Evelyn Pultara is an outstanding artist from the Utopia
region of the Northern Territory. She was born some time
around 1940 at Woodgreen Station, the cattle property adjoining
Utopia Station. She is an Anmatyerre woman and
the mother of six children.
Like her late aunt Emily Kame Kngwarreye and her full brother
Greeny Purvis, Evelyn Pultara was born with bush yam (pencil
yam) as her 'totem'. The bush yam (atnwelarr) has been an abundant
source of food and water for the Anmatyerre people for countless
years. The pencil yam is a slender twining plant with yellow
pea flowers and edible tubers. As her totem, it is Evelyn's
responsibility to pay homage to it through song and dance in
ceremony - and now in art.
The medium of acrylic on canvas is an extension of this
duty and is another means for her to strengthen her personal
connection with this item of the environment. Evelyn is
a shy, quiet woman who rarely gives away more than is
necessary about the context of her paintings.
Evelyn's husband Clem (also an artist) is more gregarious
and quite happy to publicly sing the songs that accompany
her paintings. "Always the same song, same story"
he tells us, "but she found her own style, she makes
paintings her own way". One can imagine that as long
as Evelyn is painting to the rhythm of a yam song and
while she is in 'yam dreaming' frame of mind, then whatever
flows forth onto the canvas is naturally to be called
In the words of Australian author Peter Goldsworthy who sat
with Evelyn and watched her paint one afternoon in late 2004:
"The Dreamings tell of the adventures
of the mythic totemic ancestors- kangaroos, birds, lizards,
men and women, even yams, who made the land and its people and
food. The Dreamings can also provide a song-map of the location
of water holes, ochre pits, food sources, and sacred sites."
Evelyn Pultara now lives in the tiny township of Wilora in
the Northern Territory, 200 kilometres north of Alice Springs.
Evelyn began painting in 1997. From starting as a painter of
more traditional themes such as bush tucker and awelye (womens
ceremonial body paint designs), she has progressed rapidly.
She now exclusively paints her plant totem, the bush yam.
In 2005 Evelyn was the winner of the general painting division
of the Telstra
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.
Feb 2005 'The Art of Evelyn Pultara' Gig Gallery, Glebe, Sydney
May 2004 'Evelyn Pultara' curated by Armida Allevi, abOrigena,
June 2003 World Vision Walkabout Gallery, Leichardt, Sydney
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