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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Written by Mika TAKIGUCHI   
Published: September 23 2008

fig. 2 "Untitled" (1994), copyright © 2008 The Yomiuri Shinbun

fig. 1 "Kame---Summer Awelye I" (1991), copyright © 2008 The Yomiuri Shinbun

     Innumerable dots seem to be, at first, pollen, sandstorms, sparkle or crystallized rocks [fig. 1]. Intertwined lines, likewise, remind me hair of kangaroo, roots of plants or tracks of lizards in the desert [fig. 2]. At the same time, however, it seems these dots and lines do not simply represent abstract forms of aboriginal nature.

     How happy Emily is, for she could express the place where she was born and bred, where she will die, with such deep approval [fig. 3]. In the bottom center, dark blue dots look like a form of a crouching body.

     Emily was probably born in this posture, and she will die in this position. Warmly colored dots which occupy the rest of the canvas might convey the homeland landscape. Gradually the dark blue dots will mingle with them. Just as her body (dark blue dots) will dissolve into the air (warmly colored dots) of the homeland, the lives of her mother and father, grandparents and ancestor (all of which are represented, likewise, in innumerable dots) are floating there, already mingling into the air. Their bodies once decorated and covered with paintings decay and disappear after death. However, the body paintings remain there alone, floating and overlapping in the air. For Emily, perhaps the homeland is somewhere that is filled with such dots.

     History is constructed on the basis where we decide and select who died for us. In other words, it is a device to remember from whose deaths our present lives originate*1. And the dots in this work consist of the people who died for Emily’s present life. She listens to their voices among all these dots, knowing that she herself will become a part of these dots sometime.

fig. 3 "My Country" (1993), copyright © 2008 The Yomiuri Shinbun

fig. 4 "My Country" (1996), copyright © 2008 The Yomiuri Shinbun

fig. 5 "My Country" (1996), copyright © 2008 The Yomiuri Shinbun

     Works painted two weeks before her death are not like previous ones with dots and lines [fig. 4]. No one knows what will happen after his/her death, but Emily might have witnessed it when she was still on the earth. Perhaps dying people might catch a glimpse of the place to where s/he is going, but not many could visually record it exactly as s/he sees it.

     It is a place where you could walk without your sole touching the ground. Emily has reached there, and footprints like dots are left as if they prove that she has come up to there.

      White mist covers a rocky wall. Its surface is rather stiff [fig. 5]. A crack appears and expands, and a gate like rectangular in the middle is large enough for people to come in and out. Inside the crack filled with bluish white, the temperature might be different. Emily will willingly step forward to go inside. Her body, as well as soul get lighter and lighter as she gets closer to the gate. It is where she was before she came to the earth. Somehow she knows that she will be back there when she leaves the earth. It seems as if the gate to Heaven has opened in front of Emily’s eyes.
* Images from "The Exhibition of Emily Kame Kngwarreye - Genius to whom aborigine gave birth" The Yomiuri Shinbun (2008)
(Translated by Chisato Kushida)

H. Tazaki, A Community of Incompetent (Tokyo, 2007)

Related Exhibition

"Emily Kame Kngwarreye"
28/May/2008 - 28/Jul/2008
The National Art Center, Tokyo

Last Updated on August 12 2016

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