Image – Martumili Artist Minyawe Miller. Photo – Tobias Titz www.tobiastitz.de
Martumili Artists was established by Martu people living in the communities of Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji and Warralong, after long and cautious observation of other desert artistâ€™ experiences of the art market. 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 maintained an entirely independent, nomadic 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.
Art plays a particularly important role in the cultural and economic life of the Martu communities. Many of the artists are senior custodians of Martu cultural heritage who use their arts practices as a conduit for passing on knowledge of country and culture to younger family members. At the same time, managing the exhibition and sale of artworks is an important way in which Martu artists are carving out a contemporary, engaged and positive livelihood as well as winning new audiences with their beautiful desert country and culture.
Martumili Artistsâ€™ captivating work also marks an extension of the international profile of the Pilbara region, which has previously centred on the resource wealth and mineral exports of the area. Martu artists have been central to the emerging recognition of the East Pilbara as a centre of extensive Indigenous cultural heritage and artistic excellence in Australia.