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Minyipuru Jukurrpa: The Seven Sisters' story
When I was a child, we camped one night at Natawalu. The Seven Sisters also rested there.
Mulyatingki Marney, 2007
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Minyipuru (Seven Sisters), by Muni Rita Simpson, Rosie Williams and Dulcie Gibbs, laid out on the ground at Kilykily (Well 36), where it was painted in 2007
Minyipuru (Seven Sisters), by Muni Rita Simpson, Rosie Williams and Dulcie Gibbs, laid out on the ground at Kilykily (Well 36), where it was painted in 2007. Photo: Tim Acker, 2007.
In Aboriginal cultures across Australia, and in other cultures around the world, the Pleiades star cluster is associated with the story of the Seven Sisters. Minyipuru Jukurrpa is the Martu version of this story. When Martumili Artists was established in 2005, this was the first Dreaming story the Martu women agreed to paint for a broader public.
The Minyipuru began their journey from Roebourne as a big group of sisters and their mothers. At various places along the way, they lost members of their party until eventually only seven sisters remained. At Kalypa (Well 23) the Minyipuru met a group of Jukurrpa men; it was the first time either group had seen members of the opposite sex. The men tried to grab the women, but the Minyipuru chased them, hitting them with their digging sticks and leaving them lying there.
At Pangkapini the sisters met Yurla, an old man who had followed them from Roebourne. Yurla grabbed one of the women at Pangkapini, but her sisters tricked him and managed to rescue her. At another site further east, he tried to catch five of the sisters, but again they escaped, flying on to Marapinti.
Many of the sites on the Seven Sisters' journey are now wells on the Canning Stock Route.
Minyipuru (Seven Sisters) by Martumili Artists
Muni Rita Simpson, Rosie Williams and Dulcie Gibbs, Martumili Artists, acrylic on linen, 300 x 125 cm
Sisters Muni, Rosie and Dulcie grew up in the Country depicted in this painting. But it is the story of the Seven Sisters or Minyipuru, one of Martu women's most important Jukurrpa narratives, which they have described here. In this story, the old man Yurla, who had been pursuing the sisters, captured one of the women at Pangkapini, between wells 35 and 36. The Minyipuru tricked him and rescued her.
Poor old fella, he had a rough time. He was trying and trying and trying.
The Minyipuru promised to stay with the old man Yurla but, when he returned from collecting wood, they were floating above his head, teasing him. Yurla made a ladder but the sisters pushed it over and laughed at him. When he collapsed, exhausted, they rescued their sister and flew away.
Minyipuru by Jakayu Biljabu
Jakayu Biljabu, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas, 187 x 121 cm
This painting describes the journey of the Minyipuru while they were still travelling as a large group of sisters and their mothers. The white U-shapes represent them as they flew close to Parnngurr, where women's law tells that an important event took place. Afterwards, they flew on to Kalypa. The dance for this site is performed by both men and women.
Pangkapini, Minyipuru by Mulyatingki Marney
Mulyatingki Marney, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas , 151 x 94.2 cm
This is Pangkapini and all the rock holes and soaks that I remember on the western, northern and eastern sides of Karlamilyi. I grew up around that area with my mum and dad. The Seven Sisters sat down and rested [at many of these places]. When I was a child, we camped one night at Natawalu. The Seven Sisters also rested there.
Minyipuru Claypan by Bugai Whylouter
Bugai Whylouter, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas, 92.5 x 65 cm
This painting represents the Country where Bugai grew up. It shows some of the places where the Minyipuru rested on their journeys. Before reaching Pangkapini, they travelled from Wantili claypan near Well 25 to Tiwa (Well 26) and then flew on to Juntujuntu, a permanent water next to Well 30.
Juntujuntu: Minyipuru and Kurrkurr by Nancy Chapman
Nancy Chapman, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 78 cm
On their journey the Minyipuru stopped at Juntujuntu, a permanent spring near Well 30. Mujingarra is another permanent water located six metres below ground in a cave near Juntujuntu. This large, clear pool is known as the kurru or eye of Kurrkurr the night owl. When Kurrkurr was speared, his eye was said to have popped out, landing in Mujingarra.
When Alfred Canning's party arrived at Mujingarra in 1906, it did not receive a warm reception from the large group of Aboriginal people who were camped there. To ensure they would sleep safely, Canning's men forced the entire group into the cave and sealed them in for the night. Canning's account is silent about how this was accomplished.