Sandhills and Spinifex

Two sisters is a remarkable true story of young Walmajarri sisters leaving their traditional life in the Sandy Desert at a time of extraordinary change.
Book Info
Two Sisters
Ngarta Jinny Bent, Jukuna Mona Chuguna, Pat Low and Eirlys Richards
Magabala Books

The telling is this book’s beauty. Each sister tells her story separately. And both Ngarta and Junkuna’s traditional knowings shape how they describe their experience of leaving Walmajarri country. 

In the 1960’s these desert sisters lived with little knowledge of European settlement. Their tribe were moving onto cattle stations, leaving their traditional lands for the first time. As girls then, Ngarta and Jukuna traversed country according to the seasons.

Their stories of separately leaving their traditional lands are not marked in time and age markers used by European traditions, rather it is indicated with the use of other life markers aligned with their knowledge and experience of the land.

This perspective takes the reader vividly into the the daily lives the Walmajarri tribe had followed in in their Law, in familial relations and living off the land over thousands of years.

The spinifex, the sand hills and jila (permanent wells) came alive for me as this landscape is understood by Ngarta and Jukuna’s perspective.  

I have reflected on the inflections and how nuisances of repeated speech reveal their world view. Two Sisters took me somewhere outside of time and also somewhere very emotional and heart felt that I felt the richer for having read.

Jukuna’s story is the first autobiographical piece known to be written in Walmajarri and translated by Jukuna Mona Chuguna making this book significant.   

In the latter part of the book, other collaborators Pat Lowe and Eirlys Richards document the sisters return to their traditional land in beautiful colour photographs as well as the Ngarta’s and Jukuna’s dot paintings shown at international art exhibitions.


Michelle Karen