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'Majarrka Kumunungku' by Pampirla Hansen Boxer, 2007


'Majarrka Kumunungku' by Pampirla Hansen Boxer, 2007

Object information


This carving depicts a Majarrka dancer wearing the Kumunungku headdress. ( see IR 5004.0115 & IR5004.0116 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 such as depicted here) 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.

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 period 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 painted wooden bust of a human figure with a conical shaped hat and body decoration. The conical hat is painted with acrylic paint in white and ochre like brown, with a green acrylic painted face below containing white dots on the cheeks. The rest of the bust has a black background with grey stripes on the chest and brown dots painted over them. White dots are painted in between.

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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