Desert Snake by Doris Teamay

Desert Snake


Contemporary carvings by Anangu (Central and Western Desert Aboriginal people) are known as punu, hand carved and decorated with walka: patterns burnt into the wood with wire heated on a wood fire. The animals all have their associations with the Tjukurpa, the stories of the Creation Ancestors and the activities which shaped the land, the people and their Law. Many of the details of Tjukurpa are restricted to senior custodians but where possible, the details of a carving’s story will be described.

Snakes carved on the lands are usually Kuniya (python), Liru (dangerous snake) or Wanampi (water serpent) and have connections with the Tjukurpa dependent on the artist, their kin and country. Piltati Tjukurpa in the ranges of north west South Australia relates how two women of the Creation Time travelled far from their husbands as they hunted. The men pursued them and turned into Wanampi and waited to ambush their wives. The four then joined and became the serpent of Piltati Waterhole.

Kuniya and Liru are particularly significant in the Creation Law of Uluru and features of the rock itself were shaped by a battle in which a Wati Kuniya was speared and later avenged by his aunt, who killed one of the warriors in the army of Wati Liru tjuta from the west. The Kuniya woman and her nephew then became Wanampi in one of the waterholes of the rock.