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Yulparija people

Ilyarra, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, Australia born 1928/1932

All the Jila 2006 Broome, Western Australia, Australia
paintings, synthetic polymer binder with langridge dry pigment and marble dust on plyboard
overall 180.0 h x 240.0 w cm
each 90.0 h x 60.0 w cm
Purchased 2007
Accession No: NGA 2007.10.A-H
© Jan Billycan (Djan Nanundie), courtesy Short St Gallery, Broome


  • The eight panels depict the Great Sandy Desert near Well 33 in Western Australia. Jan Billycan is a maparn (medicine woman) from this country. She can see ‘inside’ the human body, and is a renowned traditional healer. This is evident in her landscapes, as the visceral nature of her work is reminiscent of the internal organs of the human body. A living waterhole becomes a liver or kidney, while the tali (sand dunes) are stretched across the canvas like the human ribcage. The body is just an extension of the land. Billycan knows these things on a deep metaphysical level and does not like to discuss her talents. However, it is important for kardiya (whitefellas) to be aware of this in order to understand the significance of Billycan’s work.

    Jan Billycan, 2006

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010