Boldly out of the west
Stuart Rintoul
September 27, 2007

In October last year, Martumili Artists began as an enterprise, drawing together Martu artists from the communities of Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Jigalong, Irrungadji (Nullagine) and Parnpajinya, as Newman is known, supported financially by the Shire of East Pilbara, and now by BHP Billiton. Lengthy discussions with Rio Tinto, which is looking to mine uranium on Martu land, came to nothing.

Quoted from the article:

The Martu walked the Great Sandy, the Little Sandy and the Gibson deserts. Their country stretches from the Percival Lakes in the north to Lake Disappointment in the south, and runs east, across the Canning Stock Route to the West Australian-Northern Territory border. Many Martu people ceased living a pujiman (traditional) life only in the 1950s and ’60s.

With no long history of painting on which to draw, they are at the beginning of discovering how to tell the story of their journey.

They came together last October under the name of Martumili Artists. Now they have taken their first big step towards the art world with an exhibition, Martu-La Wakarnu Kuwarri Wiyaju (Martu Painting Together First Time), at William Mora Galleries in Melbourne.

The show was nearly sold out before it even opened: the National Gallery of Victoria purchased a dozen pictures.

At tonight’s opening, BHP Billiton will announce that it will contribute seed finance of $400,000 to the Martumili venture over the next three years.

Six of the Martumili artists arrived with the exhibition: Lilly Long, Kumpaya Girgirba, Dada Samson, Ngamaru Bidu, Jakayu Biljabu and Rita Simpson (Muni). Each of them has lived in the convergence of the tribal and modern worlds.