Songlines: Yarrkalpa (Hunting Ground)

Songlines: Yarrkalpa (Hunting Ground)

1 December 2021

As part of our exploration of Martu Country, one of the three deserts that feature in the major 'Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters' exhibition (on display until 27 February 2022), we'll be highlighting some of the key works that are on display. Here, discover more about the 'Yarrkalpa (Hunting Ground)' painting.

This huge painting is one of the stand out works in the Martu Country section of ‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’.

It’s an acrylic work on linen that measures five metres wide and three metres high. It was created collaboratively in 2013 by eight of the Martumili Artists: Kumpaya Girgirba, Yikartu Bumba, Kanu Nancy Taylor, Ngamaru Bidu, Yuwali Janice Nixon, Reena Rogers, Thelma Judson and Ngalangka Nola Taylor.

The Martumili Artists are based in the town of Newman and work across six remote communities in Pilbara, an area in the north of Western Australia known for its ancient landscapes, vast mineral deposits and biodiversity. The artists and their families are the traditional custodians of vast stretches of desert.

We have lived in this Country a long time, this Country is us.

For Martu artists, painting is a social activity that brings people of different ages together to share knowledge, talk, sing, tell stories and keep their language and culture alive. The works they create reflect everyday life.

'Yarrkalpa (Hunting Ground)' is a large and wonderful example of this. It’s a ‘map’ of the area around Parnngurr – a community about 230 miles east of Newman. Each of the artists involved has created a section showing a different time of the year using their knowledge of places, seasons, plants, animals, living and hunting.

The two large white lines were the first marks made on the canvas and represent important waterways – the Wanarl Creek and the Parnngurr River.

Parnngurr, a remote Western Australian community, is represented by a tidy grid near the centre of the painting.

The Seven Sisters (the Minyipuru) flit across the western side of the canvas, chased, as always, by their pursuer (Yurla).

Visitors looking at a large bright painting in an art gallery
A female visitor looking at a large bright painting hanging on a wall

With thanks to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, the National Museum of Australia and the curators of 'Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters'.