Waru! Holding Fire in Australia's Western Desert


Waru! Holding Fire in Australia's Western Desert is on view June 28 – July 31, 2011, at the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery. This is an exhibition that marks the lived relationships among indigenous Martu of Australia's Western Desert; their foraging economy, ritual arts, the expression of these on the landscape, and their links to desert biodiversity. The nexus of these relationships is distilled in the concept and practice of waru, which translates as fire. Here, Martu have chosen the title of the exhibition for its many meanings: Martu artists are cultural ambassadors, to spread, like fire, knowledge of their heritage and land; moreover, Martu artists are the literal agents of fire, applying fire to their country in the course of their daily foraging practice, resulting in the maintenance of key components of arid grassland biodiversity.

Martumili Artists (the Martu arts cooperative) was established in late 2006 and supports Martu artists in Parnngurr, Kunawarritji, Punmu, Jigalong, Irrungadji (Nullagine) and Parnpajinya (Newman) in Western Australia. Their works reflect the dramatic geography and scale of their homelands in the Great Sandy Desert and Rudall River regions of Western Australia. Martumili Artists represents speakers of Manyjilyjarra, Warnman, Kartujarra, Putijarra and Martu Wangka languages, many of whom experienced first contact with Europeans in the 1960s. The artists include painters, working in acrylics and oils, as well as weavers coiling baskets and sculptors working in wood, grass and wool. Martu artists proudly maintain their creative practices while pursuing social and cultural obligations across the Martu homelands.

This exhibition is made possible by Martumili; BHP Billiton; NSF; Martu People Ltd; Stanford University, The Bill Lane Center for the American West; Stanford Anthropology; Stanford University, The Spatial History Project; Government of Western Australia, Department of Culture and the Arts; Australian Government, National Arts Crafts Industry Support; and Shire of East Pilbara.

VISITOR INFORMATION: Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM–5 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 PM. Admission is free. The Gallery is located in the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at 419 Lasuen Mall. Parking is free after 4 PM and all day on weekends. Information: (650) 723-2842, http://art.stanford.edu.