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This work depicts a waterhole within the artists’ ngurra (home Country, camp), typically represented with circular forms. Waterholes are sites that require maintenance, including digging to increase flow, clearing out surrounding growth, and cleaning up after sullying by camels or cattle.

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: Mary Rowlands

Language: Manyjilyjarra

Community: Warralong


“I like to paint bush foods and flowers but I just started painting my grandfather’s Country, I only saw that place when I was grown up. My mother grew up in Jigalong. I’ve been living there for many years in Warralong. I’ve got my family in Newman, stopping near Jigalong and moved this side. I had six kids. I was born in a station on Nyabali Country and my mother been take me from that station to Port Hedland.”

- Mary Rowlands

Mary was born on Hillside Station near Marble Bar, and spent some of her early life in Port Hedland. After Mary lost her mother she travelled with her brothers, sisters and cousins to Nullagine, and then on to Warralong Community where she currently resides with her family.


© the artist / art centre