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Tjinkuma Tjilya


Tjinkuma Tjilya, a Pitjantjatjara minyma pampa (senior woman), was born around 1940 at Tjantjumatja. Her place of birth is one of the many sites where the seven sisters stopped as they travelled across the desert in the time of the Dreaming. When they saw Nyiru hiding and watching them they quickly got up and left.

Tjinkuma lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the desert with her family. Most of the time anangu were able to provide well for themselves through gathering and hunting. From the women Tjinkuma learnt where to find bushfoods such as kampurarpa (desert raisin), ili (figs), tjala (honey ants), ngintaka (goanna), tinka (lizards), maku (wood grubs) and grass seeds. Many of these foods such as tjala and maku are difficult to find unless you know where to look and require a lot of digging. The women locate maku by inspecting the ground under mulga trees for hair-line cracks made by roots swollen by the wood grubs. The root is dug out with a wana and cracked open where the swelling occurs revealing the grub. Some of the bushfoods, such as the grass seeds, are arduous to collect and prepare. The tiny seeds are collected in a kanilpa, a shallow wooden bowl used for winnowing, then the chaff is removed and the seeds ground to a paste using a walu (grinding stone) before being cooked as seed cakes.

During a severe drought Tjinkuma walked to the mission at Ernabella with her family to get food and water. She returned to her homelands around the time the miners were working a small chrysoprase mine at Irrunytju. As well as buying provisions from the community store the minyma at Irrunytju continue to collect bushfoods.

In her work Tjinkuma often refers to the seasonal variations of her country. She also paints the Minyma Tjuta Tjukurpa (Seven Sisters Dreaming) and the Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa (Two Sister Dreaming). One of the rockholes the two sisters stopped at in their epic journey across the desert was Pundi. There they sang and danced inma in the tali (sand dunes). The sisters’ feet made marks in the sand. In Tjinkuma’s painting titled Pundi the dark red lines in the image refer to the footprints of the big sister and the lighter lines refer to those of the little sister. As they danced they saw a willy-willy swirling towards them, when it got close a face emerged and it turned into a man. They became frightened and ran away.

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Aboriginal Art (991)