Purlta Maryanne Downs
Country: Kurtal, Great Sandy Desert
I was born at Kurtal Jila [permanent waterhole], near Kururrungku (Billiluna). When I was a young girl I walked with my mother a long way to Paruku (Lake Gregory). After this when I was still young, I walked again with my parents to Louisa Downs Station.
When we go out bush we get all kinds of food. We get food for the kids like makaparla [bush banana]. We find a tree and sometimes we argue, “This is my tree”, “No it’s mine”. Sometimes we get yams. We used to dig for them ourselves, without our mother. We learnt how to find any kind
of food in the bush. My sister taught me to dig yam and to hunt goanna. When we were hungry away from our mother we looked around for food. We would find possum and sometimes at night, echidna or bandicoot.
Sometimes Jinny and her husband would dig a yam and leave it in the ground covered up. We would come behind and pick it up. We kids would share it then. We would eat it raw. Then those two would come back and they would look around for their yam. Jinny would call out, “Where’s my food?” She would look around but she couldn’t find that yam. Then she knew that we had eaten it. She called us the greedy ones. This happened when we were walking from Billiluna.
My sister taught me everything about hunting. We carried water in a coolamon on our heads. My mother taught me how to cook on the fire. She was cheeky and used to hit me but sometimes I was naughty too.
I first started painting at Karrayili Adult Education Centre. We sewed clothes and tried to write with the first teacher. We started painting but we didn’t paint our country. We painted nothing at first. We used mud sometimes to make pots. We also made coolamons and other things. Then everyone started painting. I started on cardboard. When I was looking around I was thinking, “what have I got to do?” I thought, “I could put something like a goanna or a billabong or jumu [soakwater]”. I have been painting at Mangkaja for a long time, now.
Ngarrangkarni [Dreamtime] stories
Jilji [sandhills] in the Great Sandy Desert
Kurtal jila [permanent waterhole]