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This work portrays an area known intimately to the artist, painted here in detail from memory. During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era one’s survival depended on their intimate knowledge of the location of resources; thus physical elements of Country, such as sources of kapi (water), tali (sandhills), and different varieties of warta (trees, vegetation) were carefully observed and remembered. Today, this relationship with Country remains equally strong, despite the movement of Martu out of the desert and into remote Aboriginal Communities, towns and cities.

Also visible may be traces of life cycles based around kalyu (rain, water) and waru (fire). A thousands of year old practice, fire burning continues to be carried out as both an aid for hunting and a means of land management today. As the Martu travelled and hunted they would burn tracts of land, ensuring plant and animal biodiversity and reducing the risk of unmanageable, spontaneous bush fires. The patchwork nature of regrowth is visible in many landscape works, with each of the five distinctive phases of fire burning visually described with respect to the cycle of burning and regrowth.  

Finally, metaphysical information relating to a location may also be recorded; jukurrpa (dreaming) narratives chronicle the creation of physical landmarks, and can be referenced through depictions of ceremonial sites, songlines, and markers left in the land. 

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