Bush Hen Dreaming

Traditional stories and ceremonies that are enacted by Aboriginal people involve all elements of the natural world. In Central Australia on the Utopia Homelands, the Anmatyerre people have a traditional story of the Bush Hen (Bush Turkey or Bustard). The Bush Hen travelled across the ancestral country as it searched for its favourite food, the bush tomato. The yellow fruit of the native plant solanum form into the bush tomatoes, and they are found scattered widely across the land. The small fruits or berries are called arkityira.

One Anmatyerre artists who paints the Bush Hen story is Abie Loy Kemarre.  She says “This is my grandfather’s story. This country is known as Artenya.” When Abie Loy Kemarre paints the fine dots across her canvas she is creating the arkityira, the fruits of the bush tomato. At the centre of her paintings is a circular waterhole with tracks leading towards it. Abie Loy Kemarre says- “this represents a dry waterhole where only women can go. They hold ceremonies at this sacred site, which is west from Mosquito Bore.”

The women from Eastern Anmatyerre country in the Utopia homelands perform ceremonies and song and dance cycles to pay homage to the Bush Hen Ancestor. They paint their bodies in traditional designs using natural ochres, which they apply with their fingers. The Bush Hen Dreaming track ends at the Utopia site near Mosquito Bore. The celebration of the Women’s Dreaming story is continued in the delicate paintings of Abie Loy Kemarre.

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