Artist: Bugai Whyoulter

This is Bugai’s Country - her ‘ngurra’ (home Country, camp). People identify with their ngurra in terms of specific rights and responsibilities, and the possession of intimate knowledge of the physical and cultural properties of one’s country. Painting ngurra, and in so doing sharing the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) stories and physical characteristics of that place, has today become an important means of cultural maintenance.

Bugai’s ngurra encompasses the Country that she and her family walked in the pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) era. At this time Bugai travelled nomadically with her own and other family groups, most notably
the Bidu family. The Country they traversed encompassed an enormous tract of land, with an aerial distance of more than 600 kilometres, from present day Balfour Downs Station to Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33).

Bugai was born at Pulkinya. She grew up, walked and hunted primarily around
Parnngurr, Punmu, Kun Kun (Kuny-kuny) and Kunawarritji. As a young woman Bugai travelled with her husband through the Karlamily (Rudall River) region and up and down the Canning Stock Route, where she first met cattle drovers. She continued to live nomadically before eventually deciding to move to Jigalong
Mission along with many other relatives following an extreme and prolonged drought in the 1960s.

Portrayed in this work are features of Bugai’s ngurra, such as the striking salt lakes, dominant permanent red tali (sandhills), warta (trees, vegetation), and the individually named water sources Bugai and her family camped at. These include Parnngurr, Martilirri, Wangkakalu, Kurtakurta (Camel Rock), Pimurlu, Jilkupuka (Canning Stock Route Well 21), Kaalpa (Canning Stock Route Well 23), Kartarru (Canning Stock Route Well 24), Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25), Tiwa (Canning Stock Route Well 26), Partujarrapirri, Raarki (Canning Stock Route Well 27), Wuranu (Canning Stock Route Well 29), Juntu- juntu (Canning Stock Route Well 30), and Kunawarritji. Rock holes, waterholes, soaks and springs were all extremely important
sites for Martu people during the pujiman period, and are generally depicted with circular forms.


Birth Date         1939
Language          Kartujarra
Skin                   Purungu
Place of Birth    Pukayiyirna (Balfour Downs Station)
Home                Kunawarritji, WA

Bugai is a Kartujarra woman and a senior custodian of the lands surrounding Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33). She was born in the 1940s at Pukayiyirna, on present day Balfour Downs Staon, though her parents soon travelled northward with her through Jigalong and Nullagine toward Kunawarritji. She grew up, walked and hunted with her parents, younger sister Pinyirr Nancy Paerson (dec.), and extended family, primarily travelling around the eastern side of the Karlamily (Rudall River) region and along the midsecton of the Canning Stock Route, from Kartarru (Canning Stock Route Well 24) to Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33). As a young woman Bugai travelled up and down large tracts of the 1850km long Canning Stock Route, where she and her husband met and walked with cale drovers.

In 1963 Bugai’s family encountered the surveyor Len Beadell, who was then grading roads for the Woomera Missile Testng Range. He gave the family flour, which Bugai was able to use to show her relatives how to cook a simple damper (flat bread). Bugai had herself been taught how to bake with flour during her earlier interacons with drovers in her travels on the Stock Route. Shortly afterward Bugai, her husband and the extended family group she was with at the me together decided to move to Jigalong
Mission. There they joined many other relaves that had already travelled in from the desert following a prolonged and severe drought. They were some of the last Martu to leave the desert.

From Jigalong Bugai moved to Aboriginal communies in Strelley, Punmu, and Parnngurr before relocang to Kunawarritji Aboriginal community in more recent years, where she connues to live today. There she was taught to paint by renowned artists Nora Nungabar (Nyangapa) (dec.) and Nora Wompi (dec.). The three women painted together as oen as possible. For a long time Bugai wove baskets, watching the other women painting. Later, she explained that she had been uncertain how to begin.

Today Bugai is considered one of most established Martumili Arsts, and is known as a master of colour, gesture and subtlety. Her self reflective works are layered with distinctively delicate brushmarks, with subtle colour changes representing landmarks, water sources, and desert flora. Bugai's work was selected for the 2019, 2018 and 2013 Telstra Naonal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, the 2012 Bankwest Contemporary Art Prize and Hedland Art Award, and the 2010 Western Australian Indigenous Art Award. She has held regular solo exhibions, and her work has been acquired by several major institutions in Australia, including The National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery of Modern Art.

