Utopia Aboriginal Art: Aboriginal Paintings from the Central Desert


Utopia lies 250 Kilometres North East of Alice Springs in Central Australia. Utopia is homeland to majority of Indigenous artists that Central Art represents. Within Utopia are smaller outstation, which are Atneltye Boundary Bore, Lyentye Mosquito Bore, Atnarare Soakage Bore, Arawerre Soapy Bore, Irrweltyr, Ingkwelaye Kurrajong Bore, Ahalpere Store, Ankerrapwe Utopia Homestead and Artekerre three Bores. (See additional map).

Brief history of Utopia

Utopia is an Aboriginal homeland formed in November 1978 by the amalgamation of the former Utopia pastoral lease with a tract of alienated land to its north. It covers an area of 3500 square kilometres, transacted by the Sandover River, and lies on a traditional boundary of the Alyawarra and Anmatjirra people, the two language groups which predominate there today. The name Utopia means ‘big sand hill’, a region in the north west extremity of the area. It has a number of unique elements.

The Utopia Art Movement began

In the 1980’s the Utopian women were introduced to batik painting as a means to establish a source of income. These pieces were an immediate success capturing a rawness and vitality that had not been seen before, which later in 1988-89 acquired for an exhibition. called "A Summer Project", organised by the Central Australian Media Association (CAAMA) The attention the exhibition received coincided with the worldwide art boom that occurred at this time.

Aboriginal artists from this region have been remarkably successful and continue to produce distinctive works that are collected by people in Australia and all over the world .

Important Artists from this Region

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (passed away 3 September 1996) was an Australian Aboriginal artist from the Utopia community in the Northern Territory. She is one of the most prominent and successful artists in the history of contemporary Indigenous Australian art. Other noted artists to emerge from Utopia are Minnie Pwerle, Barbara Weir, Gloria Petyarre. Today we have a second generation of artists emerging such as Abie Loy Kemarre and Jeannie Mills Pwerl.

Their Dreamings

The themes in their work follow the traditional Dreaming stories but unlike the art in adjoining regions, the stories are not represented in an iconic or figurative sense but more in a spatial sense. At times ‘the whole story’ is produced and at other times the artists may focus on just one element. The women artists are at the forefront in Australian Indigenous Contemporary Art . They continue to maintain their traditional culture in Awelye (women’s ceremony) and is transferred onto canvas the traditional body painting done during these ceremonies. Other artists paying homage in their art to their traditional role as food gatherers and their respect for the land and the food it provides. Many art works relate to specific food types such as the bush Yam Dreaming, bush medicine leaves or bush melon seeds.

One thing that makes Utopia unique is that the Aboriginal people harvest and consume traditional foods and extent medicines, particularly the elders. There is no doubt that Emily Kame Kngwarreye paved the way for the contemporary Utopian art movement and today the work produced continues to be distinctive and highly collectable.

Aboriginal word glossary