Rochelle Bird Mbitjana is the eldest child of leading Utopia artist Janet Golder Kngwarreye. The artistic line in her family runs deep. Her great-grandmothers are esteemed Utopia artists Polly Ngale and Angelina Pwerle, her great-uncle is a senior lawman and artist Greeny Purvis and her aunt is Belinda Golder Kngwarreye.Rochelle learned to paint by observing and assisting her mother and other female relatives. Her style is distinctive and the intricate dot work combined with a flair for color and attention to detail is sure to take this young artist to the top of her profession.
Meaning of the Painting
Rochelle has painted a Women’s Dreaming story, combining her country with the bush tucker and waterholes that are imperative when the women go out bush for the ceremony which can take up to a week. The women conduct important ceremonies at these sites, including that of the Desert Yam (or Bush Plum) story from her family’s country.
The yam grows underground with its viny shrub growing above ground up to one meter high. It is normally found on Spinifex sand plains and produces large flowers after a summer rain. The yam is a tuber, or swollen root, of the shrub and tastes much like the common sweet potato. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is still a staple food for the desert aborigines where it can be harvested at any time of the year. It is also renowned for its medicinal properties. This medicine is used to heal cuts, wounds, bites, and rashes and as an insect repellent.
During ceremonies, the women pay homage to the spirit of this special plant in the hope that it will regenerate.