CENTURIES before colonists began ripping out native plants to grow crops, Aboriginal people harvested fields of yams across western and central Australia.
The bush potato was a staple of their diet and a symbol of the well-being of country, celebrated in ceremonies, song cycles and dance performances.
“At the centre of these ceremonies is the message of sustainability and social harmony in the appropriate management of yam resources,” says Ian Plunkett, Japingka gallery director.
The gallery is warding off the winter blues with exhibitions celebrating the bright colours of the Northern Territory and Queensland’s Lockhart River.
Yam Dreaming – Survival and Harmony in the Desert, is a collection of works by Indigenous fine art artists, Emily Kngwarreye, Lorna Fencer Napurrula and Minnie Pwerle.
While Ancestors and Spirits, by Lockhart River artist Fiona Imeenyo, depicts culture and everyday life at her tropical home.
Her paintings includes living and past occupants, birds, and even some cryptic amorphous shapes.
“Elders say that when we pass, our spirits leave us and fly into the sunset,” the artist says.
The twin exhibitions run until August 23, at Japingka, 47 High Street, Fremantle.
by JENNY D’ANGER