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'Kumpupirntily' by Jakayu Biljabu and Dadda Samson, 2007

Object type

Object number

A multicolour painting on brown linen with three red C shapes outlined in yellow, white, beige and blue dots, in a line diagonally across the painting. To the right of these is a blue circle and orange rectangle motif, then a rounded rectangular shape filled with red and yellow horizontal lines with a blue outlined rectangle at the top. At the top of the painting there are seven concentric oval in red, yellow, blue, green and purple. The lower part of the painting has a pale section to the right and a yellow, beige and red dot filled section to the left. Text at the top left reads "122 x 76cm DS + JB/73/MM" and at the lower left edge reads "48 x 30". On the back of the painting is a stamp which reads "Cat # 73 / form. / The / Canning / Stock / Route / Project".

This painting, a collaboration between Jakayu Biljabu and Dadda Samson, tells part of the story of the journey of the Ngayurnangalku (cannibal beings) travelling to Kumpupirntily [Lake Disappointment].

"The Ngayurnangalku started round Mundawindi side. They went on their knees and wailed and crawled all the way to Lake Disappointment. Ngayurnangalku travelled all the way to Savory Creek from east and west. They stopped at Jilakurru and near Puntawarri. They travelled from long way, and stopped at Kumpupirntily." [Jakayu Biljabu]

A fuller version of this story, reproduced below, is drawn from other artists parts of the CSR project research.

Kumpupirntily is a vast dry salt lake that dominates the country east of the Canning Stock Route, from wells 18 to 21. Explorer Frank Hann came across it in 1896. Having followed creeks that flowed inland in the hope of finding a freshwater lake, he named it "Lake Disappointment" after the disappointment he felt. Hann knew nothing of Kumpupirntily's cultural importance. One of the most dangerous areas in the Western Desert, the lake is home to cannibal beings known as Ngayurnangalku (the word means 'will eat me'). The Ngayurnangalku live under the surface of the lake, in their own world, with its own sky and a sun that never sets. They are said to resemble people, except for their large fangs and the long curved fingernails they use to catch and hold their victims.

In the Jukurrpa, when Ngayurnangalku were living all over the desert, they came together for a big meeting at Kumpupirntily, and debated whether or not they should stop eating people. This journey to the meeting is what the artists (Jakayu and Dadda) have painted in this art work. Jeffrey James continues that story:

"That night there was a baby born. They asked, 'Are we going to stop eating the people?' And they said, 'Yes, we going to stop,' and they asked the baby, newborn baby, and she said, 'No'. The little kid said, 'No, we can still carry on and continue eating peoples,' but this mob said, 'No, we're not going to touch'. [Jeffrey James]

Following the baby, one group continued to be cannibals, dividing the Ngayurnangalku forever into 'good' and 'bad'. The bad people remained at Kumpupirntily, but the good were kept safe by 'bodyguards', who also transformed into features around the lake.

"The bodyguards were saving all the people. Sandhill in the middle of the lake separates good people and bad people." [Jeffrey James]

Today, Kumpupirntily remains a site of considerable danger for Martu people. They will not camp near the lake, and will not set foot on the lake's salt-encrusted surface for fear of those who live beneath.

Collection name
Canning Stock Route collection

Collection statement of significance
The Canning Stock Route collection is comprised of 125 works and includes paintings, drawings, baskets, boomerangs, coolamons, headdresses, carved figures and shields.

The Canning Stock Route is a no-longer-used cattle droving route that traverses the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts of central Western Australia. Comprised of 48 wells along an 1800 kilometres stretch of track, the route links Wiluna in the south with Sturt Creek in the north and traverses the traditional lands of nine Aboriginal language groups. The route was founded in 1905 when Alfred Canning was commissioned to investigate a route suitable for the droving of 500 head of cattle, with water sources spaced at intervals of no more than one day's walk apart. Although Canning's map records observations of the land and water resources, it makes no mention of Indigenous places and their associated meanings which the route traversed. This collection, composed of 'painting stories', sculptural works and oral histories, re-dresses Canning's omission and records the impact of the stock route on Indigenous lives and country. A six week journey with traditional owners held in July and August of 2007 inspired the artworks, many of which were produced during the journey, and provided an opportunity for more than 70 senior and emerging artists to reconnect with traditional lands..

Jakayu Biljabu
This was a collaborative painting

Dadda Samson
This was a collaborative painting

Production place
Canning Stock Route, , Australia

Production date
01/08/2007 - 05/08/2007

Associated organisation
Martumili Artists
Art centre

Linen, Acrylic paint

Width: 770mm
Height: 1220mm
Depth: 30mm

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