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Martu Art from the Far Western Desert

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


24 Sep 2014 to 30 Nov 2014


Ngamaru Bidu, Jakayu Biljabu, Yikartu Bumba, Bowja Patricia Butt, Maywokka May Chapman, Nyanjilpayi Nancy Chapman, Jugarda Dulcie Gibbs, Kumpaya Girgirba, Noelene Girgirba, Thelma Judson, Noreena Kadibil, Mulyatingki Marney, Yuwali Janice Nixon, Nora Nungabar, Reena Rogers, Anya Judith Samson, Dadda Samson, Muni Rita Simpson, Kathleen Sorensen, Karnu Nancy Taylor, Muuki Taylor, Ngalangka Nola Taylor, Wokka Taylor, Bugai Whyoulter, Muntararr Rosie Williams, Natasha Williams, Sonya Williams, Nora Wompi, Marjorie Yates


Anna Davis & Megan Robson

About the exhibition

Martu Art from the Far Western Desert brought together a selection of collaborative paintings by 29 Martu artists of their Ngurra (Country), a vast area that crosses the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts in Western Australia.

Ranging in scale from the immense to the intimate, these paintings depicted the desert landscape and its stories in intricate detail. The artworks displayed the beauty and diversity of this remote expanse; some works pulsated with kaleidoscopic colour and pattern, while others were more subdued, depicting the area’s shimmering salt lakes.

The paintings in this exhibition reflected the artists’ sophisticated knowledge of the landscape, depicting significant sites of personal, cultural, social and ecological importance. They were the result of highly social and collaborative processes that involved older and younger artists coming together to paint and talk, tell stories and sing, ensuring that Martu history, culture and knowledge is passed on to future generations.

Key works included Mukurtu (2010) by sisters Maywokka May Chapman, Nyanjilpayi Nancy Chapman, Mulyatingki Marney and Marjorie Yates, which depicts the freshwater spring found in the salt lake Ngayarta Kujarra (also known as Lake Dora), near Punmu.

Hunting Ground, Parnngurr Area (2013) by Ngamaru Bidu, Kumpaya Girgirba, Thelma Judson, Yuwali Janice Nixon, Reena Rogers, Karnu Nancy Taylor, and Ngalangka Nola Taylor, is a large-scale work that comprises ‘lots of little stories about hunting’ in the region surrounding the Parnngurr community, around 370 kilometres east of Parnpajinya (Newman).

A major new painting Kulyu (2014) by Ngamaru Bidu, Jakayu Biljabu, Bowja Patricia Butt, Kumpaya Girgirba, Noelene Girgirba, Karnu Nancy Taylor, Muuki Taylor, Ngalangka Nola Taylor and Wokka Taylor, illustrates a vast area surrounding the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park and Parnngurr. Kulyu references broader community concerns about the environmental impact of mining in specific areas within Martu lands.