Curtis Taylor - Country and Jukurrpa [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Curtis Taylor talks about home, Country, and Jukurrpa. He also talks about how the Canning Stock Route Project is important because it will tell Martu stories and history.
Art centre(s): CSR Project, Martumili Artists
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_208_Curtis_Taylor
Location Recorded: Parnngurr
Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Full transcript: Carly Davenport: Can you tell me a little bit about where we are?
Curtis Taylor: We are on top of Parngurr hill and yeah.
CD: Mention which town it is.
CT: Parngurr, straight down this here hill, where on top of the hill ... sitting down waiting for the sun to go down.
CD: Can you tell me a little bit about the story of this hill, the history?
CT: Yes I’ll tell you a little bit.
In the 70s - 80s CRA – now known as Rio Tinto, tried to mine this hill, but the Martus saw what was happening. So they build a bus and started moving out from Jigalong, that’s the town, and then they tried to stop the mining company, and more and more Martu came out, started helping with the fight. Then Canning Resources – CRA – they flew around with their choppers, with their blades trying to scare the people. But the people were really hard back then, they didn’t take nothing from anybody. And as more and more Martu came out from Jigalong and helped and ... one night they had their camp on the other side of the hill here, and the wind was blowing hard at night time, and one old fella, he finished now, passed away. Went over that way and light a big fire, and the wind blowing the fire blow it toward the hill here, toward their camp. So they saw the fire coming, then they packed up really quick, then they left. They didn’t come back then, those miners didn’t come back , that’s why we came out here, that’s how Parnngurr was settled by the Martu people, because of the mining, we said no, we don’t want any mining.
CD: So this is how the town was settled in the first place?
CD: There wasn’t anything here before Rio Tinto tried to come in?
CT: Yeah there wasn’t anything here before, just the Country, everyone was in the mission in Jigalong. And that’s one of the time self-determination for Aboriginal people started all around Australia, not just here. That’s the story about how the people came out of Jigalong mission, they wanted to come back to their home land, their Ngurra. They went and started up Punmu first. And from Punmu they started up Parngurrr, and then they started up Kunawarritji. And every community they started, first building it was the school, school was the first building.
CD: And which of these communities do you live in?
CT: I live in Parngurr, Parngurr community, white people call it Cotton Creek.
CD: And are you Martu?
CT: I am a Martu, my old people are Martu, and my grandfather is Martu, my grandmother. My grandmother passed away in Bidyadanga, she was from the Country around [XX - ?]. Country around [XX - ?] Country, around Percival lakes. She was one of the mob that went up north to [XX - ?]. She walked up that way. That’s why ... I grew up in Bidyadanga. But that’s not my home, my home is here in the desert where my old people came from.
CD: And how do you feel that? Is it strong?
CT: I feel that really strong, because no matter where I go, I’ve got somewhere to go back to, somewhere where I feel safe, and where I know I got a place in the community, in the Country, a place for me, where I can feel like, I feel like I’m home, you know. Safe yeah.
CD: Yeah because you know kartiya [white people] they live all over the place, they like to move around, do you think they don’t know what home is?
CT: Yeah they don’t know the sense of ...
CD: I mean can you just explain to them a little bit how you feel and you think about home?
CT: When I feel like home ... first one is like home is like your house, but home to us is like our Country, where our people come from, you know, where our tribal Country is, that’s home to us, so no matter where we go we’ll always come back to that tribal Country. Where old people used to walk around and used to hunt. That’s another way of home you know, and wherever you go you’ll always come back and you’ll always have a sense of belonging in that place. Even if a Martu person come from ... he was born in one little tree in the desert somewhere. And he went up north – first time he seen white fellas – and he went up north or south or east or west and lived on someone else’s Country but you know, he was longing for his Country and wanted to go back but he couldn’t because he might of passed away or he got sick and he had to live on someone else’s land. But after he passed away he’ll always go back to his home, in his spirit – he’ll fly back to his home, even if he die, that’s what we believe, that he’ll go back to his home, fly back and become part of his home if he die, and go back to the water or to the plants.
