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Ngurra (home country, camp)

This is Manyjirr’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. Manyjirr’s ngurra encompasses her birthplace, Jigalong, and the Country that her family walked in the pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) era, around Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33) and Raarki (Canning Stock Route Well 27). 

Portrayed in this work are features of Manyjirr’s family’s ngurra, such as the dominant permanent red tali (sandhills), warta (trees, vegetation), and the individually named water sources they 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: 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