Solo Exhibitions
2019 Bugai,The Goods Shed, Clarement, WA
2011 Jartijiti (33) Bugai Whyoulter, Seva Frangos Art, Perth
2010 Bugai Whyoulter, Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney

Group Exhibitions
2019 Punmukarti!, Yaama Gaanu, Moree NSW
2019 Nyurnma (burnt Country), Paul Johnstone Gallery, Darwin NT
2018 Hedland Art Award, The Courthouse Gallery, Port Hedland, WA
2018 Wantili - Bugai & Cyril Whyoulter, 2018
2018 Warla Tuwa, Aboriginal Contemporary, Bronte NSW
2018 Martuku Ninti (Martu Knowledge), Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2018 Pujiman, Martumili Artists and Spinifex Hill Artists, Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery
2018 Voice of the custodians of the Homeland: Martumili, Aboriginal Signature Estrangin Gallery, Bruxelles
2017 Hedland Art Award, The Courthouse Gallery, Port Hedland, WA
2017 Art at the Heart, Martumili Gallery, Newman, WA
2017 Desert Mob, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, NT
2017 Community Life, Martumili Gallery, Newman, WA
2017 After The Rains, Martumili Gallery, Newman, WA
2017 Flight: Aboriginal Perspectives from the Sky, FORM Gallery, Perth
2017 Women of Martu, Suzanne O'Connell Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
2016 Three Deserts Singing
2016 Martumili Artists – Nyliangkurr
2016 Desert Mob
2016 Hedland Art Award
2016 33: Wompi Bugai Nungabar
2016 Summer Salon and Art Parade
2015 Palya, Martumili Artists, Tjarlirli Art and Warakurna Artists
2015 Leading Ladies
2015 Tarnanthi
2015 Desert Mob
2015 Martumili Artists
2015 Pukurlpa - Good Inside
2015 Together as One Martu - Art from the far Western Desert
2015 The Summer Collectors Show 2015
2014 Martumili
2014 Martu Art From the Western Desert
2014 Desert Mob
2014 Malya Yuturringu; be a star
2014 Right Now
2013 Salon des Refuses, Paul Johnstone Gallery, Darwin
2013 Ngayunlu-laju parturnparakula kujungka:  Old people painting together
2013 Painting It Martu Way, Art Mob, Hobart
2013 Selected works by the Martumili Artists, Raft Artspace, Alice Springs
2013 The Great Sandy Desert, Yaama Ganu Gallery, Moree
2012 We Don t Need A Map: a Martu experience of the Western Desert
2012 Deserts & Rivers, FORM Gallery, Perth
2012 Martumili Artists 2012, Merenda Gallery, Perth
2012 Desert Mob, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
2012 Warla: an explanation of the salt lakes in the Great Sandy Desert, Short Street Gallery, Broome
2012 Martumili Artists Recent Works, William Mora Gallery, Melbourne
2012 Martumili Artists at Art Mob, Art Mob, Hobart
2011 Waru! Holding Fire in Australias Western Desert, Thomas Welton Gallery, Stanford University, San Francisco
2011 Green, Outstation, Darwin
2011 Jakulpa laju kartyinpa (Bringing a message), Chapman Gallery, Canberra
2011 Yiwarra Kuju – One Road, One People, Australian Museum, Sydney
2011 Yiwarra Kuju – One Road, One People, Perth Convention Exhibition Centre, Perth
2011 Martumili Artists, Outback Fusion Festival, Newman
2010 Yiwarra Kuju – One Road, One People, National Museum of Australia, Canberra
2010 Martumili Group Exhibition, Redot Art Gallery, Singapore
2010 Warla Tjartrjal (Edge of the Lake), Short Street Gallery, Broome
2010 Shalom Gamarada Ngiyani Yana (We walk together as friends), Waterhole Art, Sydney
2009 Warranpalampaju kayili yaninpa (Our Country travelling north), Raft Art Space, Darwin
2009 Wangka-Lampaju (Our Story), Randell Lane Gallery, Perth
2009 Warranpalampa (Our Country), William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
2009 Yankuni laju karnkani kujungka (We are travelling together by air), Red Dot Gallery, Singapore
2009 Desert Mob, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
2008 Ngurra waltja wakarni (We are painting country), Short St Gallery, Broome
2008 Laltu tujuparaku, yulpalpa yirnaparaku (Lots of women, little bit men), Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney
2008 Jitirangu (Rainbow), Randell Lane Gallery, Perth