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Pulikati Hill

“This is our father’s ngurra (home Country, camp). We slept here in this area, near to Wartararra hill, but you can’t go through there. Lot of snake around there. This one Pulikati hill, we used to go through a gap here. There is a quicksand there, people don’t go there, not allowed. We used to sing out to the jila (snake) here for water, from this side. The old people used to sing out; “Come on send the water for me. This is good Country for hunting marlu (kangaroo) and for minyarra (bush onions) and other foods.

There is a woman from the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) that lives here in a cave around here. She is a good woman as long as you don’t take men with you. She looks after her ngurra properly. If the white people come around to mine him, she’ll kill him!” 

 – Sisters Wurta Amy French and Jatarr Lily Long

Pulikati is a hill and important cultural area located at the western end of Karlamilyi River (Rudall River), around the Wartararra (Watrara) tributary and adjacent to Wartararra Hill. Wurta and her family used to travel through this Country, passing through a gap in the hills (top centre) to their camp on the other side. 

As described here by Wurta and her sister Jatarr, the area around Pulikati is home to ancestral Jukurrpa beings; a fiercely protective woman who resides in a nearby cave, and a jila belonging to the adjacent yinta (permanent spring). The Western Desert term ‘jila’ is used interchangeably to describe springs considered to be ‘living’ waters and snakes, both of which play a central role in Martu culture and Jukurrpa.

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 of water sources. Of the many permanent springs in Martu Country, very few are ‘living waters’; waters inhabited by jila. Before they became snakes, these beings were men who made rain, formed the land and introduced cultural practices like ceremonies and ritual songs. Some of the men travelled the desert together, visiting one another, but they all ended their journeys at their chosen spring alone, transformed into a snake. These important springs are named after their jila inhabitant, guarding their waters.

Name: Amy French

Language: Warnman

Community: Irrungadji (Nullagine)


“This Karlamilyi area, big land. That’s a ngurra (home Country, camp) belonging to our old people, Warnman people. We talk for our land, our jila (snake). I grew up in this Country, my Country. This land belongs to our father. In pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) days I walked around here, used to walk up and down tuwa (sandhill) and back to the main camp belonging to Martu. We are Warnman ladies, painting Kintyre and Karlamilyi. We can share this Country.”

 - Sisters Wurta Amy French and Jatarr Lily Long


Wurta is a Warnman woman and custodian of the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) region. She was born in the late 1930’s at Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25), and is the eldest sister of fellow Martumili Artist Jatarr Lily Long. Before Jatarr was born, Wurta lived in the Karlamily region with her parents. Following Jatarr’s birth the two sisters grew up together further east, in the area surrounding Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26). Tiwa is a water source located east of Parnngurr Aboriginal Community, and just west of a culturally significant group of hills called Partujarrapirri. 

Wurta distinctly remembers one of her first encounters with whitefellas, when a plane flew overhead whilst the sisters were out hunting. Both petrified, they ran away and hid until the plane had passed. Later, her family returned to the Karlamily region for a time, moving between camps located all along the Karlamily River and up to the large salt lake, Nyayartakujarra (Lake Dora). In the late 1940’s Wurta’s family “leave Karlamilyi behind” (Wurta Amy French). Together they travelled on foot for more than 200 kilometres to Jigalong Mission, where a supply of rationed food and water was assured. There they were reunited with family members that had already moved in from the desert. Whilst living at Jigalong, Wurta’s youngest sister Helen Dale Samson was born and Wurta married her promised husband. 

In Jigalong Wurta and Jatarr transitioned to a life as a stockwoman; “In Jigalong people, kids and all used to work there, mustering in station for ration. I stopped in dormitory… with my two sister” (Wurta Amy French). From Jigalong Wurta worked on Bonney Downs Station and several stations around Meekatharra before moving to Irrungadji, Nullagine, where she continues to live with her sister Jatarr, her children and grandchildren.

Wurta and Jatarr paint individually and also collaboratively, primarily depicting their ngurra in Karlamilyi; its animals, plants, waterholes and associated Jukurrpa (Dreaming) stories. Wurta is known for her bold use of colours and surreal landscapes, blending aerial and frontal perspectives. She has exhibited extensively since the inception of Martumili Artists in 2006 in galleries throughout Australia, in Singapore and the USA.

© the artist / art centre