Doris Bush Nungarrayi was selected to showcase in the 37th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Australia’s longest and most prestigious Indigenous art award. Whilst we are unable to travel to Darwin to celebrate this achievement we’ve presented this body of work to provide a glimpse into Doris’ creative imagination and presence as a legendary storyteller.
Doris’ works form but one piece of her expressive presence as an elaborate and outrageous performer. Her stories are accompanied by song, dance, hand gestures and of course her paintings. As a result, her works are less focused on the representations of Dreaming’s and rather; thoughts, memories and dreams from Country. Doris loves to paint and talk about everything around her, and her narratives, though abstract and complicated, often return to her own life and memories growing up in the bush around Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) with poignant simplicity. Doris will also often talk about Tjilirra (bush tools like boomerangs or nulla nullas), which she makes, depicts onto canvas and readily paints onto the tools themselves while waiting for her canvas to dry.
The following text is a selection of Doris’ stories told in the presence of her works. Sadly, they are not accompanied by her hand gestures or song, and the translations have attempted, when necessary to accommodate for this. They hope to offer but a small sense of Doris’ dynamic personality and elaborate art practice.
Getting bush tomatoes! Yep these ones. Eating meat, snake or goanna and going to the water! I’m the little one. The silly one! No blanket, no underwear, no blanket, nothing! You know spinifex grass? We would lay it out as a blanket and all lay in a line. Mother, Father and the little ones. Yep I was the little one sleeping with a grass blanket!
Here are two eyes watching. Here is a hand. Looking here, a foot. You have to be watching. Just one foot! Haha! Hand. Yep, she keeps digging here. For food. She strikes with a spear. Spearing a snake. She eats that meat. She is eating that meat we would eat in the early days. A friendly snake. Yep, she is eating that meat. By the fire. Here she is and this is what she is saying, just like this: “I’m not sharing this meat with you! no way! You can go away hungry! Go away hungry! You can go without. This is my meat!” That’s what she said here.
Pura mantjini yuwa, ngatjanya, kuka ngalkuni, pilkati, goanna, kapi kutu ananyi! I’m little one, Ramarama! pulangkita wiya, no napikinna, no pulangkita wiya! You know tjanpi? Tjanpi alatji ngarrinyi, paapa maama, little one ngarrinyi, yuwa little one ngayulu ngarrinyi, pulangkita tjanpi!
Ngatja kuru kutjarra nyanganyi. Ngatja mara. Tjina, nyanganyi ngatja. You gotta looking. Tjina Kutju haha. Mara! Yuwa ngatja tjawalpayi kutu ngangka. Mangarriku. Wakani Kulatangka. Pilkati wakani. Kuka paluru ngalkuni. Kuka paluru ngalkuni Early Days kwayitwun pilkati! Yuwa kuka ngalkuni paluru. Yuwa warungka. Paluru watjani ngangka, alatji kungkalu, watjani “ nyuntunya wiya yunganyi nyuntu arra wanma! Nyuntu arra wanma! You not eat! Ngayuku kuka”. Watjanu paluru ngangka. Ngayulu, payipi wiima! Ngayulu.
Getting bush tomatoes! Yep these ones. Eating meat, snake or goanna and going to the water! I’m the little one. The silly one!
Pura mantjini yuwa, ngatjanya, kuka ngalkuni, pilkati, goanna, kapi kutu ananyi! I’m little one, Ramarama!
Here is this Aboriginal man, standing in the dunes and watching. A Monster… in the dunes this old man here is talking, he want’s to eat and is digging digging and trying. Dunes there, river here, you gotta eat! Yep, but there’s another over there, a girl, he’s gotta eat. He’s got no blanket, no water, no billy can, no meat, nothing!
She’s spearing here, here it is. Here is the goanna. This is how the goanna travels. It’s speared here. She’s spearing so that she can eat this here! The snake. That’s how it is. She’s hungry, you gotta eat! Eating here, with fire in the dunes and you’ve got a home! Eating these two here, with light. This girl, here’s her nose, she’s looking as if to say “arghhhh”. Goanna, you’ve gotta eat. That old man, her husband, is over there hungry. She’s got snake and meat to share. Sand dunes, sand dunes and river, yep! It’s right like this. You gotta eat! Husband and wife. No blanket, nothing! Ayyyye she’s singing out, she’s here saying “aye come here, goanna here, snake meat.” No blanket, no water, nothing. No blanket. Crazy.
Tjina ngara nyanganyi, tali tjuta, kata wati nyanganyi, Anangu. Milalpa… talingka watjani tjilpi ngatja, talingka, ngangka, kuka ngalkuni, twawani tjawani, nguntji, Tali, river, you gotta eat! Yuwa, paluru, nyarratja kutjupa ngaranyi, kungka, tali, he’s gotta eat! Plankita wiya, kapi wiya, wayatjarra wiya, kuka wiya, wiya!
Ngatja wakani, Ngatja ngaranyi, ngatja goanna ngangka, alatji goanna ananyi. Wakanu ngaranyi, wakani, ngaaku ngalkuni, pilkati, alatji, hungry, you gotta eat here! Ngatja ngallkuni, fire, tali, you got a home ngangka, ngaa kutjarraku, layiti, kungka, mulya, nyanganyi “arghhhhh”, goanna, you gotta eat, hungry, old man nyarratja, husband, kuka pilkati yunganyi, tali, tali, river, yuwa, ngatja liipula alatji, you gotta eat! Husband and wife, no blanket wiya, ayyyyye miranyi, wangkanyi, ngangka, “ayyyyye come here ngalyarra goanna here, snake kuka” no blanket, wiya, kapi wiya, no blanket, rama lingku”
That is a little me!
This is a girl. The rock hole is here, and the lines are leading to a rock hole along the sand dunes. Here is her country. She is looking at this water. Yes here. She is the wife of an old man.
That is a little me! My mum came from the west. My mother and my father passed away… and my (other) mother is here as a young girl. She looked for a husband and then, son, son, son, son… four sons! And girls, she had so many. This one here went to Melbourne. She drank too much. This one went to Yuendumu. This one went to Balgo. My sister. She went crazy drinking too much. Ernabella too! Lots of Children. Look that’s how it is! Lots of people. This one went to Karlgoorli and Perth. Yes that’s how it is. My family. All gone.
Kungka ngaranyi, ngangka. Inta ngatja ngaranyi tjukula layina talingka ngaranyi. Ngatjanya. Ngangka ngurra ngaranyi. Ngatja nyanganyi kapikutu. Yuwa ngatja. Miita tjilpiku.
Ngayulu Ima! Maama ngalyanu ngurra wilurarra. Maama inta Paapa wiyarringu inta ngayuku maama… Young girl. She bin look for husband. Yuwa, katja katja katja katja, Four sons! Inta kungka… tumatji Kungka! Melbourne this one. Tumatji! Tjikini. In Yuendumu. This one Balgo my sister. Tjikini ramarringu. Balgo. Ernabella. Lots of children. Alatji tjuta nyawa. Anangu tjuta. Kalgoorli, Perth this one. Yuwa, alatji. My family. All gone.