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” Karlamilyi, kapi (water) there! There was two men there in the Dreamtime. i used to drink that kapi in the old days, pujiman (tradtional, desert dwelling) way”

– Amy French

This painting depicts Karlamilyi, also known as Rudall River National Park. It is situated in between the communities of Parnngurr and Punmu and is a very beautiful and important area. Rudall River runs through Karlamilyi into Nyayartakujarra, or Lake Dora, a very large salt warla (lake). Karlamilyi is Warnman country, and lies in the very heart of the Martu homelands. 

Name: Amy French

Language: Warnman

Community: Irrungadji (Nullagine)


“This Karlamilyi area, big land. That’s a ngurra (home Country, camp) belonging to our old people, Warnman people. We talk for our land, our jila (snake). I grew up in this Country, my Country. This land belongs to our father. In pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) days I walked around here, used to walk up and down tuwa (sandhill) and back to the main camp belonging to Martu. We are Warnman ladies, painting Kintyre and Karlamilyi. We can share this Country.”

 - Sisters Wurta Amy French and Jatarr Lily Long


Wurta is a Warnman woman and custodian of the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) region. She was born in the late 1930’s at Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25), and is the eldest sister of fellow Martumili Artist Jatarr Lily Long. Before Jatarr was born, Wurta lived in the Karlamily region with her parents. Following Jatarr’s birth the two sisters grew up together further east, in the area surrounding Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26). Tiwa is a water source located east of Parnngurr Aboriginal Community, and just west of a culturally significant group of hills called Partujarrapirri. 

Wurta distinctly remembers one of her first encounters with whitefellas, when a plane flew overhead whilst the sisters were out hunting. Both petrified, they ran away and hid until the plane had passed. Later, her family returned to the Karlamily region for a time, moving between camps located all along the Karlamily River and up to the large salt lake, Nyayartakujarra (Lake Dora). In the late 1940’s Wurta’s family “leave Karlamilyi behind” (Wurta Amy French). Together they travelled on foot for more than 200 kilometres to Jigalong Mission, where a supply of rationed food and water was assured. There they were reunited with family members that had already moved in from the desert. Whilst living at Jigalong, Wurta’s youngest sister Helen Dale Samson was born and Wurta married her promised husband. 

In Jigalong Wurta and Jatarr transitioned to a life as a stockwoman; “In Jigalong people, kids and all used to work there, mustering in station for ration. I stopped in dormitory… with my two sister” (Wurta Amy French). From Jigalong Wurta worked on Bonney Downs Station and several stations around Meekatharra before moving to Irrungadji, Nullagine, where she continues to live with her sister Jatarr, her children and grandchildren.

Wurta and Jatarr paint individually and also collaboratively, primarily depicting their ngurra in Karlamilyi; its animals, plants, waterholes and associated Jukurrpa (Dreaming) stories. Wurta is known for her bold use of colours and surreal landscapes, blending aerial and frontal perspectives. She has exhibited extensively since the inception of Martumili Artists in 2006 in galleries throughout Australia, in Singapore and the USA.

© the artist / art centre