Historical information

Barbara Weir (b. 1945-03/01/2023)
Born: In the region of Utopia, North East of Alice Springs, formerly known as Derry Downs Station
Language: Anmatyerre and Alywarr
Country: Atnwengerrp, Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs, Northern Territory

One of the Stolen Generation, Barbara Weir was removed from her Aboriginal family at the age of nine, and she was raised in a series of foster homes. Reuniting with her mother, Minnie Pwerle, in the 1960s, Weir eventually returned to her family territory of Utopia, 300 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs. Active in the local land rights movement of the 1970s Barbara Weir was elected the first woman president of the Indigenous Urapunta Council in 1985.

Barbara’s career as an artist was inspired by the dynamic community of artists at Utopia and the work of her adopted auntie Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Highly experimental in her approach, Barabara Weir tried many mediums before travelling to Indonesia in 1994 with other artists to explore batik technique. She returned full of ideas on how to develop her own style which has since evolved to a more expressive abstract form. Grass Seed is part of her Dreamings and is associated with women’s ceremony and the activity of food gathering of local seeds, grasses, berries, potato, plum, banana, flowers and yams.

This item is part of the Federation University Art Collection. The Art Collection features over 1000 works and was listed as a 'Ballarat Treasure' in 2007.

Physical description

Barbara Weir's paintings include representations of particular plants and "dreamings". Inspired by a small grass found in Utopia called Lyaw, Munyeroo or Pigsweed, Barbara's Grass Seed paintings consist of a series of small brush strokes that overlap and weave to create a swaying effect.

This Dreaming tells the story of grass seed that is part of the bush tucker found in the region of Utopia. This seed is collected, crushed to a fine powder and is then used to make a bread, very similar to damper. The people of Utopia were still using this seed as late as the 1950s. During that time the seed grew in abundance but as the years passed there were very few good seeds to be found due to bullocks roaming the land and eating the grasses. The people then began to eat a substitute that the white man provided, and today very few Aboriginal people collect these seeds.