The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Purchased through the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Association at Yuendemu
Victor Jupurrula Ross, Yarla Jukurrpa ('Bush Potato Dreaming'), a painting
Yuendumu, Western Desert, Northern Territory, Australia, AD 1987
Australian Aboriginal art expresses the enduring relationships between people and land. At the same time it is a commercial enterprise by which the artists make money for themselves and their community. In the Western Desert region, where this painting was made, earlier art forms were adapted to a European medium at the beginning of the 1970s. This has led to an upsurge of artistic creativity and energy, which is also a political assertion of the sustained presence and importance of Aboriginal people in Australia.
This painting uses acrylic paint on canvas to depict a creation story. It depicts a yarla, a low-growing bush with beautiful pink flowers, that bears potato-like tubers. In one telling of the story, two old men, Jakamarra and Jupurrula, sat down and shook a sacred stone in Yamaparnta, a place near Yuendemu, where the painting was made. The yarla plant grew from the stone, and is believed to be the ancestor of all the plants now found in that place. The concentric circles in the middle of the painting represent the stone, the waving lines the plant growing from it. The two semi-circles are the men. Next to the old men, on the fourth side of the concentric circles, is a food carrier, with some food in it.
H. Morphy, Aboriginal art (London, Phaidon, 1998)