Paintings depict the Tjukurpa, the Law and stories of Ancestors. Anangu (Central and Western Desert Aboriginal people) have responsibilities for the protection and teaching of different Tjukurpa and there are strict protocols for the imparting of knowledge. The dotting technique has evolved with the need to adapt sacred expressions of Tjukurpa for public viewing and as a depiction of the desert landscape.
Collecting mai or plant foods and other desert foods is important work and ritual for women as well as a major theme in paintings. Minyma tjuta (senior women) travel their country with their tools: piti, or wooden bowl and wana, digging stick. They collect mai that includes kampurarpa, mangata, munu unturngu, (bush tomato, quandong and bush banana).
Minyma also dig for sweet tjala, honey ants living under the ground beneath the mulga trees. Worker ants carry nectar down to the nest to store in the honey ants’ swollen bellies and feed their young (the white shapes inside the nest). Maku, the succulent witchetty grub, is found in the roots of another Acacia known as the Witchetty Bush and can be eaten cooked or raw.
Behind these foods are their Creation or Law stories which code a wealth of knowledge used not only to hunt and survive but to live in social harmony as well. Paintings are a contemporary way of continuing to celebrate and teach through the Tjukurpa.
Artist: Myra Giles Title: Mai, Maku munu Tjala (Bush food, Witchetty Grub, Honey Ants) Size: 60 x 60 cm Medium: Acrylic on Canvas