The Kingfisher (Luurn) Creation story is a special Dreaming story from the desert country along the Canning Stock Route region in Western Australia. The Dreaming story takes place in sites along the mid section of the Canning Stock Route and at locations to the north around Balgo Hills. The kingfisher in this region is a small bird with a long beak, and iridescent green plumage.
Senior Wangkatjungka artists Luurn Willie Kew was named after the Kingfisher that created the desert waterhole where he was born and all the people who lived there. The site is called at Nyirla Rockhole, and is located near Well 38 on the Canning Stock Route. Willie Kew left this part of the desert with his family some time during the late 1950s. With a large group of his countrymen he walked across hundreds of kilometres of desert terrain towards the Fitzroy River valley. During that journey Willie Kew, who was a young boy at the time, lost most of his family to illnesses that the desert people had never encountered before.
The culture of the desert remained strong with the Wangkatjungka people, even as they moved to country further to the north-west. Willie Kew carries the story of his birthplace and his own identity within the Creation Dreaming story of Nyirla.
Willie Kew describes the story in this way – “The Luurn story, the Kingfisher, it’s the biggest story. It’s my story, I’m talking about the Kingfisher. Luurn, he is a man, Dreamtime Ancestor, and a Kingfisher. He’s got a big nose, like the Kingfisher’s beak. The Kingfisher Luurn put the waterholes there in my Country. He put rockholes everywhere, all around that place. He is a good saver, that bird – He put water everywhere. There is water there all the time. “
“Luurn, he carried all the people to that place, Nyirla waterhole, in the early days, in the Dreaming time. That is the Dreaming Story, Luurn Tjukurrpa. On all the banks on the ground, he dropped the people there, then he formed up the sandhills. The Warlpuru, the trees grew up there. Luurn took me there too – he left me there when I was a little one, at Nyirla. Luurn made all that country, sandhills and trees. The whole Creation story – Luurn. He is there now, in the big hills, that Kingfisher, in the rocks, the hills and trees.”
“That is my place, my country – Luurn, Nyirla. That’s a good place – with two rockholes there. Water runs down from the top of the hill, from the top of the rocks, and fills him up, the big waterhole. It’s the biggest place, biggest rockhole – Nyirla, with trees and rocks all around. When he is full, all the water runs back the same way. All pouring into that rockhole, and running off again. Luurn, the Kingfisher Dreaming spirit, travelled there early days. That’s Living water, never dries up, that is my family rockhole. Lots of my family have passed away there – my father, and my two uncles when I was a little boy”
Willie Kew made a series of paintings of the Luurn Kingfisher site while living at Wangatjungka community in the Kimberley, during the period 2000 – 2010. Some of these paintings show the sharp upright rocks that symbolize the beak of the Kingfisher, like a symbolic mark on the country created by the Kingfisher. Others show the rocks that channel the water into the underground waterhole. All the images closely associate the artist with his birth country and the Creation story that gives the country its meaning.