Paruku and Tjurabalan
Long time ago in the Dreamtime, they used to live, old people, in the lake.
Nangalaku May Doonday, Mulan, 2008
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Kilangkilang, one of the lakes in the Paruku system. Photo: Tim Acker, 2007
Before white settlement, the Paruku (Lake Gregory) and Tjurabalan (Sturt Creek) regions were centres of activity both for ancestral beings and for river, lake and desert people.
The Paruku lake system lies at the end of the Tjurapalan Jukurrpa, a major Dreaming track that binds together many language groups over a wide area. The surrounding fertile country provided an abundant source of plant and animal life for local groups and desert people in times of drought. These groups met regularly at Paruku and Tjurabalan to trade and perform ceremonies.
Exotic trade items such as jakuli, or pearl shells, also passed through Paruku and Tjurabalan to destinations as far south as the Great Australian Bight and as far east as Queensland and New South Wales.
In the desert, both men and women used jakuli for ritual and decorative purposes. Their lustrous surfaces symbolised beauty and health, and recalled the brilliance of the ancestral beings as they emerged in the Dreamtime. As the sacred objects coveted by the jila men, jakuli were also used in rainmaking ceremonies, their striking iridescence evoking water in its many manifestations.
Kiki and the pearl shell
From the Dreamtime, [the ancestral hero] Kiki was coming from the sky, looking for a place to live. He came down near Paruku and went down in the water.
Kiki felt hungry after travelling a long way and made plants and put them round everywhere. He made the plants grow. Plants you can grind to make flour, seeds, little grapes, some healing stuff too. He put all them frogs that people eat, bandicoots, blue tongue lizards, animals that used to live out there. What we still eat today is from that old fella.
Kiki had a white stone in the Dreamtime and he tried to hide it in that big lake. But it kept on floating up. Bandicoot man came along and found that thing floating in the water. He stole it and threw it in the ocean near Broome. From there it turned into a pearl shell. That's why Broome is rich with pearl shells. It [the pearl shell] started from Paruku. It didn't want to hide.
Yanpiyarti Ned Cox and Putuparri Tom Lawford, Ngumpan, 2008
Engraved jakuli about 1930
Collected by Alfred Canning's party, 1930–31
Pearl shell, ochre and hairstring
The designs on this pendant signify its intended use as a rainmaking jakuli. Traded from the coast as plain shells, jakuli are still engraved today by desert artisans for ceremonial use.
South Australian Museum.
Tin pendant about 1930
Collected by Alfred Canning's party, 1930–31
With the arrival of Europeans, metal and other exotic materials began to appear along the stock route. The once reflective surface of this now rusted tin lid may have reminded the artist of pearl shell. Martu elder Wokka Taylor believes the artist deliberately traded this pendant with Canning to avoid having to part with a real pearl shell.
South Australian Museum
Paruku George Wallaby, Red Rock Gallery, ochre on wood,119.5 x 95 cm
In the Dreamtime there was a really dry time. The boss man, Majakarr, was living near Sturt Creek where it flows into Paruku, and his many sons and daughters were thirsty. Majakarr said, 'Follow me, plenty water this way'. But they couldn't listen and went their own way. They all died. That's why there's always only one boss man.
Euan Hills Collection
Veronica Lulu, Bessie Doonday, Anna Johns, Wendy Wise, Shirley Brown, Chamia Samuels, Lyn Manson, Daisy Kungah and Kim Mahood, acrylic on canvas, 305.5 x 138 cm
In 2001 the native title rights of the Tjurabalan people were recognised by the Federal Court of Australia. More than 4300 square kilometres of their traditional lake Country was declared to be an Indigenous Protected Area.
Today the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area is managed by Tjurabalan traditional owners. Its diverse activities focus on protecting cultural heritage, managing the Paruku (Lake Gregory) lake system's ecological biodiversity and passing on traditional knowledge to younger generations.
Kartiya used to keep him, that land, but people knew it was for them. My brother [Rex Johns] said, 'We gotta keep the stories alive, the land alive. We all staying in Mulan now, that's our country.'
Kurpaliny Bessie Doonday, Halls Creek, 2007
As part of the management of their lands, Paruku artists have been producing extraordinary hybrid maps, which fuse the topographic detail of Western mapmaking with fields of intricate dotting. This map of Paruku shows the rich plant food and medicinal resources surrounding the lake country and the traditional burning practices still employed by Tjurabalan people to maintain its vitality.
Paruku Indigenous Protected Area Collection
Veronica Lulu, Warlayirti Artists, acrylic on linen, 119.5 x 80 cm
Mungily is a samphire bush, an important food source around Paruku. Initially green, it then turns purple and pink. When it dries to a yellow colour, mungily is ready to collect. The seeds are rubbed out of the plant, washed, dried in the sun, and ground to make damper (bush bread).