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Giant painting ‘awakened’ in the desert

Peter Murray

Photo courtesy of the Kimberley Land Council. 

Photo courtesy of the Kimberley Land Council. 

More than 100 people have gathered in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the Ngurrara Canvas II. The canvas, measuring 8m by 10m, is a vivid map of Ngurrara country, and was prepared as evidence for the Ngurrara native title claim. This is the first time the canvas has been returned to the banks of Lake Pirnini, where it was originally painted in 1997.

Terry Murray, the youngest of the forty artists to work on the canvas and the head of the Ngurrara Canvas Management Committee, says it’s time to ‘Parnkimanu Ngurrara’—to awaken the canvas back out on Ngurrara country. 

“Now is the time to celebrate, to 'Parnkimanu Ngurrara' with the power of the Ngurarra artists that painted the canvas. We want to recognise those who are deceased, and those who are still standing. Now is the time to come together after 20 years to celebrate and awaken our unique Ngurarra canvas," Mr Murray says. 

During the canvas celebrations, the management committee will hold further discussions around the canvas’ future. 

“The celebration will give us the momentum to move forward, hand-in-hand with Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, to develop a plan to look after the canvas. We would like to take the next generation and the standing elders on a journey to explore how we can celebrate the canvas’ power going forward,” Mr Murray says.

The canvas illustrates the significant jila (springs) and jumu (soaks) across Ngurrara country, with the only concession to Western mapping a depiction of the Canning Stock Route. Ten years after the canvas was painted, Ngurrara were granted exclusive possession native title over approximately 77, 595 square kilometres—an area larger than Tasmania. 

The Parnkimanu Ngurrara event was supported by Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, the registered native title body corporate established to manage the Ngurrara native title area.