Jeannie Petyarre (Pitjara) is one of Central Australia's most popular artists. Born in approximately 1951 at Boundary Bore, a small Aboriginal outstation in the Utopia region of Central Australia, Jeannie comes from a very popular and famous Aboriginal artist family. She is the niece of the late great Emily Kame Kngwarreye (who sadly passed away in 1996). Her sister is Rosemary Petyarre and her half-siblings are Evelyn Pultara (2005 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award winner) and Greeny Purvis Petyarre (who passed away in 2010). It is only fair to say that Jeannie has not only the talented family around her to support her artistic development, but she originates from a beautiful country to draw so much inspiration from for her artworks.
Like many of the women from Utopia, Jeannie was introduced to modern art mediums through her involvement in the community projects that occurred in Utopia in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. The first of these shot Utopia into the art world through their “Utopia: A Picture Story” project which introduced the women of Utopia to silk batiks. The project was such a success that the whole collection of 88 silk batiks was acquired by the well-known Robert Holmes a Court Collection and went on a touring exhibition around Australia and overseas. Jeannie’s batik depicted Alhalkere country (her homelands) where goanna, dingo, and bush turkey can be found. She depicted the tracks of the animals which can be found in amongst corkwood flowers, bush tomatoes, wild tobacco, centipedes and scorpions.
In 1989 she also participated in the “A Summer Project”, another community project which introduced the women to canvas and acrylic paints. Similarly, to the first project this was a huge success and the women of Utopia flourished with this medium. Jeannie was encouraged by her aunt, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, to continue to paint her family’s “Yam Dreaming”, this particular Dreaming is a strong one for the women of Utopia and was passed down to Jeannie from her father’s side. Jeannie depicts various stages of the plants growth and parts including the seed, leaf and flower. The Yam plant is used by Aboriginal people for its medicinal properties which can be used to treat various ailments including sores and bites. She also depicts the Awelye ceremonies which the women participate in to pay homage to their ancestors.
Jeannie has participated in various group exhibitions around Australia and several exhibitions which toured the USA, United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, Turkey and China. Some of her paintings are held in well known and highlyregarded collections such as the Holmes a Court Collection and the National Gallery of Australia.
About the artwork
In this painting, Jeannie paints the Bush medicine leaves – one of Jeannie’s totems. The Bush Medicine Plant is an Australian native that grows wild in Central Australia. Women go to different places around Utopia to collect leaves from these plants. Back at the camp, the leaves are boiled to extract the resin. Kangaroo 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 acts as an insect repellent.
By painting about "Bush Medicine" Jeannie is paying homage to the spirit of the medicine plant in the hope that it will regenerate, enabling the people to continue to benefit from its healing properties.