Songlines: NPY Lands

Songlines: NPY Lands

25 January 2022

We have come to the last of our explorations of the three deserts that feature in ‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’. The Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Lands span the central desert region of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

In the NPY lands two songlines emerge, the Kuru Ala to the south and Wanarn to the north. The tone of the Seven Sisters drama darkens, and Wati Nyiru's obsession with the older sister becomes more sinister.

A painting showing the Seven Sisters

In the Kuru Ala songline, Wati Nyiru pursues the sisters to a face-like formation that looks like it has caves for eyes beneath a jutting rock brow. It is where Wati Nyiru captures and hurts the eldest sister, but also where the sisters gather medicine plants and food for healing.

A brightly coloured painting

Here at Kuru Ala the sisters chase and catch a carpet snake that Wati Nyiru has transformed from his own phallus, and throw it westwards towards Kulyuru. When they eat its meat they become dizzy and ill, and throw it up before they fly into the sky to become stars.

At St Lukes, you can look up and experience their ascent from beneath the soaring Kungkarrangkalnga-ya Parrpakanu (Seven Sisters Are Flying), figures woven from mixed media including grass, branches, raffia, fencing wire, feathers and wool.

Photograph showing sculptures representing the Seven Sisters suspended from a ceiling

So we’ll go to Wanarn — that’s where this adventure is going to end.

Bernard Newberry, 2016

The Wanarn songline is where the story, and the exhibition, culminates. The sisters continue to flee eastwards, still followed by the wrongful pursuer whose name here is Yurla.

On the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, people are connected to sites through their kinship to these characters. Find information, including more about the Tjanpi Desert Weavers who made the flying sisters, on the NPY Women’s Council website.