Shorty Jangala Robertson - Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming) 1826/06
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Acrylic on Linen
Shorty Jangala Robertson was born in 1925 at Jila (Chilla Well), a remote Aboriginal community located 290 kms north-west of Alice Springs. He lived a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle with his immediate and extended Warlpiri family. Shorty’s childhood memories consist of stories associated with the Coniston massacre of Aboriginal people and close to Jila where families were shot at Wantaparri.
Shorty had contact with white fellas during his youth but remembers leaving Jila for Mt Theo ‘to hide’ from being shot. His father died at Mt Theo and then with his mother moved to Mt Doreen Station. This fledgling artist, well into his 70’s when he started painting, had his first solo exhibition at Alcaston Gallery in 2003, which was met with great acclaim. He has since exhibited in Aboriginal Art Exhibitions in Australia and overseas.
The site depicted in this painting is Puyurru, west of Yuendumu. In the usually dry creek beds are water soakages, or naturally occurring wells. Two Jangala men, rainmakers, sang the rain, unleashing a giant storm. It travelled across the country, with the lightning striking the land. This storm met up with another storm from Wapurtali, to the west, was picked up by a ‘kirrkarlan’ (brown falcon, Falco berigora) and carried further west until it dropped the storm at Purlungyanu, where it created a giant soakage. At Puyurru, the bird dug up a giant snake, ‘warnayarra’ (the ‘rainbow serpent’) and the snake carried water to create the large lake, Jillyiumpa, close to an outstation in this country.
This story belongs to Jangala men and Nangala women. In contemporary Warlpiri paintings, traditional iconography is used to represent the Jukurrpa, associated sites and other elements. In many paintings of this Jukurrpa, curved and straight lines represent the ‘ngawarra’ (flood waters) running through the landscape. Motifs frequently used to depict this story include small circles representing ‘mulju’ (water soakages) and short bars depicting ‘mangkurdu’ (cumulus & stratocumulus clouds).