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Sharon NUMINA NAPANANGKA

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Born: 1981
Region: Utopia (Central Desert)
Language: Anmatyerre

Sharon Numina Napanangka is an emerging Anmatyerre artist from the Utopia region in the Eastern Central Desert of the Northern Territory in Central Australia (north-west of Alice Springs). She is the daughter of Barbara Price Mbtitjana who is an elder painter and cultural elder from Stirling Station, has five sisters and two brothers and attended primary school at Stirling Station (a cattle station on the outskirts of Tennant Creek) and later at Kormilda College in Darwin. Sharon began painting in 2006 and obtained a degree in fine arts from Charles Darwin University.

The six sisters - Selina, Lanita, Jacinta, Caroline, Louise and Sharon are known in the Aboriginal art world as the Numina Sisters. They are all rapidly emerging as the next artistic dynasty in the contemporary aboriginal art world and are known for their bright and innovative works.

Along with her sisters and her mother,Sharon comes from a long line of desert painters of the contemporary Aboriginal art and dot-dot central desert movement. They were taught to paint by their earlier elder painter grandmothers, mother-auntys, and cousin-sisters connected across the Central Desert region including their aunties, the renowned artists Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre. Her art represents body markings for womens ceremonial business and stories for hunting and gathering in their traditional country.

Aboriginal women have their own ceremonies in which a series of song and dance cycles tell of the ancestral beings who walked the earth teaching women's law and ceremony to isolated groups living throughout the desert. Each tribe has its own set of women ancestors with different stories, designs and dances, but most of the ceremonies have one theme common to all groups, that of food gathering as the most important part of womens lives. Knowing, carrying and reinforcing these stories gives respect for Country and ancestors and shows responsibility and care of holding such stories to keep the stories and traditional practices alive. The knowledge must be retold repeatedly and handed on.

Like many of the Anmatyerre women from the Utopia Homelands near Ti Tree, one of Sharons totems is the bush medicine plant which is an Australian native that grows wild in Central Australia. The Kurrajong tree (Brachychiton) are believed to date back some 50 million years with 30 species of the tree ranging from 4 to 30 metres high. The larger trunks of some species can be used for storing water, whilst the leaves are used as bush medicine.

The Bush Medicine Leaves Dreaming knowledge story is a popular theme of the Numina Sisters. Many women from the Peytre, Mambitji and Numina family name hold custody of the story and knowledge keepers of painting series-themes such as Bush Medicine Leaves, Bush Tucker, Seeded, Soakage, Women’s Ceremony, in common with other skin groups across the vast arid creek beds and red sand of Central Australia.

The women go to different places around Utopia to collect the leaves and back at the camp boil them to extract resin. Kangaroo fat is mixed into the resin, creating a paste which can be stored for a long time in bush conditions. The medicine is used to heal cuts, wounds, bites, rashes and also acts as an insect repellent.

By painting about Bush Medicine Sharon is paying homage to the spirit of the medicine plant in the hope that it will regenerate, enabling the people to continue to benefit from its healing properties. Because of their healing properties and their almost mesmerising effects, bush medicine leaf paintings are also highly collectable within the medical and healing professions both in Australia and internationally.

Subjects of importance in the theme-series painted are various bush tucker. Plant foods include wild berries, plums, onion, yam, seeds etc. Many animals can be depicted as food source or as totems such as Thorny Devil LIzard and Dingo Tracks. Womens' Ceremony, Awelye Body Art Ceremony are mostly painted by senior ladies but younger women need to know it from a young age. Some themes such as Bush Tucker can be open and universal others can be secret and or significant cultural ceremonies

Sharon lives in Darwin close to her sisters Caroline, Jacinta, Louise and Lanita. The Numina sisters regularly return to Country to visit their mother Barbara Price Mbtitjana, an elder painter and cultural elder from Stirling Station. Her paintings are held in national and international art collections and in galleries throughout Australia.