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Josie Petyarre

"Pencil Yam Dreaming" by Josie Petyarre


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  • 124cm by 96cm
  • Acrylic paint on canvas

About Josie

Josie was involved in the 1980’s batik movement that established the women artists of Utopia. In 2005 she began painting Dreamtime stories passed down to her from her father’s country, Alhalkere, as well as colourful depictions of life at Utopia.

Josie’s mother, renowned artist Polly Ngale, sisters and aunties are all Utopia artists, and the years spent watching them provided inspiration to her. Like most members of her community, Josie speaks little English but is very enthusiastic about painting and sees it as a means of language and expression of her stories and culture.

Having lived in a number of communities within Utopia over the years, including Homestead, Boundary Bore, and Apungalingum, Josie is no stranger to travel and has proudly traveled to Perth, Melbourne and Darwin for her artwork. Josie continues to live out in Utopia with her husband, Dinny Kunoth Kemarre, their children, and their extended family. The painting depicts in a linear design the root system of the pencil yam (atnwelarr), as well as the tracks to where the plant is found. It is at these sites where significant ceremonies are performed by the women from Alhalhere, Utopia in Central Australia. Through song lines, body paint and dance cycle homage is paid to the spirit of the yam plant to ensure perpetual germination. The pencil yam is a principal food source (bush tucker) for the Aboriginal people.