• Anwerlarr anganenty (Big yam Dreaming)

    Anwerlarr anganenty (Big yam Dreaming) 1995

    Emily Kam Kngwarray Anmatyerr

    Full details
    Notes

    Emily Kam Kngwarray was born in about 1910 on the eastern edge of her father’s and grandfather’s country, Alhalker, which joins the north-western boundary of Utopia, 230 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs.

    Alhalker is an important Anwerlarr (Pencil Yam) Dreaming site, the staple from which Kngwarray takes her bush name, Kam (yam seed).

    Anwerlarr Anganenty (Big yam Dreaming) 1995 is a monumental canvas, painted entirely in bold white lines on black. The network of lines, derived from women’s striped body paintings, suggests the roots of the pencil yam spreading beneath the ground and the cracks in the ground created as it ripens.

  • Ngak Ngak and the shark's liver tree

    Ngak Ngak and the shark's liver tree 1990

    Ginger Riley Munduwalawala Mara

    Full details
    Notes

    Ginger Riley comes from the coastal saltwater country of the Marra people. His ‘mother country’ is about 55 kilometres inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria on the Limmen Bight River.

    Many of Riley’s paintings represent the shark’s liver tree, which is depicted here. This tree is not a natural tree but a ceremonial construction and part of Riley’s mother’s creation story. Riley also depicts Ngak Ngak, a white-breasted sea eagle that plays the role of a sentinel or guardian, protecting the country. For Riley, representing Ngak Ngak is a way of honouring this protective spirit.

    Although Riley’s work remains embedded in the land of his birth, no two paintings of his country or creation story are identical in colour or composition. His paintings say again and again, in the artist’s words, ‘My mother country is in my mind.’

  • Baltaltjara

    Baltaltjara 1997-1999

    Estelle Hogan Pitjantjatjara

    Full details
    Notes

    Estelle Hogan was born near the border of Western and South Australia at Tjintirrkara in about 1937. She comes from Spinifex country. The Spinifex people returned to their homelands in the 1980s after being traumatised by Maralinga atomic tests during the 1950s and 1960s.

    On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision. Put simply, the decision determined that under Australian law, Indigenous people have rights to land – rights that existed before colonisation and which still exist. This right is called native title.  Spurred on by the Mabo  judgment, the Spinifex people mounted a native title claim over 55,000 kilometres of land.

    An outcome of this claim was the Spinifex Arts Project, established in 1996. Artists recorded and documented ownership of the Spinifex area as a native title project. Estelle Hogan was one of the founding artists who worked on this project from 1996 onwards. Ten paintings were given to the people of Western Australia as a symbolic exchange for Native Title.

    This painting, the artist’s first large canvas, depicts the important site of Baltaljtjara, mirri-mirri (sacred country) near the artist’s birthplace, as well as other sites. Minyma Tjuta (The Seven Sisters) coming in to drink and camp at Baltaljtjara can be seen as footprints. The luminous colour and complex markings and detail celebrate the significance of the sacred site for the artist.


Landscape and environment

Indigenous Connections to Country

Country is a term used to describe the area of land a person is born in and includes people, language, plants, animals, seasons, geographical features and their Dreaming stories.

  • The Dreaming

    Indigenous Australians have strong relationships with their land and believe they belong to the land. A mother’s country of birth and its Dreamings are usually passed on to her female descendants, the father’s to his male descendants.

    The Dreaming is the basis of Indigenous Australian belief systems and spirituality. The term was first used by a white anthropologist and is an inadequate word to describe the complex stories that account for the creation of the universe, and the ongoing significance of these stories in the lives of Indigenous people, including their connections to country.

    Each language group has their own term that relates to ancestor creation, spirituality and life in the particular area, for example Wangarri in Arnhem Land, Tjukurrpa in Central Australia and Ngarrangkarni in East Kimberley.7

  • Big Yam Dreaming

    Emily Kam Kngwarray was born in about 1910 in her father’s and grandfather’s country, Alhalker, which joins the north-western boundary of Utopia in the Northern Territory.

    Alhalker is home to an important Yam Dreaming site from which Kngwarreye takes her bush name, Kam (yam seed). Kam is one of the artist’s most important Dreamings and a significant theme that flows through her paintings.

    Big yam Dreaming (Anwerlarr Anganenty) 1995 is a monumental canvas, painted entirely in bold white lines on black. The network of lines, derived from women’s striped body paintings, suggests the roots of the long yam spreading beneath the ground and the cracks in the ground created as it ripens.

  • Riley's mother country

    Ginger Riley comes from the coastal saltwater country of the Marra people. His ‘mother country’ is about 55 kilometres inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria on the Limmen Bight River.

    Many of Riley’s paintings represent the shark’s liver tree, which is depicted in this work. This tree is a ceremonial construction and part of Riley’s mother’s creation story. Riley also depicts Ngak Ngak, a white-breasted sea eagle that plays the role of a sentinel or guardian, protecting the country.8

  • Sacred site

    Estelle Hogan comes from Spinifex country. The Spinifex people returned to their homelands in the 1980s after being traumatised by the Maralinga atomic tests in the 1950s and 1960s. Spurred on by the Mabo judgment of 1992, a native title claim was mounted. In support of this claim, artists – including Hogan – documented ownership of the Spinifex area.

    Baltaljtjara 1997–1999 depicts the important site of Baltaljtjara, sacred country near Hogan’s birthplace, Tjintirrkara, as well as other sites. The luminous colour and complex markings and detail celebrate the significance of the sacred site for the artist.

Endnotes