Published by on

Linyji (claypan)

This work depicts a linyji (claypan) within the artists’ ngurra (home Country, camp), typically represented with circular forms. Claypans were visited more often during the wet seasons as they filled with water. 

During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) period, knowledge of water sources was critical for survival, and today Martu Country is still defined in terms of the location and type of water. Each of the hundreds of claypans, rockholes, waterholes, soaks and springs found in the Martu desert homelands is known through real life experience and the recounting of Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives by name, location, quality and seasonal availability. This encyclopedic knowledge extends even to the nature and movement of arterial waterways, and 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.

Name: Biddy Bunawarrie


“Pujiman [bush-dwelling] people they were walking around with nyimparra(hair belts) – old people. They didn’t know nothing about painting. They were walking around with no clothes. I was a kid, a grown kid, I wore a nyimparra and then when we came to the station we made flour bag clothes to wear. We were wearing flour bag clothing on the stations, shorts and little dress and shirts. All the white ones, white bags.”  

Biddy Bunawarrie was born in the bush on Anna Plains cattle station.She recalls walking vast distances of the Western side of the Pilbara between Port Hedland and the desert, an area she refers to as the ‘plains’ (Nyamal Country, around Marble Bar) for most of her young life. Many of the artists residing in this part of the Pilbara recall being transient and moving around with non-Indigenous activist Don McLeod, prior to his establishment of Strelley Station during the 1970s. Biddy talks about following him after people were liberated from stations. “That old man (Don Mcleod) picked you up and cut the rabbit proof fence so we could get out – Don was fighting for black man. The pussycat was a Tjukurrpa and the white people want to kill it but we said you can kill it for nothing. Then it disappeared – no one knows.” Biddy worked as a domestic on Strelley Station and remembers working most of her young adult life before settling in Warralong Community, between Port Hedland and Marble Bar.  

Today Biddy lives in Warralong with her family. Many of the Warralong artists had been on the periphery of the Martu painting movement, but were inspired to try it after watching senior Martu artist May Wokka Chapman, who is also based in the Community. Biddy has developed her own style that depicts the claypans and salt lakes of her ancestral Country. Shepaints spring country near Nimarinya(Salt) clay pans. A jila[snake] lives there under the lakes. Biddy paints the surface of the snake’s [ngurra] Country.

I like painting – I been see my sister painting in Broome. I love to do them and I thought I’d try. So I thought I’d give it a try. We did the painting Hedland and Broome but finished now I just paint in Warralong. Martu mob been learn us for painting. Susie Gilbert is my sister, she is still painting. I love painting! 

© the artist / art centre