Bush Yam Leaves

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This painting depicts the themes of the Dreaming of the Wild Potato Yam, which are referenced in women's rites in the Utopia region, approximately 250 km north-east of Alice Springs. During these ceremonies, women paint their bodies with ochre and the ash of spinifex mixed with kangaroo or emu fat. They celebrate by singing and dancing to acknowledge the fertility of the earth. Underground tubers of bush potatoes (Dioscorea bulbifera), a variety of yam, are a permanent component of the food of Aborigines in the Utopia region. The leaf-like patterns shown in this image represent the above-ground part of the plant, its flowers and leaves.

Rosemary Petyarre's style is distinctive in the way she uses vivid colours. Her paintings are distinguished by their linear brushstrokes and evoke the rhythmic movement of yam leaves creating an optical illusion. The artist, born in 1961, expresses herself with a multiplicity of shadings and colours and is familiar with batik techniques.

She is an Aboriginal Elder and her work is included in Australian and international collections.