54-19 Kuniya & Wati Liru

Size: 50.5 x 61cm: acrylic on cotton canvas

Catalogue Number: 54-19


The Mutitjulu Waterhole, Uluru was formed by the two ancestral beings Kuniya, the woma python, and Liru, the poisonous snake. The Kuniya and Liru story occurs on different sides of Uluru, but their deadly battle took place near Mutitjulu Waterhole.

The Kuniya woman came from far away to the west to hatch her children at Uluru. There are land formations and underground caves said to be formed by Kuniya on her way through the Ngaanyatjarra Lands to Uluru. She carried her eggs strung around her neck like a necklace and brought them to rest at Kuniya Piti on Uluru’s north-east corner. There she left the eggs on the ground. Kuniya camped at Taputji and hunted in the nearby sandhills. As she left and re-entered her camp, she formed deep grooves in the rock.

One day news of her nephew’s, (a young woma python or Kuniya), death on the other side of Uluru reached his aunt. He had enraged a group of Liru, or poisonous brown snakes, who travelled from the south-west to take revenge on him. They saw him resting at the base of Uluru and rushed upon him, hurling their spears. Many spears hit the rock face with such force that they pierced it, leaving a series of round holes. The poor Kuniya, outnumbered, dodged what he could until his death.

Kuniya, overcome with grief and anger, summoned all her physical and magical powers to avenge the death of her young nephew. She raced along the curves of the rock to Mutitjulu Waterhole, where she confronted one of the Liru warriors, who mocked her grief and rage.

Kuniya began a fearsome dance of immense power and magic. As she moved towards the Liru warrior she scooped up sand and rubbed it over her body. Her rage was so great that it spread like a poison engulfing the area. She took up her wana, (digging stick), and struck the head of the Liru. Her anger was now beyond restraint, and she hit him again and again across the head until he was dead. As fell down he dropped his shield.

Nearby Mutitjulu Waterhole, Kuniya herself remains as a sinuous black line on the eastern wall. The blows she struck are two deep cracks on the western wall, and the Liru’s shield is now a large boulder where it fell. The wati Liru can be seen in the bottom righ-hand corner being over powered by Kuniya. The circles represent the water holes.