Alatyeyt – Spinifex Grass
Artist: Selina Teece Pwerl
Title: Alatyeyt – Spinifex Grass
Size: 45 x 45cm
Med: Acrylic on Canvas
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The inspiration for Selina’s painting has come from the designs and colour she observes in the Alatyeyt – triodia pungens (Soft Spinifex). This important spinifex grass dominates the sandy planes of her traditional country of Antarrengeny, situated north of the Utopia Region of Central Australia. The fine background dot work reflects the seeds scattered across the country on which the Spinifex grows.
Alatyeyt is a hummock grass that is found growing in the Spinifex plains and sand hills. Its long green leaves and pale yellow seed heads that are displayed on stalks sometimes a meter high identify it. When in bloom, through the warmer months, the fields of seed heads and flowers resemble large wheat fields.
The seeds of are very hard to collect and yandy so weren’t used. However, this important grass produces a thermoplastic black resin that is an essential item of Aboriginal technology. This strong bonding material is white in colour and covers the plant, with the greatest concentration being at the base of the leaves. Through a labour intensive process that includes pounding, yandying and heating the grass, the resin is removed and pressed into position on the tool or implement until it sets hard. This resin was used to create and mend the majority of tools and weapons, and is still made today. As this particular spinifex is soft and easy to handle it was also used to construct shelters, wrap and carry sacred implements as well as transport burning embers from camp to camp.
Selina often reflects on her fathers’ skill and knowledge of production and importance of this resin, and how it is still his preferred choice of adhesive – even when repairing the car!