Acrylic on Canvas Painting by Jakayu Biljabu of Martu Milli Art Centre
Painting 76 x 36 cm: acrylic on canvas - Untitled
Artist: Jakayu Biljabu
“I’m really happy when I’m painting my Country. I’m proud as I follow my Country, I’m holding on to my Country. That’s my water in the East. I’m painting my Country. It’s not someone else’s, it’s my Country. I’m looking after my Country. I’m showing my family the Country. I feel privileged that I can see it. As I watch my children I’m really happy for them. I’m watching them all while they’re working on the Country. I’m so proud of them. I’m looking after them and now I feel fulfilled.” – Jakayu Biljabu as translated by Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa
This is Jakayu’s Country- her ‘ngurra’ (home Country, camp). People identify with their ngurra in terms of specific rights and responsibilities, and the possession of intimate knowledge of the physical and cultural properties of one’s Country. Painting ngurra, and in so doing sharing the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) stories and physical characteristics of that place, has today become an important means of cultural maintenance.
Jakayu’s ngurra encompasses the Country that she and her family walked in the pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) era. At this time Jakayu travelled nomadically with her own and other family groups, most notably the Bidu and Whyoulter families.
Jakayu was born at Pitu (Separation Well). She grew up, walked and hunted primarily around Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33), Wikiri, Rarrki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25), Pitu, Nyilangkurr and Nyinyari. She continued to live nomadically before eventually deciding to move to Jigalong Mission along with many other relatives following an extreme and prolonged drought in the 1960s.
Portrayed in this work are features of Jakayu’s ngurra, such as the striking salt lakes, dominant permanent red tali (sandhills), warta (trees, vegetation), and the individually named water sources Jakayu and her family camped at. These include Julyjarru, Juntiwa, Karanyal (Canning Stock Route Well 20), Martilirri (Canning Stock Route Well 22), Kaalpa (Canning Stock Route Well 23), Kartarru (Blue Hills Station, Canning Stock Route Well 24), Wantili (Canning Stock Route Well 25, Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26), Rarrki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), Warla-warla (Canning Stock Route Well 31), Kinyu (Canning Stock Route Well 35), Kulilu, Kunalimpi, Kurrungukarl, Parnngurr, Pinpinjanu, Pitu, Pupapupajunanja, Wangkakalu, Wikiri, Yiranang, and Yulpu. Rock holes, waterholes, soaks, and springs were all extremely important sites for Martu people during the pujiman period, and are generally depicted with circular forms.
The encyclopaedic knowledge of the location, quality, and seasonal availability of the hundreds of water bodies found in one’s Country sustained Martu as they travelled across their Country, hunting and gathering, visiting family, and fulfilling ceremonial obligations. They would traverse very large distances annually, visiting specific areas in the dry and wet season depending on the availability of water and the corresponding cycles of plant and animal life on which hunting and gathering bush tucker was reliant. As they travelled and hunted they would also burn areas of Country, generating a greater diversity of plant and animal life.