61 x 91 cm: acrylic on canvas
Yimiri comprises two freshwater soaks situated in the middle of a salt lake in the Percival Lakes area, within Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. Around these soaks the Country is dominated by permanent tuwa (sand hills). When visiting this site to drink water, the bulrushes surrounding the soaks are pushed back to access the kapi (water).
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.
During the pujiman period, Martu would traverse very large distances annually in small family groups, moving seasonally from water source to water source, and hunting and gathering bush tucker as they went. At this time knowledge of water sources was critical for survival, and today Martu Country is still defined in terms of the location and type of water. Each of the hundreds of claypans, rockholes, waterholes, soaks and springs found in the Martu desert homelands is known by name, location, quality and seasonal availability through real life experience and the recounting of Jukurrpa narratives.
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.