Linda Syddick Napaltjarri

1 AM 4967/07
Linda Syddick Napaltjarri The Windmill & the Medicine Men 2007
Acrylic on Italian linen
1270 x 1950mm
$11000

The Windmill Story Linda was born at Lake MacKay in the Gibson Desert in 1937. Lake MacKay is a huge salt lake which straddles what is now the border between Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Together with her family, she walked East out of the Pintupi Homeland forever, when she was eight years old, in 1945. In the group were Linda, her mother Wanala Nangala, step-father Shorty Langkata Tjungarrayi, her younger sister Wentje Napaltjarri and her baby brother. Following a short way behind them was an old Warlpiri witch doctor and his two wives. It was a very long walk, Linda remembers it as being "up and down, up and down over high sandhills". They eventually reached Haasts Bluff Mission, where they stayed. When about half-way there, they camped at Mt Leibig. At this stage there was Shorty and his wife, Linda and her two siblings. When they arrived, they saw a windmill standing there in all its glory. It had been built by Southern Cross Windmills about 1940 to provide water for stock and people. Shorty knew what it was, he had seen windmills when working for the Army during the war, but no-one else did, so Shorty explained to his wife and children what it was all about. The old witch doctor and his wives came along later. The old man was very tired from all that walking so immediately lay down and went to sleep. Later on, when he woke up, he rubbed his eyes and saw this monstrous "thing" towering above him, with its arms flailing around and making a lot of noise. Through his eyes he was seeing a spirit, and an evil one at that. He thought it was the Devil-Devil, called Mamu in the Pintupi language. So the old witch doctor started screaming out Mamu! Mamu! - it's Mamu the Devil-Devil. To combat this dangerous thing, he threw his spears at it, but they bounced back at him harmlessly. Likewise, Magic Stones taken from his body and hurled at the "thing" had no effect, it just kept going. The old man then became hysterical, and ran around shouting out "Mamu! Mamu! Mamu! And by this time his two wives had run away into the bush so he was on his own. But then, Shorty took him aside and explained to him that this was a windmill, used by the white fellers to bring good water up from under the ground, and that it was a good thing, not a bad thing. After a long time spent in explanation, the witch doctor finally understood what a windmill was for. Eventually, he took a sip of water and reckoned it was alright. His two wives eventually returned to the group, so everyone was happy then. Linda always laughs when she paints and retells this story, it was very funny.

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