My name is Paddy Japaljarri Stewart. We painted the Kuruwarri (Jukurrpa designs) on the Yuendumu school Doors. It took a long time. We paint at the Warlukurlangu art centre now. We’ve been putting our Kuruwarri on canvas for a long time. We can’t leave our Jukurrpa behind, we have to keep it alive.
Warlpiri elders at Yuendumu in the late 1960s realised they needed to bring their ceremonial art and designs in from the distant deserts into community if they were to pass their culture on to future generations. Previously the Warlpiri had traced their Dreaming symbols in the compacted desert sand and when the ceremonies were over the images would be erased by desert winds.
With the encouragement of school principal Terry Davies in 1984, Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, Paddy Japaljarri Sims, Larry Jungarrayi Spencer, Paddy Jupurrula Nelson and Roy Jupurrula Curtis painted 30 school doors with their most important Dreamings. The painted Doors taught Yuendumu’s schoolchildren about their country. The Doors remained at Yuendumu for twelve years before being acquired by South Australian Museum.
When my father was alive this is what he taught me. He taught me the traditional ways like the traditional designs in body or head of Kangaroo Dreaming (that’s what we call Marlu Dreaming) and Eagle Dreaming. He taught me to sing song for the big ceremonies. People who are related to us in a close family, they have to have the same sort of jukurrpa, and to sing songs in the same way that we do, our actions like dancing and painting on our bodies or shields or things, and this is what my father taught me.
My dreaming is the Kangaroo Dreaming, the Eagle Dreaming and the Budgerigar Dreaming, so I have three kinds of Dreaming in my jukurrpa and I have to hang onto it. This is what my father taught me, and this is what I have to teach my sons the same way my father taught me, and that’s the way it will go on from grandparent to grandsons, and follow that jukurrpa. No one knows when it will end.
Since white settlement the Warlpiri have devised many ways of transmitting their culture to younger generations. They have always understood the deep importance of culture and connection to Aboriginal wellbeing. The Yuendumu doors was a major effort to reconnect young people with culture in the 1980s. Now, more than 30 years later, Warpiri elders are turning to new technology. They are crowdfunding Kurdiji 1.0 Aboriginal suicide prevention app, based on story, ceremony and law. Please support them by donating at http://www.kurdijiproject.com and sharing their campaign.