Living on the land
Living on the land

Pantjiti Mary McLean

c1930 - Living on the land 2000
  • acrylic on linen
300 cm x 100 cm

A number of events unfold and are depicted across in this work.   The following words have been provided by Nalda Searles from her discussions with the artist.

A woman is lying down under a tree on the hill, she is having a baby. Then she has her baby. The baby is lying in the coolamon close up to the mother.  A dog is smelling the baby in the coolamon. This makes the mother happy because the dog will look after the baby.

A dog with white feet has caught an emu. He is looking at the emu with his eyes turned up. The whites of his eyes are showing.

Another dog has caught an emu. Tracks cross the land where the dog, his boss and the emu have run. A woman has taken the emu to cook it in the fire. She has the emu by the neck. Kids are dancing around the fire playing and singing. They are close to a big flowering tree. The seeds of the tree are good food.


A small child is sleeping by a bush and another child is waking him up.

There is a poisonous snake coming from near a tree where a woman has been resting.

The snake has frightened her and she has her arms stretched out and is screaming. Another person is climbing the tree to escape the snake. They are frightened of the snake.

There is a woman with a round tummy, this woman is a tree woman, a spirit woman. One of her legs is a branch with flowers on the end of it.

Men are hunting gray kangaroos.

Two birds are fighting, their beaks are hooked together. One of the birds is sitting on a branch, the other one is flapping its wings trying to shake its opponent off.

A white bird has caught a gonna and is hitting it on the ground to kill it for eating.

A crow has caught a small lizard and is eating it.

There is a woman with plenty of hair, her child is reaching out its arms to the side towards the mother.

This painting is a big story about life on the land.

Ngurranka - home.

The paintings of Pantjiti Mary Mclean show life as she recalls it from her days as a child in her family country. From the Docker Riverregion across to Blackstone and then extending into Warburton region. Her Grandmothers country is Kaltulutjara,Docker River region, her fathers country further west at Papalankuta, the Blackstone Ranges.

She was a young woman with a small child before she had any continuous contact with white fellas.

Whilst Mary is painting she sings and tells stories over and over recalling memories of events and people. She has a phenomenal knowledge of her Tjukurrpa, her dreaming and all the songs associated with it.

To understand her paintings the viewerneeds to slowly observe the panorama of interaction between individuals, their gestures and stance. People and animals freely interact in sometimes huge dramas sometimes everyday events, drinking at the same water hole for instance.

Written by Nalda Searles from Mary's discussions.

October 2001

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The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Custodians of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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