Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

'Majarrka Pukurti' by Pampirla Hansen Boxer, 2007

2008.0041.0112

'Majarrka Pukurti' by Pampirla Hansen Boxer, 2007

Object information

Description

This carving depicts a Majarrka dancer wearig the pukurti headdress. ( see IR 5004.0119 & IR5004.01120 for examples)

Majarrka juju (song and dance) describes the true story of Wurtuwaya (Yanpiyarti Ned Cox's grandfather) and Wirrali (Putuparri Tom Lawford's great-grandfather). While travelling near Paruku, they had discovered a group of men performing a ceremony with their stolen Majarrka totem. When the ceremony ended, Wurtuwaya and Wirrali crept in unobserved and retrieved the sacred totem.

Afterwards Wurtuwaya and Wirrali created a new dance, Majarrka juju. They adapted aspects of the song and dance they had seen the men performing, but used different paint and body decoration, dance moves and language.

Today, Majarrka juju is an important dance, performed by both senior and younger men. Dancers who depict the bosses Wurtuwaya and Wirrali wear kumunungku (square headdresses) and carry shields and wirlki ('number 7' boomerangs) such as this one. The pukurti (tall headdresses) are worn by dancers depicting the thieves who stole the Majarrka totem. Such a dancer is depicted here.

This kind of carving is extremely uncommon for men of the northern Canning Stock Route region. Such heads were, at one time, carved by coastal west Kimberley men. As Pampirla has lived for considerbale periods in Broome, and been exposed to these traditions elsewhere, he has adapted them to the desert Country for which he is custodian.

Physical description

A carved and pigmented wooden bust of a human figure with a pointed hat and body decoration. The face and body of the figure are black-brown with the facial features deeply carved out of the wood, including an "Adams apple" at the neck. The orange-brown chin length hair and full beard are both textured with vertical grooves. The body has a pigmented decoration on the shoulders and down the front centre in brown with white dots and two rows of tan fibre. The hat is conical with the point bent slightly backwards and features vertical stripes of white, maroon and yellow with white dot pigments.

Statement of significance

The Canning Stock Route collection is comprised of 125 works and includes paintings, drawings, baskets, boomerangs, coolamons, headdresses, carved figures and shields.

The Canning Stock Route is a no-longer-used cattle droving route that traverses the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts of central Western Australia. Comprised of 48 wells along an 1800 kilometres stretch of track, the route links Wiluna in the south with Sturt Creek in the north and traverses the traditional lands of nine Aboriginal language groups. The route was founded in 1905 when Alfred Canning was commissioned to investigate a route suitable for the droving of 500 head of cattle, with water sources spaced at intervals of no more than one day's walk apart. Although Canning's map records observations of the land and water resources, it makes no mention of Indigenous places and their associated meanings which the route traversed. This collection, composed of 'painting stories', sculptural works and oral histories, re-dresses Canning's omission and records the impact of the stock route on Indigenous lives and country. A six week journey with traditional owners held in July and August of 2007 inspired the artworks, many of which were produced during the journey, and provided an opportunity for more than 70 senior and emerging artists to reconnect with traditional lands..

Object information

Back to top