36 x 76 cm: acrylic on canvas
“This area here is our Country. It’s our Country right here. We returned to our Country with a Toyota and a grader that made the road. A grader right up to here. Punmu is a good place. It’s a happy place to live. My spirit feels good living here. In pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) time we lived in this area now. I’m happy with this life now, happy because I feel grounded by my Country. It’s important to hold onto the legacy of the ancestors. It’s up to the young people to carry it on now. For the ancestors past and present.”
– Minyawe Miller as translated by Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa
Punmu refers to a region and an Aboriginal community within its vicinity, located 670km North-East of Newman. Created during the return to Country movement of the 1980s, with the recognition of Martu land rights and native title, the community was named after a nearby Jukurrpa (Dreaming) story.
Punmu Aboriginal community sits on the edge of a large salt lake known as Nyayartakujarra, or Lake Dora. The lake runs south into Karlamilyi River (Rudall River). Surrounding Punmu are numerous fresh water soaks and the red tali (sandhills) typical of the area. The most frequently visited yinta (permanent springs) around Punmu include Wirlarra, Rawa, Yilyara, Jila-jila and Tuu-tuu.
The Country around Punmu features in several Jukurrpa stories. Of particular importance is the story of the Jila Kujarra (Two Snakes), one of the key Jukurrpa narratives for the Martu. Though the story belongs to Warnman people, it is shared across the Western Desert with several other language groups. The narrative centres on the travels of two snakes as they are pursued by the Niminjarra, spiritual ancestors of the Warnman people.
Before transforming themselves into snakes, the Jila Kujarra were young brothers. As snakes, they began travelling home to their mother, but were intercepted by the Niminjarra, who tracked the Jila Kujarra to Paji, east of Nyayartakujarra (Lake Dora). Though the Jila Kujarra eluded their pursuers here by escaping under the lake at Paji, they were soon after speared and injured by two Pukurti (initiates with bundled hair) at Nyayartakujarra, who returned with the Niminjarra to cook the snakes at the site of Kumpupirntily (Kumpupintily, Lake Disappointment). As the Niminjarra cut down the length of the Jila Kujarra, the snake’s bladders were pierced, causing an explosion of scalding hot urine in which the Niminjarra all perished and became black rocks at the site. The spirits of the Jila Kujarra returned to their mother at Nyayartakujarra, where the mother and her sons entered the ground below Nyayartakujarra and remain to this day.
Martumili Artists warns visitors that our website includes images and artworks of Artists who have passed away which may cause distress to some Indigenous people.
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.