Title: Wardapi Jukurrpa (Goanna Dreaming) - Yarripilangu
Ruth Nungarrayi Spencer - Wardapi Jukurrpa (Goanna Dreaming) - Yarripilangu - 1807/20
Artist: Ruth Nungarrayi Spencer
Cat No: 1807/20
Size: 30 x 30 cm
Acrylic on Canvas, Stretched
This painting depicts a ‘wardapi Jukurrpa’ (sand monitor/goanna [Varanus gouldii] Dreaming). This dramatic Jukurrpa travels between Purturlu (Mount Theo), approximately 150kms north-northwest of Yuendumu, and Yarripilangu (Newhaven), which is approximately 100kms southwest of Yuendumu. This painting focuses on the portion of the Jukurrpa that takes place at Yarripilangu, which is owned by Napaljarri/Nungarrayi women and Japaljarri/Jungarrayi men. The portion of the Jukurrpa at Purturlu belongs to Napanangka/Napangardi women and Japanangka/Japangardi men.
This Jukurrpa tells the story of a Japangardi man named Wamaru who lived at Jarrardajarrayi, an area of country near Purturlu. This Japangardi man lived at Jarrardajarrayi near a soakage called Juntangkalpa. He travelled south to Yarripilangu and approached a group of ‘karnta’ (women) that were sitting down in a circle there. He wanted to woo a Nungarrayi woman named Yurlkurinyi who was the wrong skin for him. By tribal law, this woman was his mother-in-law and their relationship would be taboo.
The Japangardi man wooed the Nungarrayi woman and they went up the hill at Yarripilangu where they made love. The earth there turned to ‘ngunjungunju’ (white ochre) and the man turned himself and all the ‘karnta’ (women) into ‘wardapi’ (goannas). The Japangardi man eventually brought the Nungarrayi woman back to Purturlu to live, even though they were the wrong skin for each other.
White ochre is still found on top of the hill at Yarripilangu and is used today for love magic and for ceremonial decoration. There’s also a cave where you can see the shape of a goanna entering. There are beautiful groundwater springs on the east side of the Yarripilangu hill. A number of important Jukurrpa associated with mens’ initiation ceremonies pass through Yarripilangu; these include ‘karnta Jukurrpa’ (womens’ Dreaming), ‘ngalyipi Jukurrpa’ (snakevine [Tinospora smilacina] Dreaming), ‘wati-jarra Jukurrpa’ (two men Dreaming), and ‘witi Jukurrpa’ (ceremonial pole Dreaming).
In contemporary Warlpiri paintings, traditional iconography can be used to represent the Jukurrpa, particular sites, and other elements. In paintings of this Jukurrpa, the group of women is often represented by concentric circles and ‘U’ shapes. Concentric circles can also illustrate ‘wardapi’ holes and the droppings they leave, while ‘wardapi’ tracks are usually represented by ‘W’ shapes.
Ruth Nungarrayi Spencer was born in Alice Springs Hospital, the closest hospital to Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community located 290 kms north-west of Alice Springs in the NT of Australia. She has grown up most of her life in Yuendumu. First attending the local school in Yuendumu then moving to Alice Springs where she attended Alice Springs High School. Further studies gave her qualifications to work in administrative work. Ruth has held a number of administrative positions since leaving school. For 13 years she worked with the Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) in Lajamanu before transferring to the Yuendumu Administration Office. She has also worked for Warlpiri Media, CDEP Council, and the Yuendumu Library and is presently working for the Shire Council. She is now married to Raymond Robert Pluto and they have one young son, Korie. Ruth has been painting with Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal owned and governed art centre located in Yuendumu, since she was a teenager. Her grandfather and grandmother told her the stories of her Jukurrpa (Dreaming) but it was Daisy Napanangka Nelson (1930 – 2001) who also painted with Warlukurlangu Artists, Ruth’s Number two Grandmother or Big Sister (Wendy and Alma Sims) who taught her Yanjirlpirri Jukurpa (Star Dreaming) painting. Ruth often travels and visits family in Lajamanu, Balgo, and Kalkaringi. Aside from painting, Ruth enjoys playing basketball and softball.