91 x 91 cm: acrylic on linen
“That’s waru (fire) coming in and you can see all the birds watching one way. Kupi (water), that’s the water [hole] in the break away. It’s in my area. Kajarra [country]. Waru comes up when there’s a storm and when the lightning strikes. There’s animals in the middle now. In the green part. That’s the safest part for them and when the waru comes they just go.” – Noreena Kadibil This work depicts the practice of fire burning as it continues to be used today through the Martu homelands. Over thousands of years, as Martu travelled and hunted on foot they would burn tracts of land, using waru (fire) as a means to assist with hunting and to encourage regenerative growth. Whilst fire burning practices have modernised in recent times, with Martu burning areas close to Aboriginal communities and along roads, or else further afield using helicopters and 4WDs with Indigenous ranger group Karnyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ), the same objectives are met as those during pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) times. Targeted waru is an important tool in animal tracking. Small burns are lit to clear vegetation, expose burrows, and to allow for access to walk and track readily in exposed sands. Fires are typically burnt during cooler weather in small, controlled areas, reducing the risk of unmanageable, spontaneous bush fires whilst simultaneously providing diverse regenerating habitats. Remaining is a defined mosaic fire scar pattern in the land, across tali (sand dunes), linyji (clay pans), parulyukurru (spinifex country) and pila (sandy plains). This patterning is clearly visible from an aerial perspective, and becomes even more defined as new growth emerges. The patchwork nature of regrowth is aligned with the Martu cycle of burning and regrowth and its five distinct phases. First is nyurnma (freshly burnt Country), followed after the rains by waru-waru, when young, bright green plants start to grow. Nyukura occurs between one and three years after burning, when plants have matured and are fruiting and seeding. Manguu is four to six years post burning, when spinifex has matured to the point that it can be burned once again. Finally, kunarka signifies the time when spinifex and other plant species have become old growth, and pose a risk of destructive bushfires. Noreena Kadibil’s Country is a Katjarra (Carnarvon Range) mountain ranges, distinctive from a distance for its blue hue, is located in the south western corner of Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area. This region lies at the southern end of Martu Country, and at the intersection of the Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts of Western Australia. Katjarra was an important camping place for Martu walking between Jigalong and Wiluna for law business up until the late 1960s, as well as Martu who walked the Canning Stock Route into Wiluna. Katjarra was also the site of the 2008 Birriliburru Native Title Determination, one of the first land grants to Martu. Within the Katjarra mountain range are many water sources, including a culturally significant creek close to Milyinirri (Canning Stock Route Well 6), also named Katjarra. This creek is home to an ancestral jila (snake), and its waters cascade down the hill from here. The Western Desert term jila is used interchangeably to describe springs considered to be ‘living’ waters and snakes, both of which play a central role in Martu culture and Jukurrpa (Dreaming). During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) period, knowledge of water sources was critical for survival, and today Martu Country is still defined in terms of the location of water sources. Of the many permanent springs in Martu Country, very few are ‘living waters’; waters inhabited by powerful ancestral snakes. Before they became snakes, these beings were men who made rain, formed the land and introduced cultural practices like ceremonies and ritual songs. Some of the men travelled the desert together, visiting one another, but they all ended their journeys at their chosen spring alone, transformed into a snake. These important springs, like Katjarra, are named after their jila inhabitant. Katjarra also features as a site in the Minyipuru (Jakulyukulyu, Seven Sisters) Jukurrpa, and that of the yalapara (perentie goanna), an ancestral goanna being who was responsible for the creation of many significant land features in the area.
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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.