Skip to product information
1 of 3

Water Holes

Water Holes

Mary Rumble Pitjara


Regular price $500.00 AUD
Regular price Sale price $500.00 AUD
Sale Sold Out

Title: Water Holes
Artist: Mary Rumble Pitjara
Size: 60 x60 cm
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

COA and pictures of the artist holding and signing her work will be provided.


Water sources are sacred places to Aboriginal people of the desert, and each waterhole has a Creation story from the Dreaming attached to it. Soakages were traditionally important sources of water for Aboriginal Australians in the desert, being the most dependable source in times of drought in Australia. Surviving in the desert is tough and learning where reliable water can be found is critical for survival. That’s as true for people as it is for wildlife. The Creation story gives the waterhole and the people who are its custodians a common bond and obligation. While traditionally Aboriginal people are nomadic in the sense that they follow the seasons in searching out native plants and hunting native animals, they stay within their own clan estates. Aboriginal peoples would scoop out the sand or mud using a coolamon or woomera, often to a depth of several metres, until clean water gathered in the base of the hole. Knowing the precise location of each soakage was extremely valuable knowledge. It is also sometimes called a native well. This is the territory ‘owned’ by individual families, who have an intricate knowledge of the country and its resources. Waterholes found on their country are known precisely, from their Creation story through to the sense of whether the water will be present or drying up. Waterholes have always had special significance for Aboriginal – not only as a life source but also as a significant place to meet and conduct ceremonies. waterhole has a name and forms an important part of jukurrpa – the dreaming stories passed down from elders to younger generations.

Anthropologist Donald Thomson wrote:
For a white man the difficulty in this country is that there is no way in which he can find the wells and soaks unless he does so by chance, and certainly nothing to indicate that the well is there, nor as a rule, even when the terrain and at least its superficial geological formation, the lie of the country, is examined, is there anything to explain the presence of water when he does find it. A lifetime of experience, backed by the traditional knowledge that is handed down from generation to generation, enables these people [the Pintupi in this instance] to judge, without having to visit a well that they know, whether it will still contain water and whether, if dry, with the sides fallen in and the well full of debris, it is worth cleaning out.

View full details