Rivers of the Desert – Anna Petyarre
Central Australia has some extraordinary river channels that feed into the Lake Eyre basin, causing the rivers to run inland rather than towards the coast. The Utopia Homelands are placed within this massive inland river system and the artist Anna Petyarre records the terrain of her country in her paintings. The large swathes of sandy desert country are marked by the flood patterns of the river system, leaving myriad winding lines across the landscape. The rivers are dry for the vast majority of the time, remaining as dry sandy river beds surrounded by the sandhills that follow their contours.
But when the rains come to the normally arid inland regions the rivers start to flow along these sandy channels. Lake Eyre is a huge salty inland lake covering 9,500 square kilometres. It exists as dry salt flats for most of the time. But it is 9 metres below sea level, so when the inland rivers flow they start to pour into the lake known as Kati Thanda. The lake fills with water about onceevery ten years, though recent occurrences have been more frequent.
Aboriginal people living on Utopia know the patterns of the rivers and the sources of fresh water to be found below the surface. They mark important ceremonial places along its course and have long preserved knowledge of the locations of food sources and hunting grounds.
Anna Petyarre records the landscapes and the dry river channels, while including other important features associated with traditional life on her lands. Her paintings are eloquent depictions of the vast country and honour the important aspects of her heritage and culture.
Rivers of the Desert is exhibiting at Japingka Gallery from 26 May until 30 June 2017.