Thelma Dundan (Dunjan) Judson
36 x 76 cm: acrylic on canvas
After the rain. Yulpu Country
“Flower after the rain, you know- a mix. Blue, pink, yellow and purple- one group up with the grass after the rain. You can see anywhere when the burnt ground grow after the rain. [On] old nyamu [Grandfather], burnt Country”
– Ngarga Thelma Judson
Thelma Judson’s Grandfather’s Country is Yimiri. Yimiri comprises two soaks situated in the middle of a salt lake in the Percival Lakes area, within Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. Around the waterhole the Country is dominated by tuwa (sand hills), depicted here with lines and sections of colour. This painting depicts Yimiri, a very important site for yinta. Yimiri is the larger of two soaks in the middle of a big salt warla (lake). When visiting this site to drink water, the plants and warta (trees, vegetation) growing in the kapi (water) are cleaned out as a way of maintaining the site.
“Yimiri is [at] a salt lake. There’s two water in the middle, drinking water. That’s a drinking water for us. You can walk right up to lake in the middle of the salt. It’s fresh and beautiful. You gotta sing out for Yimiri, that’s a snake Country. That’s a special water place. We sing out for water; “Yimiri, I’m coming to visit you, I’m coming for fresh water.”
I grew up around these salt lakes [Percival Lakes] with all the families; Yuwali mob, all together. Too salty to drink, so get fresh water from Yimiri, a yinta (permanent spring) in the lake. When they got sick or sores, mothers would wash them in the salt on hot days to make the kids better.”
-Ngarga Thelma Judson
During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) days, Ngarga and her family travelled extensively through this county, their ngurra (home Country, camp). Her family moved up and down through this Country between water sources. When it was raining, they would build a wuungku (shelter) where they could sleep and stay warm beside a waru (fire). When they camped in a particular location for a period the elders would go hunting, leaving the children behind. Ngarga fondly recalls playing around in the tuwa (sandhills) in this region, catching parla-parla (type of lizard).
Yimiri is home to an ancestral jila (snake). 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 jila. 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 are named after their jila inhabitant, guarding their waters.
The region surrounding Yimiri was formed by Wirnpa, one of the most powerful of the ancestral jila (snake) men and the last to travel the desert during the Jukurrpa. Wirnpa is a rainmaking jila who lived and hunted in the Percival Lakes area. His travels are described in the songs and stories of many language groups across the Western Desert, even those far removed from his home site. In his epic travels, Wirnpa met and feasted with many other ancestral beings, exchanged ceremonial objects, and created a series of different laws and ceremonies. When he finally returned home, he searched for his many children only to discover that they had already died. They had laid down and become the salt springs of the Percival Lakes. Wirnpa wept for his children before himself transforming into a snake and entering the soak where he still resides.
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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.