Emily Kngwarreye

In 1990, Emily Kngwarreye was the first Aboriginal woman artist to have a major retrospective art exhibition.

Honour Roll

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was born around 1910. She was raised in a traditional way in Alhalkere, north of Alice Springs. She was an Eastern Anmatyerre speaker, and was the adopted daughter of Jacob Jones, an important member of the Aywarre community. She first met white people when she was around nine years old.

When she was young she worked as a stock hand on pastoral properties in the area. The land of the area inspires and is the subject of all her artworks. In 1977, Emily was a founding member of the Utopia Women's Batik Group. At this time the community had recently regained title and returned to their lands. The Holmes a Court Collection sponsored similar projects and the Utopia artists became more widely known.

Emily began painting, and her first acrylic works on canvas were exhibited in 1988. In 1989, she received the first Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association Fellowship. She had the first of her solo shows in 1990, and in 1992 was awarded the Australian Artists Creative Fellowship. She had many other exhibitions in the first half of the 1990s, and gained great acclaim. Demand for her works grew, increasing her income substantially, which she distributed among kin.

Her works are now in every major public, corporate and private collection in Australia, and in many overseas collections. While she died on 2 September 1996, the 'fluent' exhibition, which included works by Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson and Emily, was Australia's official representation at the 1997 Venice Biennale. The same year the Queensland Art Gallery curated the major retrospective of her work, 'Emily Kame Kngwarreye: Alhakere - Paintings from Utopia'.