Pilbara, Western Australia

Group Warnman/Martu

Born 1964, Oakover River, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia

Lives and works in Parrngurr, Western Australia

Desmond Taylor is a Warnman man from the Martu Lands in the Western Desert. Warnman land includes the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park. Desmond was one of the last of the Martu born in the desert, with his family coming in to Jigalong Mission in 1966, when he was about two years old. The Martu are the last major Indigenous group in Australia to leave their traditional desert life, with many Martu having had first contact with white Australians as adults in the 1950s and 1960s, Desmond is a fluent speaker and able translator of many desert languages, including Warnman, Manyjilyjarra and Kartujarra. He uses his linguistic skills to work on the translation of oral histories, interpreting and producing education materials in English and Martu languages. He has been a member of the Indigenous Arts Panel of ArtsWA.

‘I like painting because I used to hear the stories from the old people and I used to see how they draw in the sand and use the colour of ochre on their bodies for ceremonial purposes. I have heard the stories of my culture and history in my first language Warnman and Manyjilyjarra, it has been handed down through the generations, I want to continue to pass our Dreamtime stories and language onto our young people and share with other people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. My painting comes from my mind and heart, stories of the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) and the things I see around me during my travels through the Great Sandy Desert, my ancestral land. My spiritual country makes me feel proud.

‘I paint with acrylic paints, I like the vibrant colours, just like the bright sun in the desert breaking through the clouds and waking up the plants and the animals, these paints suit my graphic style of painting. Martu people in the Western Desert have made an agreement not to do dot painting, we know what is okay to paint and what we shouldn’t paint for cultural reasons. The style we paint tells our Dreamtime Stories straight from our hearts and minds, the style we paint our stories in will not offend or scare anyone who sees our painting. We tell our stories with rocks and stones and sticks in the sand, now we tell our stories with painting as well.’

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