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Kurtal

Story: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:

'In 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)

Media Creator:Tim Acker

Media date: 2008
Story Location: Kurtal

Media Description:Kids all ready to perform Kurtal. Majarrka Workshop at Ngumpan Community.

Story contributor(s):Karen Dayman, Monique La Fontaine, Ngilpirr Spider Snell

Art Centre(s): Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
Publisher: FORM
Media copyright: FORM
Accession ID:20131024_FORM_MIRA_B0046_0001

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.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.

Majarrka juju

Story:Majarrka is the name of a sacred ceremonial totem carved from the riymangurru tree. Riymangurru trees grow near Paruku [Lake Gregory] and around Yunpu. They are a hardwood used to make weapons and digging sticks. Majarrka is part of the law and Dreaming associated with the riymangurru tree and it has its own song and ceremony. The contemporary story performed in Majarrka juju [song and dance] has evolved out of this traditional ceremony but is based on a true event. It tells the story of two law bosses, Ned Cox’s father’s father, Wurtuwaya, and Tom Lawford’s mother’s grandfather, Wirrali, both of whom are now deceased. Wurtuwaya and Wirrali were travelling around near Paruku as wanya [‘featherfoot’, sorcerers wielding a similar power to maparn but whose work is concerned with payback rather than healing]. They were looking for their sacred Majarrka totem, which had been stolen from Jarrkurti, a place not far from Jalyirr and Yunpu, by a group of men who were performing their own ceremony with it. The men were dancing with the totem when Wurtuwaya and Wirrali found them. The two men were hiding as wanya as they watched the men perform. When the men turned their backs, the two bosses snuck in and retrieved the Majarrka totem. In Majarrka juju the dancers who wear the long headdresses (pukurti) represent the men who stole the Majarrka totem. The two dancers with the flat-topped headdresses (kumunungku) represent the bosses, Wurtuwaya and old Wirrali. 'I want to tell a story about this little stick, this one, kana [digging stick]. Long time ago kartiya [white people] been digging with [iron] bar, long way down, might be 200 feet [to make the Canning Stock Route wells]. Kana, kuturu [large hitting stick used for fighting] and makura [deep coolamon or wooden dish used for carrying water], all to get water in my language. 'This tree and me we been born in the same Country, the one Country. He’s got a meaning this tree. This is the tree now, the meaning. He got the culture, Majarrka. Riymangurru tree from Lake Gregory. That’s the tree, that Majarrka.' (Yanpiyarti Ned Cox, 2007) In this story Yanpiyarti Ned Cox draws a parallel between the sinking of the Canning Stock Route wells and the digging out of waterholes. The traditional hardwood tools and coolamons used to dig and scoop out mud are often made from trees that have important laws and ceremonies associated with them, as is also the case with Majarrka.

Media Creator:Tim Acker

Media date: 2008
Story Location: Paruku (Lake Gregory), Ngumpan

Media Description:Majarrka dancers get dressed and painted up at Majarrka Workshop at Ngumpan Community.

Story contributor(s):Yanpiyarti Ned Cox, Putuparri Tom Lawford, Monique La Fontaine, Karen Dayman

Art Centre(s): Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre, Ngurra Artists, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
Publisher: FORM
Media copyright: FORM
Accession ID:20131024_FORM_MIRA_B0046_0002

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.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.

Kurtal


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
Date: 2010

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
Format: Video
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.

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