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Kumpupirntily (Kumpupintily, Lake Disappointment) is a stark, flat and unforgiving expanse of blinding salt lake surrounded by sand hills, located in the Little Sandy and Gibson Desert of Western Australia. Kumpupirntily translates to ‘bladder burst’; the lake was formed when the bladder of the Jila Kujarra (Two Snakes) burst here. Jila Kujarra is one of the key Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives for the Martu. Though the story belongs to Warnman people, it is shared across the Western Desert with several other language groups. The narrative centres on the travels of two snakes as they are pursued by the Niminjarra, spiritual ancestors of the Warnman people. 

Later in the Jukurrpa period the Ngayurnangalku (cannibal beings) made Kumpupirntily their home, where they continue to remain today. For this reason Kumpupirntily is considered one of the most sacred and dangerous sites of the Western Desert. The Ngayurnangalku are fearsome ancestral cannibal beings said to resemble people in their appearance, except for their fangs and long, curved, knife like fingernails they use to catch and hold their human victims. Coming from Natawalu (Canning Stock Route Well 40) in the north, Mundiwinti (Mundawindi) in the west, and from the Country around Kiwirrkurra in the east, the Ngayurnangalku travelled across the desert, stopping near Puntawarri, at Jilukurru (Killagurra Springs, Canning Stock Route Well 17) and at Kupayura (Savory Creek) before finally reaching Kumpupirntily.

At Kumpupirntily, the Ngayurnangalku had a meeting to debate whether or not they would continue to live as cannibals, and eventually came to the decision to stop eating people. That night, a female baby cannibal was born. Following protocol, the baby also had to be consulted by the group. She determined that the Ngayurnangalku should continue to eat people. Her decision divided the group, and from this point the group from the east continued to live as ‘bad’ cannibals at Kumpupirntily, while the group from the west became ‘good’, thereafter consuming only animals. 

The cannibal Ngayurnangalku still live beneath the crust of Kumpupirntily lake in an underground world lit by their own sun. They surface only to feed on human flesh, coming in and out of the world we see through a small hill that acts as a gateway between worlds; Yapu Maparnpa (magical hill). Stored with the Ngayurnangalku in their underground world is an arsenal of maparnpa (holding power for sorcery) weapons, as well as deposits of pujurrpa (red ochre) that the Ngayurnangalku use to paint themselves with when they dance.

Several phenomena at Kumpupirntily act as a warning of the imminent appearance of the Ngayurnangalku; still skies, wilany (boomerang-shaped clouds), and the emergence of the parla-parla (type of lizard), smacking their mouths. The vigilance of the Martu as they travel in the Country around Kumpupirntily is so great that several other precautions are followed; fires are not lit, planes and helicopters are not flown directly over the area, and digging in the lake is strongly discouraged. All of these activities are believed to disturb the Ngayurnangalku, causing them to rise from their underground world. 

Name: Cyril Whyoulter

Language: Kartujarra

Community: Parnngurr


"My mum's father came from Kirriwirri in the North. I can paint that way too. I like painting, it's a good way to learn from old people, keep the stories going. Yunkurra (Billy Atkins), my nyamu (grandfather), he's guiding me about what I can paint and share. My closest family is the Taylor mob; uncle Muuki, Wokka, and Ngalangka (Nola). They help me too."

- Cyril Whyoulter

Cyril's mother's and Father's country is Jartuti. He is the grandson of senior Martumili Artists Bugai Whyoulter and Pinyirr (dec.). Cyril grew up in Parnngurr and Punmu communities. He now lives with his wife and children between Perth and Newman.

Cyril first developed an interest in art making when he began colouring in pencil with his grandfather Larry Patterson. An avid experimentalist and prolific painter, he has since mastered many painting techniques and developed his own signature style in which the influence of his grandmother Bugai is evident. Cyril is respected as a learned cultural leader, and is a strong proponent of the importance of intergenerational knowledge transfer.


© the artist / art centre