Bush medicine in Jay Creek, NT

Mervyn Rubuntja (b.1958)
I choose to paint the area of Jay Creek. It is a traditional Western Arrarnta land because it has all the traditional plants, bush medicine and bush tucker. There is an old lady, I call her aunty, the older sister of Dolcy Sharp. Both sister’s homeland is in Jay Creek. This area is rich with bush medicine. She often collects some bush medicine and brings it to town (Empantwe) to show and to gift other family members. My sister in law gets those leaves and chops them and boils in water.

Back in the day people didn’t have a car, they had to walk long distances. That is how they discovered the different assets and attributes of the plants. Warlpiri and Anmatyerre people used to walk to Mparntwe (Alice Springs) to have ceremony.

Bush berries are used as bush medicine and go through a different process. Some of the elders used to buy large containers and collect the berries. They would leave them in the sun for a while to dry, and then boil them. They would then drain them. The berries they would then use as a rub to treat diverse skin conditions such as sun burn.The liquids from the cooked berries are tipped into a bottle. This is being drunk to treat stomach conditions. In the past people suffered less from rashes and skin conditions due to those bush medicines.

In the painting the red berries – they turn orange, you can consume them in both states. Urrarlpa (native tomatoes) are found in hilly, rocky habitats. People smell or chew the leaves and it aids in cleansing the body. Some of the black dots are black berries – chew good for young and old. Other black dots are kupaarta (bush plum). The gum trees are Lupa-ipenha thungarlpa (gum from elegant acacia). People grind this gum and then suck it. People drink young boiled gum tree leaves, or they suck it. They use this often when alcohol poisoned. I used to do this too. Inmurta (mustard grass) grows sometime attached to other native plants. During wet weather they grow together.

Mervyn Rubuntja

© Copyright for both painting and text remains with the artist and Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra and must not be reproduced without permission

Object detail

Skin Name
54.0 x 74.0 cm
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Object Type
Named Collection
Medical History Museum Category


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