history and stories, plants and traditional craft practice. Choose two of these artists and write
a paragraph about how each artist does this. What do you think is the intention of their
Think about your own environment and how you might create an art work which responds
to your surroundings.
Having thought about Replant, what roles do you think each of the following have played in
the presentation and interpretation of this exhibition?
• The artist
• The gallery
• The project coordinator
• The ethno botanist
• The printmaker
• The photographer
• Yourself, as viewer
Write two or three sentences about the parts played by each of these exhibition participants.
What do you think is the role of art galleries in showing an exhibition like Replant?
Make notes on the following:
• The title of the exhibition
• The printing technique (see Project Notes for information)
• Where the artists come from
• What the art works have in common
• Your favourite work
Back in the classroom
• Research the artists
• Find out about the history of printmaking by Aboriginal artists in Australia
• Find out about herbaria and what they do.
Look at traditional forms of botanical drawing.
What makes a botanical illustration?
What is the difference between a scientific drawing and a work of art?
Have a good look around the exhibition. Discuss the works with your friends, then consider one or more of the
Activity Sheet 1
AT THE EXHIBITION
The Spring Pandanus (also sometimes referred to as the Screw
Palm), Pandanus spiralis, is one of the most conspicuous and
useful plants in north Australia. The Kunwinjku name for
Pandanus is kundayarr.
Pandanus is an important food resource and provides different
types of food from the seed, fruit, cabbage and peduncle. It is
also used for a range of medicinal purposes including treating
headaches, toothache, infected wounds, diarrhoea, mouth and
throat sores, ulcers, back pain and many other afflictions. It is
also used as fish poison, to make rafts, toys, didgeridoos, ropes,
as a dye, to light fires, to carry fires, and as a totem for some
However, this classical interpretation of Pandanus is based on
contemporary fibrecraft expertise and coming from a line of
famous fibrecraft artists. Deborah’s deceased grandfather was a
renowned fish-trap artisan whose works are displayed in many
museums and galleries in Australia and overseas.
The Red Bush Apple, Syzygium suborbiculare, is a common and
well known bush tucker in north Australia, however, a rare
form occurs in coastal areas on the Tiwi Islands and some other
coastal areas. It has pink fruit that are particularly tasty, it is
called pinyama, the Pink Beach Apple. The fruit are produced
during Jamutakari, the wet season, and sometimes they are
produced in profusion. They are one of the most important
Tiwi bush foods.
The shape of the pinyama fruit as interpreted by Irene are very
similar to the shape of the traditional, uniquely Tiwi fighting
clubs produced by senior Tiwi men. In the past these clubs were
deadly weapons used in hand-to-hand combat by Tiwi warriors,
but now they are mainly prepared for sale to tourists visiting the
Spear Grass or Sarga intrans, previously Sorghum intrans, is one
of the most common and important grasses in the western Top
End of the Northern Territory.
During the mid to late wet season Spear Grass is the
characteristic feature of the savanna habitats, when its stems
dominate the lower levels of the vegetation profile. In the later
parts of the wet season, which coincided with our field trip to
Nauiyu, the stems began to dry out and the colours and tones of
the drying stems and leaves were stunning and inescapable; they
are literally in your face whenever you walk through the bush.
Spear Grass is also critically important for Aboriginal people as
the stems provide a large proportion of the annual fuel load of
dry grass that is burnt early in the dry season. Burning grass is an
essential element of land management for traditional custodians
and is likened to ‘cleaning up’ or providing medicine or fertiliser
for country after the heavy rains. Fire is seen as providing balance
to savanna landscapes after the cloudiness, dampness and often
floods of the wet season. Without the volume of fuel provided by
the Spear Grass stems this fire cleansing would not be possible.
Spear Grass seeds and stems also provide a large amount of
organic matter every season and it is one of the most efficient
and important energy converters in the savanna habitat. The
seeds and stems provide food and shelter for many animals,
mainly invertebrates, in savanna habitats.
As a plant it is incredibly well adapted to the wet-dry tropics
annual period of aridity, when it survives as a seed bank on the
ground. It then takes advantage of the pre-wet humidity build-
up, which causes the seed awns to absorb moisture and twist.
