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Painting by Utopia artist Katie Kemarre


Katie Kemarre (b.1943)

Apeng (Kurrajong Flower),

30 cm x 30 cm. Acrylic on linen Canvas. 


    The designs in Katie's paintings represent the delicate flowers that can be seen covering the apeng in the summer after rain. Apeng is the Alyawarre word for the desert kurrajong tree. There is an ancient Dreamtime story belonging to apeng and its seed, ngkweyang, which lies in the heart of Alyawarre land in Katie's country, Antarrengeny, north east of Alice Springs. Ngkweyang is an important and nutritious food source. Not a habitual practice now, the Aboriginal people would collect these seeds, burn them to remove small hairs, and grind them into a paste for making damper (bread).


    Born in 1943 in the NT. Prior to painting, Katie participated in the 'Utopia - A Picture Story' exhibition featuring silk batik works by 88 Utopian artists, which toured internationally. During 1988 and 1989, Katie was involved with the Summer Project, which introduced many Utopian's into the art of painting, moving from batik work into acrylic on canvas and linen. Katie's work evolves continually which reflects the nature of Katie's personality and tribe.


    Utopia has produced some of the most recognisable names in Aboriginal art and is notable for its strong tradition of discovering female artists. This continues today with a new generation of talented painters who are inspired by greats such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Gloria Petyarre, Kathleen Petyarre and Ada Bird who worked at Utopia.

    The legacy of these pioneering woman is a diversity of style and approach that welcomes hundreds of other artists from the Utopia clan groups.

    It is a region of approximately 5,000 sq km north-east of Alice Springs and is home to around 2,000 aboriginal people. The region largely lies on aboriginal owned land called Urapuntja, it is made up of several larger communities and some very small ones.

    Art is by far the largest source of employment in an area which lacks employment opportunities and skills. There are well over 250 professional artists in the region. The creative movement in Utopia began with batik and the work they produced came to international attention and was exhibited around the world. When painting reached the communities in the late 1980’s, acrylic paint on canvas with its quick drying and no mess properties, soon overtook batik.

    This is a multi-generational art movement that has led Utopia's artists to become leaders in female aboriginal art.

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