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Kalaru (Samphire, salt bush)

“You got to get that kalaru, grind it and make a damper. Get him up and wash him, wash him, wash him then grind him into flour for a damper.

Nyanjilpayi Nancy Chapman

Kalaru (samphire, salt bush) is a salt tolerant succulent shrub, endemic to Western Australia, that grows plentifully around salt lakes and linyji (claypans). In the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era, the black kalaru seeds were seasonally harvested in the yalijarra (hot dry months). Once collected a labour intensive process began to produce damper, a type of flat bread. The kalaru seeds were first washed several times before being ground with a jiwa (stones used by women for grinding seeds) to make a type of flour, which was then mixed with water to create a dough that was finally cooked in the ashes of a fire. Kalaru seeds are still collected for producing traditional damper on special occasions. 

During the pujiman period, Martu would traverse very large distances annually in small family groups, moving seasonally from water source to water source, and hunting and gathering bush tucker as they went. Whilst desert life has moved away from mobile hunter-gatherer subsistence throughout the course of the twentieth century, bush tucker continues to be a significant component of the modern Martu diet. Hunting and gathering bush tucker remains equally valuable as an important cultural practice that is passed on intergenerationally. Though hunting and gathering implements have been modernised, methods of harvesting, tracking and the use of fire burning to drive animals from their retreats are still commonly practiced today.

Name: Nola Ngalangka Taylor

Language: Manyjilyjarra

Community: Parnngurr


Ngalangka was born at Wirrinyalkujarra, north east of Punmu. Her mother was Warnman and Ngaanyatjarra and her father was a Ngaanyatjarra man. When Ngalangka was a child, her family lived in the Percival Lakes area surrounding Wirnpa and Kirriwirri soaks. Here they often met with Martu families coming from the north and west. Although her family knew about whitefellas and station and mission life, Ngalangka’s father was determined to remain living in the desert.

During a journey north to see Ngalangka’s two sisters in the Ngurarra (Joanna Springs) area, her father became critically ill. As the desert population continued to decrease, Ngalangka's family met with the Biljabu family. Together they lived in the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) region for a time. When Ngalangka’s father died, her family decided to move to Jigalong Mission, and in 1965 they walked into Balfour Downs Station. There they were picked up by Jigalong Mission staff. Ngalangka, like many others, felt a profound and long lasting sadness after having to leave her Country and adjust to life in a mission.

In Jigalong she began schooling, and continued her studies in Port Hedland. Subsequently Ngalangka moved to Strelley Aboriginal community, and then again to Jigalong. In Jigalong she was employed as a health worker, and here she remained until she married Nyarrie Morgan. Together Ngalangka and Nyarrie moved to Parnngurr Aboriginal community, where they continue to live as respected elders and community leaders with their children and grandchildren.

Ngalangka started painting with Martumili Artists in both oils and acrylics in 2000 and began weaving baskets in 2001. As a cultural advisor and translator she has been instrumental in the establishment and development of the group, and continues to tirelessly support Martu artists.

© the artist / art centre