This drives the seeds into the ground so that they are ready to
germinate with the first rains and not be washed away. Once
germinated, the leaves are produced to begin photosynthesis, this
powers the stems to elongate quickly and get the seeds as high as
possible to aid dispersal.
Winsome has captured the essence of two of the principal
characteristics of Spear Grass in her prints, the seeds and the
The twin leaves depicted are from the normally trifoliate
compound leaf of the Bat-wing Coral Tree, Erythrina vespertilio;
however, in this case the third, terminal leaflet was missing.
The leaf was from the tree growing near the entrance to the
Merrepen Art Centre at Nauiyu. This tree produces red flowers
and bright, hard, kidney-shaped, red seeds. These seeds are used
in drier parts of Australia to make long, heavy necklaces; these
have special significance for Aboriginal women. In the past the
black fine ash from the burnt corky bark was rubbed onto the
skin of pale-skinned babies to darken it, so that welfare officers
would not take them away. This plant also has a number of
other uses, including the wood for woomera shafts and the large
taproot as food.
The scientific name Erythrina is derived from the Greek word
erythros, and refers to the red flowers and seeds, which are so
distinctive for this species.
The small dark round dots on the print are formed using the
seed of the Red Bean Tree, Adenanthera pavonina. The hard,
red seeds from this species are also used to make necklaces by
some coastal Aboriginal groups in north Australia. The seed
interior can be eaten, though the hard red shell is considered
toxic and is difficult to break.
Two of the most important aquatic plants for Aboriginal
people in north Australia are depicted; above the water-line the
emergent leaves of the Red Lotus Lily, Nelumbo nucifera, and on
the water surface, the floating leaves and flowers of the Water-
lily, Nymphaea macrosperma.
The Red Lotus Lily is called miwulngini, it has a number of uses.
The large green ‘seeds’ (actually fruit) are eaten raw or lightly
roasted; they are very good to eat and occur in large numbers in
the mid dry season. The roots are also eaten after roasting and
they are used as medicine to treat constipation. The new leaf
shoots are eaten raw. The large concave leaves can be used as
a hat, as camouflage when hunting in the billabong or to carry
water and to wrap food when cooking.
This species is considered sacred in India, Tibet and China being
the padma devoted to Brahma (sacred red colour), cultivated
throughout south east Asia for food; ‘seeds’ remain viable for
several hundred years in river mud.
The Water-lily is called minimindi, it also has a number of
uses. The fruit contain many small oily seeds that can be eaten
raw or lightly roasted, they are very tasty. The flower stems
called mintyangari, are also excellent bush tucker and taste like
celery. The tubers are used as food and are also used to treat
constipation. The flowers can also be eaten.
Collecting Water-lily fruits is one of the favorite activities of
senior women at the Daly River. The fruit are found on the
bottom of billabongs, as the fruit swell with seeds they get heavy
and fall to the bottom. The fruit are located with the feet while
slowly walking through the water.
The leaves of Ghost Gum, Corymbia bella (previously Eucalyptus
as larger, broader leaves are generally preferred by Green Ants.
The Ghost Gum is an important plant, it is called yerrik by
MalakMalak speakers. It is used for firewood as it burns slowly
and evenly, the bark is burnt and applied to swellings on knees
and legs to reduce the swelling, sugarbag (native beehives) are
often found in hollows and water can be found in swellings on
the trunk. Many other Aboriginal groups use the burnt bark as
an additive for chewing tobacco, where it improves the flavour
and potentiates the tobacco.
Green Ants, Oecophylla smaragdina, are used as medicine by
MalakMalak people and are called pirrinykam. The nest is
crushed in the hands and the juice is rubbed over the skin;
this also stops the skin from feeling itchy. The large mother or
queen ants are eaten to treat colds and influenza; they have a
sharp taste. Many other Aboriginal groups also use these ants
as medicine and food. The green abdomen of workers can be
eaten; it has a pleasant tangy taste caused by the formic acid they
contain, which has medicinal properties as a mild expectorant