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Caroline Numina

"Bush Medicine Leaves" by Caroline Numina


Commission Painting

  • Size 170cm X 103cm
  • Acrylic on canvas

Caroline Numina is one of the senior sisters of six well-known desert artists: Jacinta, Lanita, Louise, Selina, and Sharon. She has two brothers, her father has passed away and her mum still paints from time to time. She later studied at Yirarra College in Alice Springs. Like her sisters and mother, she comes from a long line of desert painters of the contemporary Aboriginal art and dot-dot central desert movement.

After high school, Caroline Numina returned to Stirling Station near Ti Tree and met her husband.  She started painting in the early 80s. As with her other sisters, she was taught by her well-renowned painter aunties: Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre, who are well-established artists in Alice Springs. Caroline and her family live in Darwin and travel home to visit her mother Barbara Price Mtjimbana often, as well as to her partner's country.

Many women from the Petyarre, Mambitji, and Numina family names hold custody of themes such as Bush Medicine Leaves, Bush Tucker, Seeded, Soakage, Women's Ceremony, and Thorny Devil dreaming’s. Reinforcing these Dreaming’s through their artworks gives respect for the Country and their ancestors. The knowledge must be retold and handed on to younger generations. As such, Caroline has taught her daughter how to paint and shared her knowledge of the Thorny Devil dreaming as a way of honoring her lineage.

The Numina Sisters have all been taught to paint by their artist-grandmothers, mother-aunt, and cousin-sisters connected across the Central Desert region. Their mother's and grandmother's Country are in the bush and remote Stirling Station. Caroline's daughter Pacinta Turner is fast becoming a celebrated young artist following in her mother's and aunties’ footsteps. She paints the stories of her heritage, including bush tucker and bush medicine dreaming, mountain devil lizard dreaming, honey ant, emu, and kangaroo dreaming in exquisite detail and striking colors. 

The Story Behind the Bush Leaves Paintings

 The medicine bush leaves depicted were original of the Kurrajong tree of which there are some 30 varieties dating back 50 million years. They scale from small shrubs to massive trees some 30 meters in height. In the larger trees, their trunks are used to store water, but it is the leaves that have medicinal purposes.

The women of Utopia, the remote region far to the west of Alice Springs where Caroline’s people originated, gather the bush leaves, boil them, and then mash them with animal fats (kangaroo, emu, or goanna) making a medicinal poultice or paste which can last for many months. The paste is used to heal a multitude of afflictions such as bites, wounds, skin infections, rashes, and skin cancer. The bush leaves are also boiled in hot water to make an infusion or healing tea. Other preparations were used as insect repellent or were thrown into the water to stun the fish.

The desirability of the artworks

 Admirers of the medicine bush leaf paintings often observe their mesmerizing attraction. People are captivated by how the paintings appear to be in motion in front of their eyes like the leaves on the canvas are literally blowing in the wind. Many buyers and collectors of medicine bush leaf artworks both in Australia, America, and Europe are also medical specialists who buy the works to hang in their consulting rooms to show an Aboriginal artwork with medical connotations.