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Majarrka shield by Yanpiyarti Ned Cox, 2007


Majarrka shield by Yanpiyarti Ned Cox, 2007

Object information


This shield is used in the Majarrka ceremony. 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 [such as this one] and wirlki ('number 7' boomerangs). The pukurti (tall headdresses) are worn by dancers depicting the thieves who stole the Majarrka totem.

Physical description

A red pigmented and fibre decorated oval shaped shield, with a flat outer surface and a convex back, with the handle carved in the solid wood. The flat surface has slight rounding at the edges, and is pigmented red and covered with fluffy cream plant fibre, which features a strip of red pigmented plant fibre down the centre. The back of the shield has outlines in black and white stripes at both ends in the shape of a duck bill, joined by a black and white stripe across the handle.

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

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