36 x 46 cm: acrylic on canvas
Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33)- Kumpaya Girgirba
“When I was a young girl, I walked everywhere, travelling along the Canning Stock Route. I walked north and west, around Wana warla (lake). I grew up around there, going right around that Country and all the way back to Kunawarritji. But once I became a woman I stopped travelling and just stayed around Kunawarritji.
[At] Kunawarritji, all the Minyipuru (Jakulyukulyu, Seven Sisters) mima (women) there. He been chase them, Yurla.”
– Kumpaya Girgirba (Girgaba)
Kunawarritji is an important site in the Great Sandy Desert where multiple stories and histories intersect. Originally a spring water and major Martu pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) camping site, at the turn of the 20th century Kunawarritji was converted into a well along the Canning Stock Route. Each year throughout the 1930-50s, the well became a site of contact between the drovers, their cattle, and desert families like Kumpaya’s. Kumpaya was born at Kiwirrkurra, 350 kilometres east of Kunawarritji. She grew up in the Country between these sites, and from an early age she and her family had encounters with drovers along the Canning Stock Route. In her paintings for this area, Kumpaya frequently depicts the waterholes between Kunawarritji and Punmu that she travelled between as a young woman. These water sources include Wuranu (Canning Stock Route Well 29), Juntu-juntu (Canning Stock Route Well 30), Mujingarra, Yurrunguny, Papuly, Nyipily (Nyipil, Canning Stock Route Well 34), Pikarnu, and Yalta.
As Kumpaya describes in her account, Kunawarritji features in the Minyipuru (Jakulyukulyu, Seven Sisters) Jukurrpa (Dreaming). Minyipuru is a central Jukurrpa narrative for Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people that is associated with the seasonal Pleiades star constellation. Beginning in Roebourne on the west coast of Western Australia, the story morphs in its movement eastward across the land, following a group of women as they walk, dance, and even fly from waterhole to waterhole. As they travelled the women left markers in the landscape and create landforms that remain to this day. During the entirety of their journey the women are pursued by a lustful old man, Yurla, although interactions with other animals, groups of men, and spirit beings are also chronicled in the narrative. The Minyipuru travelled to Kunawarritji from Nyipily (Nyipil, Nibil, Canning Stock Route Well 34), and transformed themselves into a distinctive group of trees that remain in the area between these two sites. From Kunawarritji Yurla followed the sisters to Pangkapirni, where he finally caught one of the women.
Today, Kunawarritji is a site of return, a place where people came back to continue their life in the desert with the formation of Kunawarritji Aboriginal community in the early 1980s. The community’s cultural significance endures, with the population swelling up to 1000 during cultural business.
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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.