Biography

Elaine was born in the bush at a rockhole close to the community of Docker River in the Western Desert in1969. Her father, a man from Papulankutja (Blackstone) died when she was a small baby and her family moved to Irrunytju where she spent her early years. Elaine along with many other girls from the Ngaanyatjarra lands went to school at Norseman Mission and later to Esperence where she attended high school. Today Elaine lives at Kanpi with her mother Maringka Baker. She has four daughters and three grandchildren. Elaine belongs to the Pitjantjatjara language and cultural group.Her work is inspired by a deep connection to country, which is expressed with integrity, beauty and creativity in her canvas paintings.

She has powerful spiritual links to the desert. Traditional knowledge of food collection and water sources were vital for survival in this dynamic desert landscape and is a prominent theme in her work. This cultural knowledge is handed down orally in the retelling of the Tjukurpa (traditional stories of the ancestors’ journeys), which not only sustains Anangu (Aboriginal people) physically, but socially and spiritually. Tjukurpa painting depicts a fragment of a larger story, a living history where an ancestor was involved in creating country. Individuals have authority and ownership of this land and the associated sites and stories. Elaine regularly travels out bush with her mother and daughters to collect punu (wood for artifact making) and spinifex, bush medicines, bush foods and minkulpa a highly prised native tobacco. Her mother Maringka is a master at collecting maku (edible grubs that live in the roots of certain trees). Using a crowbar which has been flattened and sharpened on one end and a small spade she hits the surface of the ground listening and feeling for the difference that indicates a swallon root and a maku inside. She digs out the root and carefully and using the sharpened crow bar breaks it open to reveal a big fat white grub, which is put into a container. Once there are enough maku for a feed a fire is made to cook the grubs.