Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Anmatyerre people, born Australia c1910, died 1996

Emily Kame Kngwarreye is the most well known of female Indigenous Australian artists. She was born in Alhalkere (Soakage Bore), Utopia in the Northern Territory c. 1910.

In 1977, Kngwarreye learnt the techniques of tie-dye, block printing and batik, which led to her playing a pivotal role in forming the Utopia Women’s Batik Group. In 1988 Kngwarreye began painting with acrylic on canvas. She first came to prominence when her paintings were displayed in Sydney in 1989 at the S.H. Ervin Gallery. Soon after, she was awarded a community-based artist-in-residency project by the Robert Holmes à Court Foundation. In 1992 she was awarded the prestigious Australia Council’s Australian Artists Creative Fellowship. Posthumously, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, together with Judy Watson and Yvonne Koolmatrie, was selected to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1997.

In 1998 – 99 Queensland Art Gallery mounted and toured a major survey of Kngwarreye’s work titled Emily Kame Kngwarreye: Alhalkere — Paintings from Utopia and in 2008, 120 works by the artist were presented in Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra and National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan — the largest body of work by an Australian artist ever to be exhibited outside of Australia.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was involved in the land rights movement and played an important role in the return of Utopia Station to her people, the traditional owners, in 1979.

December 2010