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Karlamilyi to Kulyakartu

“My Country, Kulyakartu. I grew up there, from little boy to big boy grew up there.”

 – Muuki Taylor

This painting depicts the Country between Karlamilyi and Kulyakartu, encompassed within Muuki’s ngurra (home Country, camp), and ranging from the centre to the far north east of the Martu homelands. During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era, Muuki’s family would traverse this enormous tract of land, with an aerial distance of around 200 kilometres, according to seasonal changes in the availability of water and bush tucker. 

Kulyakartu is located in the far north of the Martu homelands, near the Percival Lakes region of Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. Muuki has extensive knowledge of the Country in this region, where he grew up living traditionally during the pujiman days with his family. Kulyakartu is mostly grass Country where there is very good hunting. In particular parnajarrpa (goanna), wild cats, and lunki (witchetty grub) are found in abundance here. There is no permanent water source in Kulyakartu, so Muuki’s family would walk here annually following the wantajarra (wet season). During the yalijarra (hot, dry season) they would head south again to more permanent water.

Muuki paints Kulyakartu in all its different seasonal stages. Often visible in his work is the patchwork nature of regrowth subsequent to the practice of waru (fire) burning that assists with hunting, regenerates growth, and encourages greater diversity in plant and animal life. This mosaic patterning is aligned with the five distinct Martu cyclical phases of burning and regrowth. First is nyurnma (freshly burnt Country) when Muuki is “making waru”. Following nyurnma are the rains and subsequent waru-waru, when young, bright green plants start to grow. Nyukura occurs between one and three years after burning, when plants have matured and are fruiting and seeding. Manguu is “when him finished”, four to six years post burning, and when spinifex has matured to the point that it can be burned once again. Finally, kunarka signifies the time when spinifex and other plant species have become old growth, and pose a risk of destructive bushfires.

Karlamilyi (Rudall River region) and its surrounds are Warnman Country, located in the very heart of the Martu homelands. The region is situated southwest of the Great Sandy Desert and northeast of the Little Sandy Desert. Spanning through the region is the epic Karlamilyi River, which runs north into Nyayartakujarra (Lake Dora), a large salt lake. The Broadhurst and Fingoon Ranges extend diagonally across the river’s path. The landscape is striking for its abundance of gorges and valleys carved by ice age glaciers, rugged cliffs, red tali (sand dunes), grasslands, sandstone and quartz rocky outcrops, and salt lakes. 

Across the whole region are hundreds of water sources; including waterholes, creeks, soaks, lakes, pools and rockholes. Lining the rivers are coolabah, walyji (river gum), yulbah (bats wing coral tree), and several species of acacia and hakea. Jalkuran (paperbark), kurrulyu/ mijarrpa (bloodwood) and jawirli (quandong) are found in the region’s valleys, and wikirrpa (desert oaks) and grasses in the sandplains. The area is abundant with bird species, jila (snakes), maruntu (goannas), red kangaroos and warlpaju (rock wallabies). The region is also home to remote aboriginal communities Punmu and Parnngurr.

According to two of the central Martu Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives, the Karlamilyi River and its surrounds were created by the ancestral beings Jila Kujarra (Two Snakes) and the Wati Kujarra (Two Goanna Men) as they travelled across the lands.

Name: Muuki Taylor

Language: Manyjilyjarra

Community: Parnngurr


“Long ago we were living [a pujiman lifestyle]. Our people took us about and grew us up. We stayed around in the north and grew up around Punmu… and along the lake [Nyayartakujarra, Lake Dora] to Karlamilyi. We would [hunt] animals… eat kalaru (salt bush, samphire) seeds, [witchetty] grubs… [and] minta (botanical gum). 

We would see aeroplanes, then we would run and keep quiet in the bushes. We didn’t know what it was. We had never seen a whiteman… We stayed there, where there were no whitemen. We didn’t see any motorcars. Nothing… Then Aborigines and whitemen got us and took us to Jigalong.” 

Muuki Taylor


Muuki was born around 1945 at Wayinkurangu, a soak located within the Percival Lakes region of the Great Sandy Desert. He is the eldest brother of fellow Martumili Artists Wokka Taylor and Ngalangka Nola Taylor. In his youth Muuki’s family travelled hundreds of kilometres on foot, from the northern boundary of the Martu homelands through to Parrngurr, at the southern end of the Karlamily (Rudall River) region. They continued to live a pujiman (traditional, desert dweliing) lifestyle until being collected from Balfour Downs Station and taken to Jigalong Mission in the 1960s. They were one of the last Martu families to leave the desert. 

Muuki is a highly respected cultural leader, and is often called upon as an authority by other artists. In addition to painting with Martumili Artists, Muuki works as a senior cultural advisor for local Martu ranger group, Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa, where he provides invaluable advice and guidance.

Muuki paints his ngurra (home Country, camp) in the north of Martu Country, with a particular focus on Kulyakartu; flat, grass Country close to the Percival Lakes. He spent much time in this area in his youth, and has incredibly in depth knowledge of its resources, physical elements, seasonal life cycles and Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives. His works are encyclopaedic, detailing all aspects of Country from vanished roads to living water sources embedded within a subtle patina composed of hovering dots and brushstrokes. Muuki’s work has been exhibited widely across Australia and internationally, and acquired by the National Museum of Australia.

© the artist / art centre