Ngurrara Artists.

The Ngurrara native title claims cover a vast area in the southern desert region of the Kimberley.

Ngurrara Canvas_0

The largest of the Ngurrara claims was determined on November 7, 2009 and includes 77,814 sq km the Great Sandy Desert and a section of the Canning Stock Route. In 2012, another two claims covering small parcels of land in the desert region were also determined.

The Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara native title claim was registered with the National Native Title Tribunal on February 29, 2012.

The claim covers 22,130 sq km and includes country to the west of Fitzroy Crossing, south towards Halls Creek and into the desert region of the Kimberley.

The Ngurrara claim group is comprised of people from the Walmajarri, Wangkajunga, Mangala and Juwaliny language groups.

The Yanunjarra Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC manages the native title rights and interests of the Ngurrara people.

spider on canvas
Spider Snell dancing on Ngurrara canvas.

For more information go to the Yanunijarra website:

There is a map here –

Read more here –

Indigenous Australian art in practice and theory, Eleanor Wildburger

Ngurrara: The Great Sandy Desert Canvas – Aboriginal Art Directory.

Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency – COLLABORATIVE WORKS

National Native Title Tribunal – Registration Test Decision

National Museum of Australia – Ngurrara -The Great Sandy Desert.

Aboriginal Art Directory – Ngurrara: The Great Sandy Desert Canvas

The New Yorker – The Painted Desert

The old fella’s still got it, but little shorty packs a punch By Tim Dick August 1 2003

The truth in painting: cultural artefacts as proof of native title, K . Anker

a paper on law and space –

a paper of general interest w/ reference to Alec Forrest – Fitzroy Valley Indigenous Cultural Values Study (a preliminary assessment) 2001

Alec Forrest:

Alec Forrest was one of the 60+ Ngurrara artists.

In 2003 Alec’s Story was published by the Kimberley Language Resource Centre –

read it here

My review: [Alec’s Story is an auto biography by Alec Forrest, told in Walmajarri and recorded in 2000 by Olive Knight for the KImberley Language Resource Centre at Fitzroy Crossing, WA, Australia. It was later translated to English by Olive Knight and produced as a book and published in 2003 with the Walmajarri audio tape. 
Alec Forrest was a Wallmajarri man born Jukutany in the Great Sandy Desert © 1930 at Kaninggarra, a waterhole west of Lake Gregory. He is one of the Ngurrara claim group and painted on the Ngurrara Canvas
Told over 19 short chapters Alec’s life is condensed to an eloquently described life from being born in the desert, losing his father, shot for killing cattle, living the life of a nomad child, describing bush tucker, growing up on GoGo Station to his harsh experiences living and working on a vast number of Kimberley cattle stations and spending years in the Derby Leprosarium.
Proud of the skills he learned working cattle, having 5 or 6 languages under his belt Alec’s stories will make you cry and make you smile. Alec Forrest is a philosopher and gifted story teller. In his later years he sold paintings through Mangkaja Arts Resource Centre, Alec’s elaborate stories continued in his paintings. The story is for the descendants of Jukutany to know and remember but anyone reading this book will be enriched by the experience. It is unlikely that any hard copy of this book is available for sale so I have reproduced it as a www page with permission. (Ford 2016)]

I had the good fortune of working with Alec (Longfella) Forrest between 2003 and 2006. He painted his stories on canvas and they were eloquently described by him. He was a reluctant painter in that he was not prolific in quantity due to an inherent mistrust of kartiya (white people). He would paint new paintings as the older ones got sold. He was very thoughtful about his subject matter and each of his works is unique in that way, unlike a lot of indigenous artists who paint the same subject over and over again.

I was trying to encourage Alec to make a painting for each of the chapters in his book “Alec’s Story”. He was keen on the idea but reluctant to get too far ahead of himself. “See how these go” he said. I was captured by his unique style and eloquent stories. “If this (Junjarti) isn’t sold by the time I leave, I will buy it”, I promised him. He was not popular enough for a mass of enquiries to suddenly erupt but his work was GOOD!  One of his later paintings, I consider this to be one of best and a more resolved version of the painting “Darnku Country” purchased by the Australian War Memorial in 2003 because of it’s reference to WWII.

The work I was looking at was this painting:

“Junjarti” – 78cm x 121cm, 2005

“This is a well near a soak water called Junjarti. At the top is a big warla (lake)in the jilji (sand dunes). There is a big hill that you have to go across sideways.This is the desert. That big black hill, Sam Thomas lived there with a big mob of sheep. He had desert blackfellas working with him.We got the timber for the well at Junjarti from that hill. This was during the German world war (WWII). I was a kid working with my brother. The trees on the jilji are desert walnut, good tucker and good timber.The waterhole at the bottom right is Nargarri. We lived there. The water is only there for a little while after the rain. It is like a swamp really. Good water after the rain. We camped there. We built a well there but the water was too salty. We found good water on the other side, near the black trees at the bottom. The swamp( bottom left) is another good place to camp early in the year. This is all desert, all around here. No creek, no billabong. Just soak water and swamp after the rain.The white trees are snappy gum. We used to camp all around here when I was a kid with my mother and father. I still remember this place.”