In 1980 Flinders University Museum of Art acquired its first work of art by an Aboriginal woman – a small board painted in acrylic by Rosie Riley Nakamarra entitled Woman dreaming of young man.
It was created at the remote settlement of Papunya, north-west of Alice Springs in the mid-late 1970s during the formative years of the desert art movement. One of the earliest known acrylic paintings produced by a woman at this time, Nakamarra’s work is historically significant as a pioneering voice in contemporary Aboriginal art and as a forerunner to the later paintings by desert women, which would take the art world by storm.
Taking Nakamarra’s painting as its starting point, Brave new wave presents visionary works by some of Australia’s most iconic Central and Western Desert women. These artists – among them Judy Napangardi Watson (c1925-2016), Yulurlu Lorna Fencer (c1924- 2006) and Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c1910- 1996) – rose to prominence in the late 20th century bringing gendered expressions of Indigenous Australian identity and cultural knowledge to the nation’s attention for the first time. Vibrant and full-bodied, the canvases drawn from Flinders University Museum of Art reflect the diverse, creative and innovative female voices of this period. Collectively, they signal the indelible contribution of desert women to the contemporary Aboriginal art movement and in inspiring new generations of female artists to come.
Brave new wave is curated by Flinders University Museum of Art for Tarnanthi: festival of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.