ARTIST: Kathleen Petyarre c.1940 -2018
TITLE: Bush Seeds
LANGUAGE/REGION: Anmatyerre, Alyawerre/Utopia – NT, Adelaide – SA
YEAR: 2011
DIMENSIONS: 149.0cm x 90.0cm
MEDIUM: synthetic polymer paints on Belgian linen

DREAMINGS: Bush Seeds, Mountain Devil Lizard, or Thorny Devil Lizard (Arnkerrthe), Women Hunting Emu, and Dingo (Atnangkerre)

Kathleen or known to her Anmatyerr family and community as ‘Kweyetwemp’ (her bush name) was born around 1940 and Kathleen’s mother Ntyerlampek Pwerle gave birth to her full sister Gloria Petyarre around 1942. Kathleen’s father had three wives and she has four brothers and six sisters from the collective families where Kathleen’s father was the biological father to all children. Kathleen settled at Mosquito Bore at Utopia Station near her birthplace. Kathleen now spends part of the year at her residence in Adelaide and Alice Springs. Kathleen’s artistic practice has allowed her to travel globally for art exhibitions, usually with her sister and consistent travelling buddy Violet. It was Kathleen’s grandmothers’ side, all the old women who showed her and taught her singing, dancing, painting. Kathleen paints accurate mental maps of her country’s terrain and stories associated with survival in the bush. Kathleen inherited her Dreaming stories from her father and mother and all of her paintings directly refer to these Dreamings and the associated country around Utopia in the eastern central desert of Australia.

Bush Seeds Dreaming

The bush seed story allows the older women to share knowledge and instil survival skills to the young girls by taking the young girls to different places around Utopia to collect seeds from specific plants. The seeds are then dried and some are boiled to extract the resin. Kangaroo or emu fat is mixed into the resin, creating a paste, that can be stored for a long time in bush conditions. This medicine is used to heal cuts, wounds, bites, rashes and also acts as an insect repellent. Kathleen demonstrates her comprehensive and precise knowledge and respect for her country through her notable paintings giving the world an insight into her ancient stories reproduced into an abstract visual form of navigational maps and hidden sacred stories only known to the Anmatyerr family. The lines in the painting indicate body-paint. The small dots depicted throughout the painting represent a variety of seed specific to Kathleen’s country.

In the book Kathleen Petyarre ‘Genius of Place’, (Christine Nicholls and Ian North 2001), Nicholls sites Jeannie Devitt (1988:130-147) that there were at least seven, and sometimes even eight separate stages of traditional Anmatyerr/Alyawarr seed processing:

  1. Collecting the Seeds
  2. Threshing
  3. Winnowing
  4. Yandying – separating the seeds from non-edible matters eg; sand
  5. Parching (for tree seeds)
  6. Pounding
  7. Grinding
  8. Cooking (optional)

Read more about Indigenous Culture and Community

© Dreamtime Art 2018

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