Watson Jangala Robertson was born in 1976 in Alice Springs Hospital, the closest hospital to Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community located 290km north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Watson was born into a family of established Warlpiri artists – who would take him out bush, around Nyirrip an dYuendumu, showing him sites and teaching him the traditional ways of his country.
He attended the local school and for the past few years has been living in Nyirripi, a remote Aboriginal community 130kms north-west of Yuendumu.
In 2016, he began painting with the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal owned and governed art cetnre located in Yuendumu and Nyirripi.
He paints his Mother’s Watiya-warnu Jukurrpa (Seed Dreaming) and his grandfather’s Ngapa Jukurrpa – Puyurru (water Dreaming); stories passed down to him through the many generations.
These stories are creation stories that relate to his family’s traditional country, traditions that stretch back for millenia.
He uses an unrestricted palette to depict his traditional iconography, at the same time developing a modern individualist style, using bold designs in a variety of contexts.
In 2017 he also produced a small number of prints.
Food and bush tucker are still regularly hunted and collected today, and Watson often goes out hunting with family and friends.
When hunting, they hunt for goanna, kangaroo, snake, and witchetty grubs as well as bush tucker, such as native currants, bush potato and bush banana.
The site depicted in this painting is Puyurru, west of Yuendumu. In the usually dry creek beds are ‘mulju’ (soakages), or naturally occurring wells. The ‘kirda’ (owners) for this site are Nangala / Nampijinpa women and Jangala / Jampijinpa men.
Two Jangala men, rainmakers, sang the rain, unleashing a giant storm. The storm travelled across the country from east to west, initially traveling with a ‘pamapardu Jukurrpa’ (termite Dreaming) from Warntungurru to Warlura, a waterhole 8 miles east of Yuendumu.
At Warlura, a gecko called Yumariyumari blew the storm on to Lapurrukurra and Wilpiri. Bolts of lightening shot out at Wirnpa (also called Mardinymardinypa) and at Kanaralji. At this point, the Dreaming track also includes the ‘kurdukurdu mangkurdu Jukurrpa’ (children of the clouds Dreaming).
The water Dreaming built hills at Ngamangama using baby clouds and also stuck long pointy clouds into the ground at Jukajuka, where they can still be seen today as rock formations.
The termite Dreaming eventually continued west to Nyirripi, a community approximately 160km west of Yuendumu.
The water Dreaming then travelled from teh south over Mikanji, a watercourse with soakages north west of Yuendumu.
At Mikanji, the storm was picked up by a ‘kirrkarlanji’ (brown falcon) and taken farther north. At Puyurru, the falcon dug up a giant ‘warnayarra’ (rainbow serpent). The serpent carried water with it to create another large lake, Jillyiumpa, close to an outstation in this country.
The ‘kirda’ (owners) of this story are Jangala men and Nangala women.
After stopping at Puyurru, the water Dreaming travelled through other locations including Yalyarilalku, Mikilyparnta, Katalpi, Lungkardajarra, Jirawarnpa, Kamira, Yurrunjuku, and Jikaya before moving on into Gurindji country to the north.
In contemporary Walpiri paintings, traditional iconography is used to represent the ‘Jukurrpa’ (Dreaming).
Short dashes are often used to represent ‘mangkurdu’ (cumulus and stratocumulus clouds), and longer, flowing lines represent ‘ngawarra’ (flood waters).
Small circles are used to depict ‘mulju’ (soakages) and river bed.
Made in Australia, with royalties directly benefiting Teddy Gibson and his community – www.warlu.com