36 x 76 cm: acrylic on canvas
Waru Near Marble Bar
This work depicts a fire burning near Marble Bar; a town and a rock formation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The town’s name was derived from the jasper rock at the bed of the Coongan River, which run’s adjacent to the town. Jasper is similar to marble in its appearance.
The practice of fire burning 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.
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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.