B. circa 1930 Ilyara (Punmu), Western Australia
Mary Meribida, the daughter of Rover Thomas’s sister Kupi, was born in Ilyara (Punmu) in Western Australia. The artist’s childhood was spent in the surrounding country, living a nomadic life with her family: “We been walk ‘em, no clothes, nothing. We proper bush people, no English,” she says of her upbringing.
Things changed in the 1970s when severe drought brought her people, the Yulparija people, out of the desert in search of water. They settled in the coastal town of Bidyadanga (formerly La Grange Mission) on the Kimberley coast, where the artist now lives with her husband and fellow artist Donald Moko.
“[T]his place Yalta. There is tali (sand dunes) and lots of Nyarlka (trees). Good country this one got plenty water.”
Yalta is near well 33 of 48 on the 1,800-kilometre Canning Stock Route, the longest former stock route in the world. It is located not far from the Percival Lakes in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. For the Yulparija people whose land this stretch of the route traversed, survival depended on water sites, making places like Yalta most significant.
Here the artist depicts trees in blue, dotting the subtle pink and cream landscape, creating a delicate canvas that evokes wildflowers in spring.