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Barbara Weir painting


Barbara Weir (1945 - 2023)

Grass Seed Dreaming, 2003

90 x 120cm. Acrylic on linen canvas.


    Barbara was an incredible woman, an artist and politician, she has been campaigning for the local land rights movement since the 1970s. In 1985, she was elected as the first woman president of the Indigenous Urapunta Council.


    Barbara was one of the Stolen Generations, where Aboriginal children were taken from her family and placed into foster care. She was reunited with her mother in the 1960s, but it took many years to repair the bonds.

    She took up painting in 1985, her work includes representations of plants and dreamings and is much sought after. Her mother, Minnie Pwerle, is widely regarded as one of Australia's most significant contemporary female artists, despite only beginning to paint at the age of 80.

    Her paintings depict grasses, which have been of vital importance to Aboriginal people throughout their history. Where water is scarce there are fewer plants, but grasses grow throughout the country adapted to diverse conditions that range from desert to rainforest. Many parts of the grass plants were important, the stems and rhizomes were used to make fibres woven into string, bags, rope, baskets and mats. However, it was the seeds from grasses that were most important - they were used to make bush bread.

  • ART

    In the Utopia region where Barbara was from, there are many varieties of grasses. One such type is found in the spinifex sand plains and sandhills that produce a seed that was an important food source for the Aboriginal people. The Dreaming for this grass seed had been passed down to Barbara by her ancestors.


    This grass can grow up to 15cm high and is reddish in colour. While found throughout the year, it is particularly abundant after rain. The seeds also ripen at different stages which can make them hard to collect as they fall and are then hidden in the sand. The Aboriginal people developed an unusual way of collecting the seeds. They would look for the nesting site of a particular ant. This ant collected the seeds and ate a certain portion and then discarded the rest. These discarded seeds would be found in a pile just outside the nest, where they were collected by the women of the community, cleaned and then ground into a thick paste. 

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