The wira is a smaller version of the piti or wooden bowl which is a traditional woman’s carrying vessel for food and water. It is used in many ways including as a ladle for collecting water and for digging. Contemporary artists use walka, patterns burnt into the wood with wire heated on a wood fire. These relate Tjukurpa, stories about the Tjukuritja or Creation Ancestors and the activities which shaped the land, the people and their Law. Many details of Tjukurpa are restricted to senior custodians so it isn’t possible to describe the full story behind their art.
Walka reflects many elements of traditional desert design. Series of curving lines are often described as parts of the country: wind rippled sand dunes, intercut by the tracks of a Tjukuritja; the burrowings of animals; or the dry bed of a desert creek. Women sit flicking sticks in the sand as they talk and say walka is like this, the rhythmic strokes accompanying stories.
Joanne has been taught by her mother, Lulu Cooley who remembers learning from her own mother and other female relatives in the 1960s. Since then she has perfected her own distinctive ‘scallop’ style that she has now passed on to Joanne.