three linguistic groups; Manyjilyjarra, Kartujarra, and Warnman, Parnngurr rockhole was a critical and permanent source of water during the pujiman (traditional, desert born) era that supported many ritual large gatherings. During this nomadic period families stopped and camped here depending on the seasonal availability of water and the corresponding cycles of plant and animal life on which hunting and gathering bush tucker was reliant. At Parnngurr and other similarly important camp sites families would meet for a time before moving to their next destination. Parnngurr and its surrounds are physically dominated by distinctively red tali (sandhills), covered sparingly with spinifex and low lying shrub.
Parnngurr is also an important site chronicled in the epic Jukurrpa (Dreaming) story of the Jakulyukulyu, or Minyipuru (Seven Sisters). The sisters stopped to rest on Parnngurr Hill before continuing on their long journey east. Minyipuru is a central Jukurrpa narrative for Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people that is associated with the seasonal Pleiades star constellation. Relayed in song, dance, stories and paintings, Minyipuru serves as a creation narrative, a source of information relating to the physical properties of the land, and an embodiment of Aboriginal cultural laws. Beginning in Roebourne on the west coast of Western Australia, the story morphs in its movement eastward across the land, following the women as they walk, dance, and even fly from waterhole to waterhole. As they travel the women camp, sing, wash, dance and gather food, leaving markers in the landscape and creating landforms that remain to this day, such as groupings of rocks and trees, grinding stones and seeds. During the entirety of their journey the women are pursued by a lustful old man, Yurla, although interactions with other animals, groups of men, and spirit beings are also chronicled in the narrative.
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Martumili Artists acknowledges the Nyiyaparli and Martu people as the Traditional Owners of the land we live and work on. We also acknowledge the Traditional Owners throughout our country and our Elders; past, present and emerging.