Minyma Marlilu Tjukurrpa

Carolanne Ken

Artwork Year



90 x 120 cm


acrylic on linen


In this painting Carolanne depicts aspects of the Minyma Malilu Tjukurrpa (Creation Story) passed down to her through her maternal grandmother.

Marlilu (also written Malilu) was an elderly spiritual woman with two daughters. Marlilu was travelling across country in pursuit of one of her daughters who was with ‘the wrong man’, a man of the wrong skin group. In her travels she stopped near what is now the small Aboriginal community of Kanpi situated in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia. Marlilu dug herself a wiltja (shelter) in the form of a cave with her piti (coolamon) going straight down into the land and with numerous tunnels branching out.

It is here that she spent a considerable amount of time. The Anangu women were told by the men not to visit Malilu. However, Malilu could not walk well, so they disobeyed and found secret pathways to her cave to bring her sustenance in the form of goannas, rabbits, bush plants and water. In the end, Marlilu was not successful in retrieving her daughter from the wrong man. She spent her years living in the cave and eventually passed away not too far from it.

The cave that Marlilu lived in is a special place for the Anangu women and they still visit it today. They say you can feel Marlilu’s spirit is happy when the cool winds blow within the cave. Inside the cave, the rock slab where Marlilu slept is still visible and, at times, waterways run through parts of the cave. Women actively conduct ceremony in this area. The Anangu women sing to Marlilu for reasons associated with love, such as to find them a husband or to bring their husbands home safely when they are away from them. They also sing to Marlilu for spiritual and physical health.

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