Born and raised in Ali Curung, Maureen Jipiyiliya Nampijinpa O'Keefe now lives in Alice Springs, where she continues to write about the desert and stories about her family
“My family lived a bush life and I grew up sitting around the campfire listening to stories, funny and sad, and sometimes scary. I don’t want those stories to disappear.”
Maureen Jipiyiliya Nampijinpa O’Keefe is an artist, writer, storyteller and story keeper.
Her family comes from the Devil’s Marbles area, also known as Karlu Karlu, and she is a Kaytetye-Warlpiri woman born and raised in the remote Aboriginal community of Ali Curung.
It is her country, her home. And even if she visits towns and cities around Australia and moves around the Territory – Maureen now lives in Alice Springs – her spirit belongs there.
“I love living in Alice Springs and came to the right place,” she said. “There’s plenty to do and lots of opportunities to follow my passion of writing and painting. But I don’t forget my country. It’s where the stories of my parents, the old people, and their dreamtime stories come from.”
Maureen began writing by keeping a personal diary in her 20s. She’d gone up to Batchelor in 1988 to study how to read and write English.
She writes about her family and country with such love that we see her joy in a single moment – the movement of an ant, the squawk of a cockatoo, the sounds of the desert.
“The natural beauty of the desert and the stars at night – there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else,” Maureen said. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and a children’s book called Mum’s Elephant.
Maureen, who has also taken her poetry to writers’ festivals in Sydney and Darwin, said the stories she listened to as a child are unique to her home, her family and the Territory.
“My family lived a bush life and I grew up sitting around the campfire, listening to stories, funny and sad, and sometimes scary. I don’t want those stories to disappear,” she said. She recently shared her bush yarns and dreamtime stories with schoolchildren in Alice Springs.
“When I was living in Ali Curung, the old people asked me would I write their stories down. I’m doing my job, passing them on to the next generation.”