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Ngurra Yalta

Yalta is a waterhole located between the Great Sandy Desert’s Percival Lakes region and Kunawarritji Aboriginal community. This site was visited by the Ngayurnangalku (cannibals) during the Jukurrpa (Dreaming). These fearsome ancestral cannibal beings said to resemble people in their appearance, except for their fangs and long curved knife like fingernails they use to catch and hold their human victims. The Ngayurnangalku continue to live beneath the crust of Kumpupirntily (Kumpupintily, Lake Disappointment), south east of Yalta.

Yalta lies within Mantyil’s ngurra (home Country, camp) through her father and grandfather, and was part of the area which she knew intimately and travelled extensively with her family in her youth. The Western Desert term ‘ngurra’ is hugely versatile in application. Broadly denoting birthplace and belonging, ngurra can refer to a body of water, a camp site, a large area of Country, or even a modern house. 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. This knowledge is traditionally passed intergenerationally through family connections. Painting ngurra, and in so doing sharing the Jukurrpa stories and physical characteristics of that place, has today become an important means of cultural maintenance. Physical maintenance of one’s ngurra, like cultural maintenance, ensures a site’s wellbeing, and is a responsibility of the people belonging to that area.

Name: May Manyjirr Brooks

Language: Kartujarra


Manyjirr is a Manyjilyjarra woman, born at Jigalong Mission in 1952 and primarily raised by the missionaries there. She is the sister of Sarah Brooks (dec.) and fellow Martumili Artist Clifford Brooks. Her father’s brother was the critically acclaimed artist, Rover Thomas. 

Manyjirr schooled at the mission from between the ages of six and sixteen, until she was given away in a traditional manner to her then husband, with whom she was married for many years. Together they had three children. From Jigalong, Manyjirr went to work at Mundawindi (Muntawinti) cattle station and then Ethel Creek Station before moving to Fortescue River, at the outskirts of Newman town. When Manyjirr and her husband later returned to Jigalong he became the community’s chairman for a time. Today she lives with her family between Newman and Punmu Aboriginal community. 

Manyjirr was one of Martumili’s pioneering artists. She paints her parents’ and her own ngurra (home Country, camp); the Country surrounding Raarki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33), Punmu and Parnpajinya. 

© the artist / art centre