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Every water got a song People got to tell you story to make you happy and safe. Every place got a story.
Joe Brown, Fitzroy Crossing, 2008
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Kurtal dancers perform at Ngumpan. Photo: Tim Acker, 2008.
The Jukurrpa is sometimes translated as the 'Dreaming' or 'Dreamtime' and exists in desert law as the creation period.
During the Jukurrpa, ancestral beings in both human and animal form moved across the desert singing, marrying and fighting - or tricking and helping one another. As they travelled, they created the features of the land, its waters, plants and animals, and people, languages and ceremonies. They also established the moral, practical and spiritual laws that still govern Aboriginal societies. At journey's end, the ancestral beings returned to the earth, transforming themselves into important waters, hills and rocks. Others took their places among the stars.
These Jukurrpa narratives form an intricate network of 'Dreaming tracks' or 'songlines' that crisscross the desert country. The knowledge embedded in these stories is held collectively by senior initiated people. Some aspects of this knowledge are broadly known to desert peoples; others, including parts of men's and women's law, are restricted to people of certain age, status and gender.
Nora Nangapa, Nora Wompi, Bugai Whylouter and Kumpaya Girgaba, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas, 124.5 x 294 cm
The central water in this painting is Kunkun, an important women's site belonging to Marlu Jukurrpa, or 'kangaroo Dreaming'. This Jukurrpa is also significant within men's law and contains elements restricted to initiated men and women.
Despite the title, there are 57 named sites in this painting, 11 of which are stock route wells. These are places where the artists lived, where family members were born and died, and where ancestral beings left their power.
Two younger women, Mary Njana and Jacinta Galova, helped the senior artists paint Kunkun. As they did so, they learned some of the stories, which are integral to education in desert cultures. After completing the painting, the artists travelled to Kunkun, where they taught young women the song and dance for this Country.