Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


'Minyipuru' by Rita Simpson, Rosie Williams and Dulcie Gibbs, 2007


'Minyipuru' by Rita Simpson, Rosie Williams and Dulcie Gibbs, 2007

Object information


Sisters Muni, Rosie and Dulcie grew up in the Country they have depicted in this painting. This painting shows the waterholes (inlcuding Pangkapini, Kunawarritji, Nyipil, Kinyu, Lawu Lawu, Mintikayi) around the Canning Stock Route related to the Jukurrpa story for Minyipuru, known in English as the Seven Sisters.

In Aboriginal cultures across Australia, and in other cultures around the world, the Pleiades star cluster is associated with the story of the Seven Sisters. Minyipuru Jukurrpa is the Martu version of this story. When Martumili Artists was established in 2005, this was the first Dreaming story the Martu women agreed to paint for a broader public.

The Minyipuru began their journey from Roebourne in Western Australia as a big group of sisters and their mothers. At various places along the way, they lost members of their party until eventually only seven sisters remained. At Kalypa (well 23) the Minyipuru met a group of Jukurrpa men; it was the first time either group had seen members of the opposite sex. The men tried to grab the women, but the Minyipuru chased them, hitting them with their digging sticks and leaving them lying there. At Pangkapini the sisters met Yurla, an old man who had followed them from Roebourne. Yurla grabbed one of the women at Pangkapini, but her sisters tricked him and managed to rescue her. At another site further east, he tried to catch five of the sisters, but again they escaped, flying on to Marapinti.

Many of the sites on the Seven Sisters' journey are now wells on the Canning Stock Route. The red ribbon through the centre of the painting is the stock route itself.

This painting was commenced and completed at Kilykily (well 36) during the Canning Stock Route Project return to Country trip in 2007. Before commencing the painting camp, the Martu women lead the entire project team to Pangkapini, where they narrated, sung and danced part of the Minyipuru story. After narrating part of the story for which men hold custodianship, Jeffrey James and Patrick Tjungurrayi lead the men away (and out of sight) while the women danced. The women decided they wanted to use this footage to explain to audiences that contemproary paintings, such as this one, are 'true'; that they are not simply made up, but come from a long lineage of story and song. The footage was therefore used, in part, in the AV display under the paintings in the Yiwarra Kuju exhibition.

Physical description

An acrylic dot and line painting on linen, featuring a vertical red line at the centre which is narrower at the top than the bottom, surrounded by thirteen blue dots to the left and right of the red line. The rest of the painting contains alternating white, yellow, brown and orange lines and dots.

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