61 x 91 cm: acrylic on canvas
Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25)
Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25) is a large round jurnu (soak) and linyji (claypan) near Well 25 on the Canning Stock Route. The area is dominated by claypans surrounded by tuwa (sandhills), and Nyilangkurr, a prominent yapu (hill) is located on the edge of the claypan. Following rain the typically dry claypans are filled with water, with the overflow from nearby waterholes flowing to Wantili. At that time, Wantili becomes an important place for obtaining fresh water for drinking and bathing. Wantili is significant for the fact that at this site Kartujarra, Manyjilyjarra, Putijarra and Warnman people would all come together for ceremonies during the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era. Many jiwa (stones used by women for grinding seeds) from these times can still be found there today.
Wantili is an incredibly important cultural site, ‘where the creation started.’ (Cyril Whyoulter). In this creation story, the world was initially dark, and people were like rocks, with no arms or legs. Following the sun’s first rising, life-forms become increasingly complex while particular features in the land were created. Beyond these details much of the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narrative relating to Wantili is ngurlu (sacred, taboo), and only for Martu, but the site is open, and anyone can go there.
Wantili is also one of the many sites featured in the epic Minyipuru (Jakulyukulyu, Seven Sisters) Jukurrpa story. 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. The story follows the movement of a group of women travelling all the way across the desert, beginning at Roebourne on the coast of Western Australia, as they are pursued by Yurla, a lustful old man. As the women travelled, they stopped to rest at many sites to eat, dance, rest and sing, on the way leaving behind an assortment of articles that became formations in the land, such as groupings of rocks and trees, grinding stones and seeds. The sisters rested at Wantili before throwing seeds, then continued their journey far to the east and beyond Martu Country, stopping at various sites through central and South Australia.
The intersection of the Canning Stock Route with Wantili also made this a site of early contact with Europeans for many Martu then living a pujiman life in the desert. Following the route’s construction, Martu encountered Europeans and other Martu working as cattle drovers as they would travel up and down the Stock Route from water source to water source. Increasingly, pujimanpa (desert dwellers) followed the route to newly established ration depots, mission and pastoral stations. They were drawn to the route in search of food, by a sense of curiosity, or by loneliness. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, most of the desert family groups had left the desert. Eventually, these factors combined with an extreme and prolonged drought in the 1960s to prompt the few remaining pujimanpa to move in from the desert.
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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.