From The Kimberley to Cape York: The emergence of ﬂora in the art of female artists working in remote First Nations communities in Australia
This paper will examine the place occupied by native flora in representations of country in the work of First Nations female painters. The paper will focus in particular on women working in remote communities in Australia beginning with recent art of women from the ’top end’. Arnhem Land artists such as the late Mulkun Wirrpanda a respected leader of the Dhuḏi-Djapu clan of Dhuruputjpi. Wirrpanda represented a powerful body of works depicting the edible plants of north-east Arnhem drawing on Yolŋu botanical knowledge, revealing the nutritional and medicinal uses of plants featured in her paintings and how they are collected, prepared, and used. Many female artists from Utopia, a small community in the Western Desert represent essential elements of the traditional diet of the region including the bush plum, yam as well as the flowers, seeds and the leaves of medicinal plants. Among these are Gloria Petyarre, Kathleen Petyarre and Barbara Weir. I will also discuss the more abstract representations of flora in the work of female artists of Warlayirti (Balgo Hills) in Western Australia. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the transcending art and reputation of the late, great Utopia artist Emily Kame Knywarreye whose oeuvre was dominated by the growth patterns of the pencil yam (Vigna lanceolata).