Aboriginal Artist Ada Bird Petyarre

Ada Bird Petyarre

Born: c. 1930

Deceased: 2009

Language Group: Anmatyerre

Country: Atnangkere , Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Linen, Batik on Silk, Print Making

Subjects: Awelye (Women's Ceremony and Body Paint Designs), Arnkerrthe (Mountain Devil Lizard), Bush Bean

Ada was involved in the art movement of Utopia since its inception. She began with the Utopia Women's Batik Group in the late 1970's where her work was exhibited extensively and featured on the cover of the Utopia – A Picture Story publication by A. Brody (Heytesbury Holdings, Perth, 1990). In 1988 Ada subsequently began painting with acrylics during CAAMA's Summer Project and continued in this medium until suffering a stroke 2004.

Ada's work is represented in many major and private collections all over the world. She is known for her bright, bold linear patterns often incorporating breasts, indicating women's ceremonial body paint designs associated with the Arnkerrthe (Mountain Devil Lizard) Dreaming for Atnangkere and Ahalkere Country. This Dreaming story was the most significant for Ada along with her sisters, Kathleen, Gloria, Myrtle, Violet, Nancy and Jean Petyarre (also known as the Seven Petyarre Sisters).

Ada always painted like her personality: vibrant, outgoing and blatantly honest! She was a lover of bright colours, in particularly blue, but also painted in more traditional and subdued colours. Fine detailed works are not traditional of her group nor were they any part of Ada's works. She is a traditional senior Aboriginal woman who involved and expressed herself to the fullest extent both on canvas and in her ancient culture, her most favoured works being the women's ceremonial body paint designs (Awelye) for the Mountain Devil Lizard (Arnkerrthe).

Ada had two daughters, June and Hilda and four sons, Paddy, Colin, Stephen and Ronnie. All are married and have children of their own. Ada had over 30 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren when she passed. When Ada was asked how many grandchildren she had she replied, whilst slowly shaking her head, 'too many!' Many of her large extended family have continued Ada's tradition and are Utopia artists too.


Mbantua Gallery Permanent Collection, Alice Springs

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The Holmes á Court Collection, Perth

The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica USA

University of Queensland, Anthropology Museum, St Lucia

Solo Exhibitions

1990 Utopia Art, Sydney
1999 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
1999 Ginninderra Galleries, Canberra
2000 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2002 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs



2000 Artists of Utopia, Tandanya, S.A
2000 Utopia Women – Red Desert Gallery, Eumundi, Qld/Sunshine Coast University/Noosa Blue Resort, Noosa Qld
2001 Young Presidents Organization University, Westin Hotel, Pitt Street, Sydney
2001 Walkabout Indigenous Art Gallery, Leichardt, Sydney
2001 Painting Country, Tandanya, S.A
2001 De Beer's Collection, Brookdale Galleries, QLD
2001 Seven Sisters Petyarre, Brisbane City Gallery, Brisbane
2002 Redback Art August exhibition
2002 Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN; Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, OR; Urban Wine Works, Portland, OR; Mary's Woods, Portland, OR
2003 Seven Sisters, Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Sydney
2003 Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN; Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, OR; Mary's Woods, Portland, OR
2003 Mbantua Gallery - Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank, Portland, OR, USA
2004 Mbantua Gallery USA exhibition; Portland, Nashville, Knoxville, Hartford and Greenwich
2004 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs
2005 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs
2006 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs


Further References

Brody, A. 1989 Utopia Women's Paintings The First Works on Canvas, A Summer Project 1988-89,, Heytesbury Holdings, Perth.
Brody, A. 1990, Utopia: a Picture Story, 88 Silk Batiks from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection
Morphy Howard. Aboriginal Art, Publ Phaidon © 1998 Desart the Aboriginal art centers of Central Australia, Putting in the Colour Contemporary Aboriginal Textiles, Jukurrpa Books (IAD Press) ©2000 (photo reference)
Stanislawsk-Birnberg Margo. Journeylines © 1990