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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.

Jila Men

Story:The nothern end of the Canning Stock Route crosses the Great Sandy Desert. Here springs are considered 'living waters' and are known as jila. Some are inhabited by ancestral beings and many of these jila are linked by Dreaming tracks that connect Countries and people. The ancestral stories of these sites are recorded in the songs and dances that cross the desert, uniting peoples through shared ceremonies and law. A number of these jila became wells on the Canning Stock Route. Of around 200 permanent springs or jila in this country, only about 30 are inhabited by powerful ancestral beings: snakes, which are also known as jila, or kalpurtu. Two of these jila, Kulyayi (Well 42) and Kaningarra (Well 48), became stock route wells. Before they became snakes, these jila were men who made rain, shaped the features of the land and introduced practices of law to the jila country. Many of the jila men were also companions who travelled the desert visiting one another, creating the ceremonies and singing the songs that the people of the jila country still perform today. One by one, the jila men ended their journeys at the waters that bear their names, and as they entered their jila, they transformed into the rainbow serpents, kalpurtu. These sites are of great importance to Aboriginal people and they can be as dangerous as they are vital. As places where rain is made, jila must first be ceremonially cleaned out by men. Crescent shaped banks are fashioned around the edge of the jila to signify kutukutu [rain-bearing clouds] before women are invited to approach. The dreaming stories of the jila men Kulyayi and Kaningarra are also connected to those of Kurtal and Wirnpa, two other important jila in this Country.

Media Creator:Nicole Ma

Media date: 2010

Media Description:Four dances are performed at the Ngumpan workshop, which took place at Ngumpan Community east of Fitzroy Crossing in late 2008.

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

Art Centre(s): Other
Publisher: FORM
Media copyright: FORM
Accession ID:DATE_FORM_MIRA_B0098_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.

Wirnpa

Story:Wirnpa the proper boss. Rich. Too many money. Kartiya [white people] can’t get that. We got snake, jila. Can’t touch.' (Jawarta Donald Moko, 2007) Wirnpa was one of the most powerful of the jila men and the last to travel the desert before entering the jila, which bears his name, becoming a snake. Wirnpa’s adventures are celebrated in songs and stories of many language groups. Today, many of these people worry about proposals to mine the country around Wirnpa. Wirnpa was a rainmaker and the last of the jila men to walk around the desert in the Jukurrpa (the Dreamtime). After travelling far from his home, Wirnpa came back to search for his many children only to discover that they had already died. They had laid down and turned into the waterholes of the Percival Lakes. Wirnpa wept for his children and then turned into a snake and entered the waterhole that bears his name. Aboriginal people from language groups across the Western Desert know Wirnpa jila, even if they’ve never been there. The jila lies in Yulparija Country, but as a man Wirnpa travelled such great distances that the songlines which describe his journeys connect him to many groups. As an ancestral hero, Wirnpa is the keeper of different laws and ceremonies, and Aboriginal people from multiple language groups consider the place where he rests a sacred site. Jila like Wirnpa are formidable places, which can be dangerous if they are not approached properly. Aboriginal people enter jila sites ritually, sweeping the ground with branches, and approaching in single file. Elders call out to Wirnpa, announcing their arrival and introducing people who are new to the jila. For many senior people the experience of returning to their Country is highly emotional. 'Jila might make kartiya sick, make a big wind. We been tell him, “Don’t get wild, we all one family for you.”' (Jawarta Donald Moko, 2009) When the people who belonged to Wirnpa left the desert, some went north and eventually settled at Balgo, Mulan, Fitzroy Crossing, Wangkatjungka, Looma, Broome and Bidyadanga. Others went south and settled at Jigalong, Newman, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kunawarritji. Others still went east to Yuendumu and Papunya. Until recently, some of these people had never had the chance to return to their Country but today many people are taking their children and grandchildren to see Wirnpa for the first time. The songlines that pass through Wirnpa travel underground, imbuing the Country with power. The responsibility for these songs, and for the Country itself, is passed down from one generation to the next. Aboriginal people belong to the Country and are its caretakers; when they die, their spirit returns to their Country.

Media Creator:Curtis Taylor

Media date: 2010
Story Location: Wirnpa

Media Description:Martu elders bring their grandchildren to Wirnpa for the first time in 2009.

Story contributor(s):Jawarta Donald Moko, Monique La Fontaine

Art Centre(s): Yulparija Artists, Martumili Artists
Publisher: FORM
Media copyright: FORM
Accession ID:DATE_FORM_MIRA_B0098_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.

Kaningarra

Non-Indigenous name: Well 48

Place description: In 2008 and 2009 Kurtal boss Ngilpirr Spider Snell and Jukuja Nora Tjookootja led the revival of Kaningarra juju. With Rosie Goodjie, Dolly Snelll, Nada Rawlins, Jewess James and Daisy Andrews they passed the song and dance for this Country to a new generation for the first time since the death of Donkeyman Benny, the last Kaningarra boss. Jukuja was promised to Donkeyman as a child, and in accordance with desert tradition, he ‘grew her up’ and cared for her as his future wife until she was old enough to be married. Throughout their marriage she learned the songs and ceremonies for Kaningarra.

