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Wantili – Bugai & Cyril Whyoulter

“This is my Grandmother’s Country, my Country- Wantili. Wantili is good for painting and telling stories. Our stories are still strong. I wanted to take Bugai back there. It is important place; she hadn’t been there for a long time.

My grandmother always tells me about Wantili, she was a young girl walking around there. Her family would travel between Wantili, Kaalpa, Juntujuntu, Raarki, and Wuranu wells along the Canning Stock Route. Big mob of people they been walking around there. She saw whitefellas there for the first time- Canning mob when they were traveling up and down the stock route with the bullock. They were running away from those whitefellas, watching them from a distance.

She was a teenager when she was travelling around there with her four mothers and one daddy. They used to walk around in family groups, in pujiman (traditional, bush dwelling) days.

We made these paintings out at Wantili- painting at the edge of the claypan with my grandmother and family. It’s important that place, out a long way from Newman. We drove out to Purrngurr one night and camped out, and then going to Wantili with the elderly people, old ladies. Those old people liked going to Wantili, where the creation started. Jakayu [Biljabu] and Kumpaya [Girgaba].Them two aunties told me a story about dreamtime, and how important Wantili was. People from different tribes, from all over the place would come there for the initiation ceremony.

The jukurrpa (dreaming) stories from Wantili are just for Martu but the site is open and anyone can go there. It’s a lovely part of the country to take the kids for a swim.

The place has changed. The water used to be muddy like chocolate, now the water is clear. Maybe from climate change, maybe from mining, maybe from something else. The changes don’t have to be bad; the landscape is always changing, same way as Martu people.

It’s good to make work sitting out in Country, but I can make these paintings anywhere, just like those old people. Wherever I am, painting Country takes me back there in my head, back to jukurrpa times, back to pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) days when my grandmother walked around there, and back to days going there for a swim as a kid. I hope this painting carries people there too. I’m proud to be able to share my culture and stories with younger Martu people and whitefellas.”

 – Cyril Whyoulter

Wantili is a large lyinji (clay pan) near Well 25 on the Canning Stock Route. It lies close to Bugai’s birthplace, and is her ngurra (home Country). Developed during a 2018 bush trip to Wantili, this artwork demonstrates both the collaborative practice that Martumili Artists are known for, but also the inter-generational transferral of cultural and creative knowledge that is taking place in the community. Through painting alongside each other, Bugai and Cyril ensure the continuation of culture, and the preservation of strong family connection.

Name: Cyril Whyoulter

Language: Kartujarra

Community: Parnngurr


"My mum's father came from Kirriwirri in the North. I can paint that way too. I like painting, it's a good way to learn from old people, keep the stories going. Yunkurra (Billy Atkins), my nyamu (grandfather), he's guiding me about what I can paint and share. My closest family is the Taylor mob; uncle Muuki, Wokka, and Ngalangka (Nola). They help me too."

- Cyril Whyoulter

Cyril's mother's and Father's country is Jartuti. He is the grandson of senior Martumili Artists Bugai Whyoulter and Pinyirr (dec.). Cyril grew up in Parnngurr and Punmu communities. He now lives with his wife and children between Perth and Newman.

Cyril first developed an interest in art making when he began colouring in pencil with his grandfather Larry Patterson. An avid experimentalist and prolific painter, he has since mastered many painting techniques and developed his own signature style in which the influence of his grandmother Bugai is evident. Cyril is respected as a learned cultural leader, and is a strong proponent of the importance of intergenerational knowledge transfer.


© the artist / art centre