The land of the Miriwoong and Gajirrabeng people covers
a large tract of country with Kununurra being at the heart
of Miriwoong land. From Molly Spring in the West, and along
most of the mighty Ord River and parts of Lake Argyle to beyond
the Northern Territory border and the Keep River National Park
then up to the coast, the Miriwoong and Gajirrabeng people
have lived in harmony with the land. Nowadays things have changed
and many have moved into town or adjacent communities.
The land, however, remains sacred to Miriwoong people and holds many significant sites including burial sites, ceremonial grounds, hunting places, history and Ngarranggarni. The landforms are all part of the Ngarrangarni.
As custodians of the land, Miriwoong and Gajirrabeng peoples have obligations to care for country and the resting places of their spiritual ancestors. Land is not something Miriwoong people own, but something that is a part of them and over which they have traditional rights. Different family groups are custodians of different areas of country. Through Art Centre activities, artists take their families to visit country. On these trips “out bush” everyone looks out for bush tucker and learning from the old people’s knowledge about Miriwoong country.
For Aboriginal people there is a common belief that people came from the land on which they live, and that they have occupied that land since the creation era known as the Ngarranggarni or Dreaming. It is believed that during this time, spirit beings roamed across the land performing certain actions that modified or created natural features, made waterholes, springs and rivers, and filled the whole land with a spirituality that remains vitally potent to this day.
When an artist paints their country they relate the map of the land and the knowledge contained within the land. Each map of country relates not only the lay of the land its rivers hills and waterholes but also carries the knowledge of many stories layered into the story of country; the bush foods found at a particular place, the Ngarangnarni story that describes the features of the land as well as the more contemporary events that include an artists’ families history of being in country. By naming country an artist indicates knowledge, cultural status and ultimately ownership of this country.