Traditional knowledge: Kaningarra was never performed for a long time, so what we did at Ngumpan was get the old fellas together and we talked about trying to get Kaningarra back, the dance, the songs. There’s only one old fella [Spider Snell] who still knows how to sing that song as well as the old ladies. All the bosses for Kaningarra have passed away. Spider wanted to pass it on to the rightful owners before he passed away … All the old people been singing it and teaching it to Pampirla [Hansen Boxer] because he’s a Kaningarra man and he can carry that on. Old ladies been crying. It was like they were bringing something back from the dead. Spider’s a Kurtal man. We need to keep that carrying on because Kaningarra and Kurtal are like brothers in the Dreamtime. (Putuparri Tom Lawford, 2008)

My father been tellembut [telling] me, ‘My Country Kaningarra’. He been looking after that place. We still looking after that place. Long time married but today we single now, looking after Country and story, old people time. When we go there la [to] Kaningarra we always cry [for] Country, me and my sister. When we go there we sing this one, ‘We been come visitor for you’. We say with that snake, ‘The family been come for Walmajarri [side]’. The colour change, that hills, orange, yellow, brown, every afternoon time.

[In the Dreamtime] that two Nangala [sisters], twofella been looking for louse [in each other’s hair]. That Tjungurrayi, [their husband, came back from hunting and they hadn’t cooked any food for him. He] been go round and he been tell ‘em, ‘Eh! You can look ‘em this!’ Boomerang, it was throw. One [sister] been fall, and nother one been sitting down, been slip down. He been throw that boomerang this way from Piparr [south east of Balgo]. That two my sisters, that two Nangala now. That Dreamtime. They turn into that pamarr [rock, Twin Heads]. I been get that word from my father before he passed away. Teaching us story. (Nana Daisy Kungah, 2009)

Kaningarra was a great jila man, and a powerful maparn [magic man] who turned into the spring Kaningarra during Jukurrpa, this then became Well 48 on the Canning Stock Route. Kaningarra is a major rainmaking site.

As he was nearing the end of his life as a man and preparing to enter Kaningarra jila as a kalpurtu, an ancestral rainbow snake, his powers were beginning to wane. Kurtal jila had been travelling across the desert to the coast visiting other jila men and stealing their sacred objects. On his way home to his own jila, Kurtal stopped to visit his friend Kaningarra.

That jila Kaningarra was waiting for him. Kurtal and Kaningarra are yalpurrus. They’re mates. Kaningarra told Kurtal, ‘Let’s lay down here then we can be together [as kalpurtu].’ Kurtal tricked him and said, ‘You lie down over there and I’ll lay down here.’ Then Kaningarra went into the ground and turned into a snake, kalpurtu, and today that waterhole Kaningarra is still there. Kurtal kept on going, carrying all them stolen objects in a coolaman to his country. (Ngilpirr Spider Snell, 2007)

Kaningarra song:

'I am Kaningarra. Standing in my Country, I look to the south.

'What is this thing chasing me? I’m a maparn [magic man] but these devil dogs are frightening me. I hit them with my powers.

'Streaks of lightning are flashing in the distance. A storm is gathering all around. Lightning is flashing on top of the hills like fire, I hide underground. A waterhole forms in the earth.

'A storm cloud is raining in the distance but it is coming closer. Lightning strikes on the hill. Another waterhole is formed from the sky.

'The storm is approaching from the north-west, sprinkling lightly like mist. It rains a little bit.

'In the north, a Jangala man looks out, standing on one leg near the sea. He is painted up, carrying a spear and a boomerang. He drinks the rainwater and dances back and forth, bringing the song from the north.'

In addition to the main song for Kaningarra Jila, other rainmaking songs, such as this one, converge here:

'Kitil and Wiyirr birds migrate towards the storm, bringing the rain.

'Puddles form, little streams run on the groud. People walk through pools of water.

'Rain makes the waters run like a river. Foaming up, the waters meet and flood.

Well data: 1906 water quality: Excellent.

1906 total depth (m): 20

Current quality of well: Derelict, caved in.

Current quality of water: No water.
-20.24844/126.52329
Related art centre(s): Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency, Ngurra Artists, Paruku Indigenous Protected Area

Media title: Jila Kaningarra
Media creator: Nicole Ma
Date: 2010

Media description: This video shows Pampirla Hansen Boxer performing Kaningarra at Ngumpan in 2008. In this section of the dance, Pampirla Hansen Boxer enacts Kaningarra as he fights off an attack by devil dogs.
Media Copyright: FORM
Format: Video
Accession ID: 20131016_FORM_MIRA_B0089_0003

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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