Fire Country - Warlukurlangu Artists
30 August – 22 October 2019
Fire Country Dreaming is a Jukurrpa ancestral story that falls under the custodial role of Jampijinpa and Jangala men and Nampijinpa and Nangala women. The Blue-tongued Lizard ancestor called Lungkarda is the central character. He sent a huge bush fire out to chase his two Jangala sons after they killed a kangaroo for food that was sacred animal to old Lungkarda. Paintings often refer to major sites associated with the story, including the men’s cave, Kirrkirrmanu where the sacred kangaroo was killed and Marnimarnu waterhole.
Mina Mina Jukurrpa is a vast Dreaming story or songline that travels from Western Australia through the Tanami Desert and out into Queensland. The ancestral women danced at Mina Mina and the Karlangu digging sticks emerged there from out of the earth. The womens journeys créate many sacred sites where they dig for food using the digging sticks. Thet also collect snake vine to use as a string binding and this image appears in many paintings.
Warlukurlangu Artists draw on the major Jukurrpa narratives that are embedded in their country and provide cultural knowledge and social cohesion within their region.
Exhibition Dates: 30 August to 22 October 2019
Location: Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery, 47 High St Fremantle.
Exhibition Walk Through
With David Wroth
Fire Country Dreaming is our current exhibition from Warlukurlangu artists from the Tanami Desert. We’ve been exhibiting this fantastic group of artists for 15 years now. It’s always a joy to just see the flow of work, the stories and Jukurrpa as the core of Warlpiri culture expressed in each new set of paintings.
Now we are looking at these recent works with their traditional cultural connections from the artists of Warlukurlangu. The works express the Jukurrpa or the Dreaming stories from this group of artists. They build many cultural stories around the central group of around fourteen individual Dreaming stories.
This exhibition is a named after the Dreaming story that also presents the name of the art centre. So Fire Country Dreaming is the painting title and Warlukurlangu Jukurrpa is the story. This is a major story about an old man Lungkarda, who sets fire to the country as a punishment when one of his totemic animals is killed and brought to him as food. So it’s a strong message about the power of law, and the importance of knowledge in Dreaming stories for Warlpiri people.
There are a number of paintings in this exhibition from Theo Nangala expressing this story. She paints the locations and the sites where the narrative takes place. There’s a large cave where the old man Lungkarda lives. The paintings are created in strong hot colours: orange, red, bright yellow, those tones of colour. The story comes out as one of a number of main Jukurrpa themes that occupy Warlpiri artists at Warlukurlangu Art Centre.
Alongside Fire Country Dreaming is another major story for the women artists, that of Mina Mina Jukurrpa. Mina Mina is a major women’s ceremonial site and the story relates to the creation of the digging sticks. The ancestors were drawing the digging sticks out from the land. It remains an interesting process to see each generation finding new ways to express these stories.
The story in the painting relates visually to the Dreaming track that goes through country. There is also the hair string imagery about the women weaving traditional ornaments that they wear in the ceremonies at Mina Mina. This also becomes a major theme for the exhibition. There’s a number of quite distinctive paintings that are different in style to anything we’ve seen before. We are seeing another perspective as new artists approach the Mina Mina story.
There is a rich diversity of stories – Water Dreaming stories, Emu Dreaming and significantly we’ve had a number of shows that have featured the Star Dreaming story. The late Alma Granites was the master painter of the Star Dreaming stories, the night sky images. Now her granddaughter, Athena Granites, has a number of paintings in this show. Interesting to note that we have two older works from Alma hanging in this exhibition.
Alma’s father Paddy Japaljarri Sims was also a major painter of Star Jukurrpa. He has passed down the imagery and story in painting. We then saw Alma’s work and now we have Athena, the great-granddaughter. Four generations of artists who have been wonderful painters of the Star Dreaming story from this part of the Tanami Desert.
It was quite a revelation when we changed over the gallery to hang the new exhibition. It is always an emotional experience when you take down the previous exhibition and do the layout of the new paintings for the upcoming show. The atmosphere changed quite substantially when we put all these paintings up on the wall.
There is a Central Desert sense of flow of Country and Dreaming tracks. You see waterholes and a country known from aerial maps – there is sand dune country and rolling desert country. There is a sense that this is a vision of Central Australia. Even though the paintings are experienced as quite abstract events, their joint impact is one of taking us into the visual world of the Central Desert through all these different family Dreaming stories that the artist present.
I’m really impressed by the new works that are the Mina Mina Dreaming Story. They are very minimal – there’s a red background and lines weave through the country, much as the women weave the ornaments. But also the Dreaming track weaves its way through the country on a flat background. These are the changing lines of the Dreaming story as we move through the country.
These new works are a significant departure or extension of works from the past. It is possible that they signal the start of a new direction. This is a very strong community at Yuendumu. It’s of the bigger desert communities, and their sense of innovation and development around ideas about Jukurrpa is really substantial.