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This is Ngamaru’s Country- her ‘ngurra’ (home Country, camp). People identify with their ngurra in terms of specific rights and responsibilities, and the possession of intimate knowledge of the physical and cultural properties of one’s Country. Painting ngurra, and in so doing sharing the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) stories and physical characteristics of that place, has today become an important means of cultural maintenance. 

Ngamaru’s ngurra encompasses the Country that she and her family walked in the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era. At this time Ngamaru travelled nomadically with her own and other family groups, most notably the Biljabu and Whyoulter families. 

Ngamaru was born at Martilirri (Canning Stock Route Well 22). She grew up, walked and hunted primarily around Wikiri, Rarrki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25), Pitu, Nyilangkurr and Nyinyari. She continued to live nomadically before eventually deciding to move to Jigalong Mission along with many other relatives following an extreme and prolonged drought in the 1960s. 

Portrayed in this work are features of Ngamaru’s ngurra, such as the striking salt lakes, dominant permanent red tali (sandhills), warta (trees, vegetation), and the individually named water sources Ngamaru and her family camped at. These include Julyjarru, Juntiwa, Jaturti, Karanyal (Canning Stock Route Well 20), Martilirri (Canning Stock Route Well 22), Kaalpa (Canning Stock Route Well 23), Kartarru (Blue Hills Station, Canning Stock Route Well 24), Wantili (Canning Stock Route Well 25, Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26), Rarrki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), Warla-warla (Canning Stock Route Well 31), Kulilu, Kunapila, Nyilangkurr, Parnngurr, Pitu, Purn, Wangkakalu, Wikiri, Yiranang, and Yulpu. Rock holes, waterholes, soaks and springs were all extremely important sites for Martu people during the pujiman period, and are generally depicted with circular forms. 

The encyclopaedic knowledge of the location, quality and seasonal availability of the hundreds of water bodies found in one’s Country 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. As they travelled and hunted they would also burn areas of Country, generating a greater diversity of plant and animal life.

Name: Ngamaru Bidu

Language: Manyjilyjarra

Community: Parnngurr


“I been born [around] Karanyal and Martilirri (Canning Stock Route Well 22) in the parna (ground), only claypan. My jamu (grandfather) [was also] Jakayu [Biljabu's] father, my father's daddy. My mummy born long way, near to Wikirri (Midway Well) area. My father born Pitu (Separation Well). I’m biggest one [I was the eldest of five siblings]; me, Neil, Ivy, Gladys, then Caroline. My sister Gladys been born Wantili, Ivy born Georgia Bore (Pitarny), Caroline been born in Jigalong [Mission]. We walked around together [as we were] growing up.”

[As a child, Ngamaru walked around with her family, living a pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) lifestyle. In 1963 Ngamaru saw a whitefella for the first time near Wiirnukurrujunu rockhole; surveyor Len Beadell grading a road across the desert as part of a military weapons testing program. Shortly after this meeting Ngamaru, along with the other 28 Martu she had been travelling with, was tracked and pursued up by the Native Welfare Department. The group was eventually persuaded to move to Jigalong mission to join their relatives that had already moved in from the desert.] 

“They been chase us, long way - me, Ivy, and Kuru (Gladys) ran away with Mitchell and Teddy Biljabu. Kumpaya, Bugai and my mother ran away quick too. Landrover he been pick us up for Parngurr, all the lot, [driving on the] track for Jigalong. Family all coming in. I been come for first time [it was my first time in a vehicle]. I was naked one, put a blanket for kurnta (shame). I been living there in Jigalong with my mummy and family. I been working in the dining hall, making bread for kid. I been meet my nyupa (spouse), Mr Booth, and had a son, Ned Booth.” 

 - Ngamaru Bidu


Ngamaru was born at Martilirri (Well 22 on the Canning Stock Route), the eldest of four siblings. Her mother came from the area around Wikirri and her father from Pitu. As a child Ngamaru lived a pujiman lifestyle, and walked around with her family, moving from water source to water source dependent on the seasonal rain cycles. They often travelled with their extended relatives, Bugai Whyoulter and Jakayu Biljabu’s families. 

When Ngamaru was a teenager, her family and their travelling companions were tracked by Native Patrol Officers and staff from the Jigalong Mission. The group was persuaded to move to Jigalong Mission, where they rejoined the many family members that had already moved in from the desert. At the mission, Ngamaru’s sister and some of the Biljabu family were sent to school, but Ngamaru went to work making bread. 

From Jigalong Ngamaru moved to Strelley Community, where she met her husband, Joshua Booth. Together with their children they later moved to Warralong and then Punmu Aboriginal Communities before settling in Parnngurr Aboriginal community (Cotton Creek), where Ngamaru continues to live today. 

Ngamaru has painted with Martumili since its inception in 2006. She has frequently painted with senior artists and relatives Mitutu Mabel Wakarta (dec.) and Kumpaya Girgaba. Ngamaru is known for the beautifully complex compositional structures and intricate patterning in her work, through which she very often explores the practice of fire burning in her Country and its related Martu cyclical seasonal changes. Ngamaru’s work has been exhibited in galleries internationally and throughout Australia, and acquired by the National Museum of Australia. She was selected in 2019 for the prestigious John Stringer Art Prize exhibition.

© the artist / art centre