CD: It sounds like you’re part of the Country and the Country is part of you – not two separate things
CT: No, not two separate – it’s the same. Because before we come to ... we come out through the Country we come out through the dreams. Come out through the Country. And then we live and when we die we come part of the Country you know. That’s what we believe – when we die, we become one with the Country, our spirit goes back. They born and they give you a totem, it might be a bush turkey, a kangaroo or ... a sand goanna or something you know. When you die you’ll turn into that animal, you’ll go back into that animal, your totem, you’ll turn back into that animal.
CD: Didn’t know that’s what it meant for you ... uh oh they’re coming.
CD: Now is there anything you’d like to say that you’d like to tell the audiences when they come and see the Canning Sto ... when they come and see your Country?
CT: The exhibition, first thing I’d like to say is that – the stock route or part of the stock route really it’s not part of my Country – ‘cause that’s where my grandfather or their grandfather, they did walk that Country, they walked there but they didn’t belong to that Country really, so I’m not from that Country. But, when you come and see this Stock Route exhibition, first we’d like to give you a chance to just listen, and come and see – that’s all. Yeah just listen to the stories, hear the songs. See how the Country is, because it’s not empty. There’s a lot of Jukurrpa, a lot of water out here, a lot of animals, a lot of bush tucker. It’s not just empty.
CD: Can you explain what Jukurrpa is to people who don’t understand? Particularly young people, you know your age they don’t know what Jukurrpa is.
CT: Jukurrpa is stories, knowledge, songs, dance, lifestyle, culture. That’s what Jukurrpa is. I’m talkin’ about the world.
CD: So as a young person you’ve got your old people’s Jukurrpa, is there more Jukurrpa coming up? How’s it going to change, is it going to change or will it always be the same?
CT: It will always be the same, in the world that we can’t see but we can sing. And that will always be the same, like what we practice every year. That will be the same. But I hope we’re making our mark today, it becomes our own history, like us today as humans beings. Because Jukurrpa is, there are two kinds of Jukurrpa – one from the spirit how this world was created, how this Country was created, that one that will never change, that will always be the same, that’s the one we practice every Christmas, every when it gets hot around the desert you know, and that will never change – thats Yulurlbidii [?], how it was and how it always will be.
CD: What’s the other one? You said there were two.
CT: The second one (Jukurrpa) is like our history, but what we trying to make today, you know, ‘cause we’ll be finished, we’ll be gone from this place and hope that we made our mark, make our own history.
CD: As young people you mean, as the new ... ?
CT: Yeah. As humans, as humans, not as spirits, young people, old people that are alive today.
CD: It’s pretty exciting time now do you think? Because you know with Native Title you have got your Country back after 200 years of things not going so well, do you think it’s changing?
CT: It’s changing. It’ll never be the same, it’ll change every day. And that’s why I think Martu are all frightened of yuningba [tomorrow]. We can’t see ... and we don’t know what tomorrow is waiting for us, we don’t know that ... what tomorrow is ... only we know, like the past … we know what happened in the past but tomorrow we don’t know what’s going to happen ... so Martu people, we’re living in the now time, present ... we don’t know what tomorrow is gonna bring, might be good, might be bad ... (nods )... yeah.
Last thing I’d like to say ... this exhibition about the Canning Stock Route is really about the history of Australia. It’s gonna be really big and I don’t know if the Martu are ready for this one. It’s too big for anyone to just grab it ... too big ... and I don’t know if we are ready ... Or if the world is ready ... and I don’t know if australia is ready, but this thing you can’t stop it, it’s gonna happen someday and I am really proud that I am working on this project, because it is history. At the end of the day it will be good when all those people who worked on this project ... and all those people that came to the show really understand and appreciate and say ‘thank you’ for telling us this history or letting us know ... that this story has to be told ... Yo.
Video format: DVD/MiniDV/Quicktime movie
Video recording: 100 Martu Approvals, Curtis IV, Oct 09
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Curtis Taylor; © FORM, transcript only
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.