Yam Seed Dreamingby Dolly Mills Petyarre
The artwork depicts the seasonal movement of the yam plant. The root system spreads underground and the Aboriginal women use traditional methods to locate the roots, which is an important food source for Aboriginal people. The women perform ceremonies and pay homage to the spirit of the yam plant to ensure perpetual germination.
I (Sabine Haider, Director of Central Art) have been working with Dolly Mills Petyarre since 2005. Dolly was born in 1948 at Boundary Bore Outstation at Utopia Community, in Central Australia. The community can be found North East of Alice Springs. Dolly Mills is an Anmatyerre speaker, which is one of two language groups which can be found in the area in and around Utopia. Dolly has three siblings; Jeannie Pitjara, Evelyn Pultara and Greeny Purvis. All four siblings are well known and talented artists. Sadly, Greeny passed away in 2010. Central Art is proud to hold pieces of all of them due to our strong relationship with the family and the wider Utopian region.
In the 1970’s Dolly was part of a group of Utopian women who participated in the Women’s Batik Group. This group included famous artists such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye. In 1988 the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) launched a community project titled “Utopia – A Picture Story” and was a collection of 88 silk batiks made by the local women. This collection was later acquired by The Holmes a Court Collection. The project brought extensive recognition to the women of Utopia and Dolly’s works are featured in the book based on the project.
Dolly’s works feature her Dreamings which include Anaty, Ankerr and Awelye, however bush tobacco and other bush tucker foods can be found in her paintings. The most prominent subject of her work is the Bush Yam and Emu and the strong association between the two. Her paintings are based in Alhalkere country which is the region her Dreamings originate from. The Yam is an important food source for Aboriginal people and is collected by the women of Utopia. The plant has bright green leaves with yellow flowers, with its root system spreading up to 12 metres from the stalk and branches which spread in a similar fashion. It is usually located close to water holes or underground water systems and in woodland areas. The Emu is featured as it roams the countryside in search of food and the women will often follow its tracks.
Dolly uses delicate patterning and subtle colouring in her works, using feminine colours such as purple, pink, and orange in pastel tones. The overall visual affect creates a soft appearance to her works. Her fine dotting almost blends in with its surroundings so that there does not appear to be any dotting at all, rather smearing.
For an artist who has participated and worked alongside the greats of her region it is a wonder that her works are as affordable as they are. Her daughter, Jeannie Mills Pwerle is an up and coming artist herself, receiving increasing accolades for her works. Central Art also has a pleasure of holding her paintings. The Yam is a significant Dreaming for many women of Utopia and it is interesting to see the differences between mother and daughter in their artistic depictions of the same Dreaming.
I can certainly see the appeal to Dolly’s works and would not hesitate to recommend her works as beautiful illustrations of the female side of Anmatyerre life in Utopian society. Although not recognised as one of the top artists, her works have featured in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award as a selected entrant. This is the premier art award in Australia and is very prestigious. She has also be a part of group and solo exhibitions all over Australia and internationally.
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Important copyright notice
The Copyright of all images and documentation remains with Sabine Haider. The Australian Copyright Act protects all artists from unauthorised copying by giving control over original works of art to the artist by law. However depending on the use proposed, Sabine Haider from Central Art – Aboriginal Art Store can facilitate reproduction of works with the permission of the artist as we have developed close relationships over the years with many individual painters and craftspeople.
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