A two and a half hour drive from Alice Springs, up the Sandover Highway and deep into Central Australia's remote Utopia region, will get you to Arlparra Store where elder Lena Pwerle lives in a small humpy.
The humpy is made of corrugated tin and held up by branches, boxes and rope. It fits three mattresses atop steel bed frames; one for herself, her sister Rosie and her daughter Nora.
Her last humpy fit four; one for her daughter Connie who passed away of pneumonia.
Lena's traditional home is her permanent residence. There are enough buildings for Lena to have her own house if she wishes, but to Lena this is home and she has everything she needs.
It is situated in close proximity to the small general store that services the entire region, and the open plan allows her to be easily accessible to her people.
Other country people and those from neighbouring countries live in the government housing dotted around the community.
It doesn't seem like Lena is in her 80's, but old birth records indicate she is born in 1934. Her eldest son, George, was born a natural bush birth in 1953 when Lena was nineteen.
She had married a young man named Sam Kngwarreye from a neighbouring country up north. They lived up there awhile and had seven children.
Lena's father had been an elder of her country and because of this blood line and her natural ability to lead, she became an elder herself.
The endeared term is 'boss woman' - similar to a commander-in-chief, and is a guardian of certain aspects of her people's culture.
Lena paints how she leads. Firstly she makes sure everyone around her has canvas to paint too. She is proud of them.
She handles the execution slowly, carefully and methodically, but not perfectly. She laughs and tells stories.
Each painting is individual yet infused with the same story: Soakage Dreaming.
Soakages are a source of water in Australian deserts and were once the main water supply for Australian desert Aboriginals.
Some soakages are found in the form of rockholes hidden by overgrown foliage, others under the sand with no obvious indication they are there and digging is required to access them.
Some soakages though are the length of football fields sunken into the ground like a swamp.
Soakage Dreaming, the story, is something passed down to Lena by her grandmother. It is informative - mapping out soakages, and expresses gratitude for their provision of water.
This knowledge was particularly significant during Lena's youth and previous generations. Now, most soakages are either contaminated by introduced live stock or have dried up. There are bores located at each major settlement in Utopia and the people of Utopia drink from this.
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A collection of works by Gloria Petyarre await the anticipated opening of Gloria, our special 2020 exhibition showcasing this Utopia elder and Australian icon's work.
WHEN: Friday 10th July - Monday 21st Sept 2020
Light pink and deep tertiary colours are trending with our artists this season and we have a beautiful new collection of artworks.
Arnumarra is the name of Colleen's country which lies north east of Alice Springs in Central Australia.
Colleen paints Dreamtime Sisters; ancestral spirits who roam the country performing sacred song and dance. They look after Arnumarra country and guide its people.