Milpirri Banner - YARLA (yam or bush potato)

Milpirri Banner - YARLA (yam or bush potato)


Yarla (yam or bush potato). In the design, the circles are the yam plant stems and leaves. Note the curved lines extending out from the circles; they are the lateral roots called yatura. The edible yams grow from these roots and they are depicted by the oval-shaped icons. The curved lines also represent the cracks in the ground which appear above the roots.

Belonging to Skin Groups

Japangardi Japanangka Napangardi Napanangka (Green Group)


This yam dreaming travels from east to west across the southern portion of Mangkururrpa Aboriginal Land Trust. This land trust is also the Tanami Downs (previously Mongrel Downs) Pastoral Station.

Tanami Downs homestead where this yam dreaming travels - Map 

Drawn By

Gladys Napangardi Tasman in 2005

Artist Profiles

Gladys Napangardi Tasman (dec) was born at Mamingirri. Napangardi started painting on canvas and linen in 1986 after TAFE ran a painting course in Lajamanu. Her first mediums prior to this were on the body using ochres and oils, and on wooden artefacts using ochres. Gladys became a senior law lady in Lajamanu.  Gladys was a women of great heart and enjoyed teaching the youth at the school for many years. She taught Warlpiri traditions and language, being proficient in all her law and dance/ceremonies. She also painted at the local art centre. She was always a keen hunter and went on as many bush trips as possible in Lajamanu. She often assisted with the rangers and school country visits. Her works are in the National Gallery of Victoria and she has been in significant exhibitions including the 1989 "Yuendumu and Ramingining," and the 1990 "Paint up Big" at the National Gallery of Victoria. Napangardi played a key role in the setting up of the Milpirri performances and has performed with Tracks Dance Company on many occasions.

Read more about Gladys Napangardi Tasman - Story


A spokesperson for Yarla in Lajamanu is Andrew (AJ) Johnson.  There are other Traditional Owners in Lajamanu and Yuendumu.


Yarla (yam or bush potato) bush - Photo / Information


Ipomoea costata

Hunting stories

Expert hunters, who are usually women but sometimes men, track the yarla by hammering the ground with their digging sticks.  They do this in areas where the lateral roots have pushed up the soil forming cracks on the surface.  They can tell by the density or hollowness of the sound where the yams are underground.

Language Stories

Yarla kalalu lajawarrawarra-pungu. Nyampukula kalalu pawarlaju pungu. Yarlaju kalalu pangurnu. Kurdijirlangurlu kakalu ngayi pangurnu, manu rdakangku. Kalalurla pangurnu. Walararrpurarrpu-pinyi ngamanaju.

They dug up many yams. They dug them where there was a crack in the ground caused by the yam beneath. They dug up the yams using wooden shields and their hands. They dug for them. Dug deep down in search of the yams.

Yarla nyampuju purlkunarri-nyayirni.

This yam is very sweet and juicy.

Dictionary Source: Laughren, M., K. L. Hale, and Warlpiri Lexicology Group, 2005 Warlpiri-English Encyclopaedic Dictionary. (Accessed Via Kirrkirr Interface to Electronic Files.) University of Queensland.
Bush Potato Recipes:  Warlpiri people roast yarla in the ashes.

Buy and find out more about growing yarla (yam or bush potato) - Information

Other Reading about Tanami Downs

Kim Mahood spent many years in the Tanami and East Kimberly after growing up with her stockman father at Tanami Downs prior to it becoming Aboriginal Land.

Read this review of Kim Mahood's memoir who spent many years in the Tanami - Story


Yarla (Yam or bush potato)
Margret Nungarrayi Martin standing in front of Yarla bush. Photo Miles Holmes.
Gladys Napangardi Tasman (dec) drew this yarla design. Photo David McMicken.
Gladys Napangardi Tasman (dec) performing in the first Milpirri 2005. Photo Rob Carter.
Yarla Warlpiri hand sign. Source: Wright, Cheryl (1980) Warlpiri hand talk: an illustrated dictionary of hand signs used by the Warlpiri people of Central Australia Darwin: Northern Territory Dept. of Education, c1980

Tracks Dance Company Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

Tracks Inc is proudly sponsored by the Northern Territory Government.

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