Wantili, which forms the focus of much of Bugai’s work, is a large round jurnu (soak) and linyji (claypan) near Well 25 on the Canning Stock Route. The Wantili region is dominated by claypans surrounded by tuwa (sandhills), and Nyilangkurr, a prominent yapu (hill) is located close to the eastern edge of the claypan. Following rain the typically dry claypans are filled with water, with the overflow from nearby waterholes flowing to Wantili. At that time, Wantili becomes an important place for obtaining fresh water for drinking and bathing. Wantili is significant for the fact that at this site Kartujarra, Manyjilyjarra, Putijarra and Warnman people would all come together for ceremonies during the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era. Manyjiwa (stones used by women for grinding seeds) from these times can still be found there today.
“Bugai always tells about Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25) because she grew up around Wantili. Her family would travel between Wantili, Kaalpa, Juntu-juntu, Raarki, and Wuranu Wells along the Canning Stock Route. She paints around Wantili. She saw whitefellas there for the first time, Canning mob when they were travelling up and down the stock route with the bullock. She was a young girl walking around at Wantili. Big mob of people they been walking around there. Canning and his drovers were travelling, making the road. They were running away from those whitefellas, watching them from a long distance. She was a teenager when she was travelling around there with her four mothers and one daddy. They used to travel around in family groups, Bugai and Jakayu [Biljabu], and Jakayu’s nyupa (partner) Phillip Biljabu.”
- Bugai Whyoulter, as translated by her grandson, Cyril Whyoulter
Wantili is an incredibly important cultural site, ‘‘where the creation started.’ The jukurrpa (dreamtime narrative) related to the creation at Wantili are just for Martu, but the site is open and anyone can go there. Wantili is also one of the many sites featured in the epic Minyipuru (Seven Sisters) jukurrpa. The story follows the movement of a group of women travelling all the way across the desert, beginning at Roebourne on the coast of Western Australia, as they are pursued by Yurla, a lustful old man. As the women travelled they stopped to rest at many sites to eat, dance, rest and sing, on the way leaving behind an assortment of articles that became formations in the land. The sisters rested at Wantili before throwing seeds, then continued their journey on to Tiwa, Juntujuntu, and then Pangkapini, where they finally escaped Yurla by flying into the sky to become the Pleaides constellation of stars.
Martumili Artists was established in late 2006 and supports Martu artists in Kunawarritji, Punmu, Parnngurr, Jigalong, Warralong, Irrungadji (Nullagine) and Parnpajinya (Newman). Many Martu artists have close relationships with established artists amongst Yulparija, Kukatja and other Western Desert peoples and are now gaining recognition in their own right for their diverse, energetic and unmediated painting styles. Their works reflect the dramatic geography and scale of their homelands in the Great Sandy Desert and Rudall River regions of Western Australia. Martumili Artists represents speakers of Manyjilyjarra, Warnman, Kartujarra, Putijarra and Martu Wangka languages, many of whom experienced first contact with Europeans in the 1960s. The artists include painters, working in acrylics and oils, as well as weavers coiling baskets and sculptors working in wood, grass and wool. Martu artists proudly maintain their creative practices whilst pursuing social and cultural obligations across the Martu homelands.