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This is Mitutu’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. Mitutu’s ngurra encompasses her birthplace, Yirajarra soak, located close to Lake Auld and just north of Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26), and the Country that her family walked in the pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) era, around the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) region.

Portrayed in this work are features of Mitutu’s family’s ngurra, such as the gorges and rivers, dominant permanent red tali (sandhills), warta (trees, vegetation), and the individually named water sources they camped at. 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.

Name: Mabel Mitutu Wakarta

Language: Warnman

Community: Parnngurr


Mitutu was a Warnman woman born in the 1920s at Yirrajarra soak, located close to Lake Auld and just north of Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26). Her Country encompassed the Karlamily (Rudall River) region and surrounding water sources from Tarl to Nyajarra and Juntu-juntu. Mitutu lived a pujiman (desert dwelling) lifestyle until, following a severe and prolonged drought, her parents, her brother and her sister all passed away in close succession. Mitutu, her husband and extended family then decided to begin the long journey on foot to Jigalong Mission, where many other desert families had already relocated. They walked for over 200 kilometres through the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) and Talawana areas to arrive at the mission.

Mitutu was an adult when she arrived at Jigalong and went to work cooking, washing and cleaning houses. After leaving Jigalong she worked for many years on Roy Hill, Ethel Creek and Bonney Downs Stations, as well as several stations to the south of Martu Country. 

Mitutu was one of Martumili’s most senior and pioneering artists for many years, and embraced painting as a means of transferring cultural knowledge to younger Martu generations. A prolific artist, she developed a uniquely bold geometrical style, tending toward palettes of highly contrasting colours to portray her ngurra (home Country, camp) and its associated Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives. When Mitutu first started painting she was living in Irrungadji Aboriginal community, adjacent to Nullagine, with fellow Martumili Artists Jatarr Lily Long and Wurta Amy French. Later Mitutu moved to Parnngurr Aboriginal community to be closer to her family and home Country, where she remained until her passing in 2019.


© the artist / art centre