Commissioned by Adrian Newstead, painted in Sydney November 2014
In Aboriginal Australia stories associated with the night sky carry meanings deeply imbedded into their law, culture and social structure. The Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters is one of their most widely distributed and ancient stories. Its songline covers more than half the width of the continent, from deep in the Central Desert to the west coast. It travels through many different language groups, and as it does so different parts of the narrative are recognised and re-enacted in ceremony. There are many versions of this story throughout Aboriginal Australia but they all share common threads.
The Seven Napaljarri sisters became stars in the night sky are the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus. The artist Gabriella Possum is an Anmatjerre clanswoman from Napperby in the Tanami Desert. Amongst her countrywomen the sisters are often represented carrying a Jampijinpa man, Wardilyka, who is in love with them. However this is just a part of a much larger narrative.
Jukurra-jukurra, also known as Wati Nguru, is also in love with them. In this version or part of the epic, he pursues the sisters across vast stretches of desert country until they flee into the night sky, where he follows them and becomes the Morning Star. Wati Nguru is a Jakamarra man – who, under traditional law, is of the wrong skin group and is forbidden to take a Napaljarri wife. In the re-enactment of this important women’s ceremony the seven women dance across the red sand, while Wati Nguru, the wrong-skin young warrior, is overcome by his lust for them. They flee his unwanted advances, and although he can’t fulfill his illicit desires, the sisters can never rest.
The Seven Sisters, running from this site to the next in their desire to flee from the Jampijinpa man. Finally, in desperation they leap from a steep hill launching themselves into the sky in an attempt to escape. But the Jakamarra man follows the sisters travelling in the form of a star that can be seen in Orion’sShare