An exhibition from Sylvia Wilson, emerging curator at Martumili Art Gallery.

“I have selected the powerhouse wantis (women). Strong women that put themselves last and take on a lot. The powerhouse. Mariane Burton is someone who looks after her family putting the grandkids first and travelling with them to Perth and Newman from Punmu for appointments. The word Matriarch comes to mind. Marlene Anderson is like the matriarch of the family. The boss lady. Always helping everyone else out and leaves herself to the end. “She does her own artwork but also works in the gallery. She teaches us her knowledge, like basket weaving and honey ant collecting”. I was told Kumpaya Girgiba was the top lore woman and her story of pujiman (Bush) is so important. She is a leader of the martu women and a senior artists. “That’s all I can say about her. And finally Ngamaru Bidu, you give her the bread if you know what I mean. Because when you look at her, her stance, her energy and her vibe, you can feel it. You don’t muck around with Ngamaru.”

When Martu paint, it’s like a map. Martu draw story on the ground and on the canvas, and all the circle and line there are the hunting areas and different waters and tracks where people used to walk, and [some you] can’t cross, like boundaries. So nowadays you see a colourful painting and wonder what it is, but that’s how Martu tell story long ago. It’s not just a lovely painting, it’s a story and a songline and a history and everything that goes with it.”  – Sylvia Wilson


Sylvia Wilson is an emerging curator at Martumili Art Gallery. Her first exhibition was curated in 2021 with fellow artists Robina Willams and Corban Williams. Paper Wangka (Paper Story in Martu) exhibition unearthed paper artwork treasures from the Martumili collection as a professional development project for three emerging curators. Since then she has lead the gallery team to curate and install a number of exhibitions, including Ngapikaja (the loose translation thingamibobs) and Mirrka (Bush foods). She has also curated a show for Yaama ganu Gallery in NSW for this September 2023.

Martumili Artists

Martumili Artists was established by Martu people living in the communities of Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji and Warralong, and it draws on strong influences of aboriginal art history. The artists and their families are the traditional custodians of vast stretches of the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts as well as the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) area. Most Martu people maintain an entirely independent, nomadic desert lifestyle until the 1950s and 1960s when they walked into settlements in response to a long and severe drought. Today, Martu people live in their own communities and regularly visit regional centres such as Newman and Port Hedland.

Martumili Artists are based in the East Pilbara Arts centre in Newman, with artists working in the 6 other remote East Pilbara communities. Martumili Artists are an activity of the Shire of East Pilbara, and gratefully acknowledge BHP Billiton as their Principal Partner.