Bernadine Johnson Kemarre (1974) is a rising star in the world of contemporary Aboriginal art. She was born in the Ltyentye Apurte Community (Santa Teresa), approximately 80km east of Alice Springs, Northern Territory and had a traditional upbringing before attending school in Alice Springs. Bernadine comes from a family of famous artists, and learnt from a young age the art of painting her dreams, ceremonies and important bush foods onto canvas.
Bernadine often paints the Desert Yam (or Bush Plum) story from her family’s country. The yam grows underground, with its vine-like shrub growing up to a metre high above the ground. It is normally found on Spinifex sand plains and produces large flowers after summer rain. The yam tastes very similar to the common sweet potato, and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is a staple food for the desert Aborigines, especially as it can be harvested at any time of the year. The yam is also renowned for its medicinal properties, and used to heal cuts, wounds, bites, rashes, or as an insect repellent. In her paintings, Bernadine depicts the leaves and flowers of the yam in order to pay homage to the spirit of the plant in the hope that it will regenerate.