ARTIST: Judy Watson Napangardi c.1935 – 2016
TITLE: Bush Tomato
LANGUAGE/COMMUNITY: Warlpiri / Yuendumu NT
YEAR: 2012
DIMENSIONS: 149.0cm x 93.0cm
MEDIUM: synthetic polymer paints on Belgian linen

DREAMINGS: Yakajirri (Bush Tomato), Karnta (Women), Kanakurlangu (Digging Stick), Ngalyipi (Snake Vine), Yunkaranyi (Honey Ant), Jintiparnta (Native Truffle) and Majardi (Hair String Belt)

Approximately 400 kms North-West of Alice Springs at Mt Doreen Station, Judy Watson Napangardi was born around 1935 (some documents state that Napangardi was born c.1925). Her ancestral country is in between two deserts of Australia, the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory and the Gibson Desert of Western Australia. Her art depicts her country Mina Mina (also an artwork title to one of her styles) and stories connected to her familial land as well as stories surrounding women’s business and Dreamings. These stories are about where and when to collect bush foods, ceremonial elements and tools created and used by women. All her stories pertain to gathering food and teachings of survival in the harsh deserts of central Australia. Judy’s art is colourful, vibrant and unmistakably hers.

Her art depicts an important women’s Dreaming site 200 km west of Yuendumu. Most of her works depict Mina Mina or Dreamings connected to it. Judy painted with Warlukurlangu Artists since 1986. With her sister, Maggie Napangardi Watson, Judy developed a popular and distinctive style of contrasting lines of colour with richly textured surfaces.

Yakajirri (Bush Tomato) Dreaming

The Bush tomato grows in the same geographical area of Judy’s ancestral country and in Judy’s language, the bush tomato is called Yakajirri. The story of Judy’s artwork explains when, where and how to harvest the bush tomato. The story indicated the correct colour, season to pick the tomatoes prime for consumption. The bush tomato is a rare, delicious and versatile fruit currently only naturally growing in and around Judy’s ancestral country and some parts of South Australia. The story of the Bush Tomato is an important Dreaming for Judy’s community as it has become a desired commodity due to popular use by celebrity chefs. The abundance of natural annual growth of the Bush Tomato varies from year to year depending on changes within the environment, animals, pests and insects and general community use and harvesting.

Bush Tomato

Bush tomato (Solanum centrale) belongs to the Solanaceae family, which includes plants such as potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum and chilli. It grows naturally throughout the central deserts of Australia. There are over 100 species of wild tomatoes in Australia but only six are known to be edible. Bush tomato is also known as desert raisin and kutjera. The fruit of the bush tomato plant is spherical and usually 10–15mm in size. It turns from green to yellow as it ripens, then dries on the bush until it is a reddish colour and looks like a raisin. Caution must be exercised when harvesting bush tomato, as the green (unripe) fruits are potentially toxic. Further, the ripe fruit of some related species are toxic, so correct plant identification is critical if wild harvesting. Bush tomato has a strong flavour which has been described as earthy caramel and tomato with a pungent aftertaste. The sun dried fruit may be eaten directly after harvest but are generally further dried and ground to be used as a spice or flavouring. Several Solanum species have been used by Indigenous Australians for food for possibly thousands of years. Names for bush tomatoes from indigenous languages include akatyerr, akatjurra, katyerr, kampurarrpa and yakajirri. (Source: Agrifuture)

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