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Karlamilyi (Rudall River region) is Warnman Country, located in the very heart of the Martu homelands. The Karlamilyi region forms part of Mabel Mitutu’s ngurra (home Country, camp), the area which she knew intimately and travelled extensively with her family in her youth.

Karlamilyi is situated southwest of the Great Sandy Desert and northeast of the Little Sandy Desert. Spanning through the region is the epic Karlamilyi River, which runs north into Nyayartakujarra (Ngayarta Kujarra, Lake Dora), a large salt lake. The Broadhurst and Fingoon Ranges extend diagonally across the river’s path. The landscape is striking for its abundance of gorges and valleys carved by ice age glaciers, rugged cliffs, red tali (sand dunes), grasslands, sandstone and quartz rocky outcrops, and salt lakes. 

Across the whole region are hundreds of water sources; including waterholes, creeks, soaks, lakes, pools and rockholes. Lining the rivers are coolabah, walyji (river gum), yulbah (bats wing coral tree), and several species of acacia and hakea. Jalkuran (paperbark), kurrulyu/ mijarrpa (bloodwood) and jawirli (quandong) are found in the region’s valleys, and wikirrpa (desert oaks) and grasses in the sandplains. The area is abundant with bird species, jila (snakes), maruntu (goannas), red kangaroos and warlpaju (rock wallabies). The region is also home to remote aboriginal communities Punmu and Parnngurr.

According to two of the central Martu Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives, the Karlamilyi River and its surrounds were created by the ancestral beings Jila Kujarra (Two Snakes) and the Wati Kujarra (Two Goanna Men) as they travelled across the lands.

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