Published by on


This is Wurta Amy French’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. 

Wurta’s ngurra encompasses the Country that she and her family walked in the pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) era. At this time Wurta travelled nomadically with her own and other family groups. The Country they traversed encompassed an enormous tract of land, all around the Karlamily (Rudall River) region and through to Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26) .

Wurta was born at Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25). She grew up, walked and hunted primarily around water sources Pangkartal, Yalpalpa, Walirrlirri, Yanytikuji, Wartararra, Tintinmarran, Pimurlu, Raarki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), and Tiwa. Her family continued to live nomadically before eventually deciding to move to Jigalong Mission along with many other relatives following an extreme and prolonged drought in the 1960s. 

Portrayed in this work are features of Wurta’s ngurra, such as the hills, gorges and valleys, warta (trees, vegetation), and the individually named water sources she and her family 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: 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