Traditional knowledge: Spider Snell is the brother of Jarinyanu David Downs and the ceremonial boss for Kurtal:
I am jila. I am one of his lightnings. I was a good hunter when I was a kid, killing all kinds of animals. I used to cook them and chuck bones in the waterhole. I was a good kid, looking after my own self. My mother and father went hunting sometimes for two days or more. At night I would say, "Kurtal, I’m alone, my parents haven’t came back yet. Can you look after me?"
Before Kurtal turned into an ancestral snake being and entered the 'living water' or permanent spring that bears his name, he was a man. In the words of Kurtal boss Ngilpirr Spider Snell:
A big rain came. After the rain, grasses started to grow. From the grass Kurtal turned into a man.
Kurtal travelled to Jintirripil, a jila near the sea, who asked him to stay for good. Tricking him, Kurtal agreed. Jintirripil told Kurtal to find the jila Paliyarra, who had stolen his sacred objects.
Paliyarra knew that Kurtal had come to steal back Jintirripil’s objects. He told Kurtal he didn’t have them but Kurtal could see the lightning flashing inside him. Paliyarra set his dogs onto Kurtal. Badly bitten, Kurtal tripped over Paliyarra, who spilled the objects on the ground. Kurtal kicked them towards his jila.
Kurtal stole more objects from other jila, then went to visit his friend Kaningarra. Kaningarra asked Kurtal to stay with him there forever. Tricking him, Kurtal agreed, saying, "You lie down over there and I’ll lay down here.” Kaningarra went into the ground, turning into a snake, and Kurtal took off for his country.
Getting weak, Kurtal crawled inside his waterhole with all his stolen objects and turned into a snake.
That’s the song "Kurtal wanyjurla wanyjurla" we sing. He sent up a kutukutu [rain bearing cloud] like the ones I made at Kurtal.'
This is Kurtal's song:
'n the north-west I saw leaping fish sparkling in the sunlight. Carrying the sacred object I wade through the water. The waves carry me down to the depths. In the north-west I saw a seagull. The seagull was speaking. I saw lightning flickering in the north; I was the rain cloud. I am Kurtal. I bring the meat and make the country fruitful. The wind is wild, the lightning flickers in the sky. Up there Kaningarra is crying. The wind roars. I am Kaningarra, the great rock. Look to the south. That flat ground is sloping now. Who is that coming after me? I am a maparn [magic man] but I’m losing my powers. Look to the west. See his headdress. (Ngilpirr Spider Snell)
Related art centre(s): Other
Media title: Jila Kurtal
Media creator: Nicole Ma
Media description: Kurtal boss Ngilpirr Spider Snell teaches Kaningarra man, Pampirla Hansen Boxer, the dance for Kurtal, his Country, at Ngumpan in 2008
Media Copyright: FORM
Accession ID: 20131016_FORM_MIRA_B0089_0007
Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.