Wattles in flower


As we celebrate National Wattle Day on the first day of September each year, we delve into two works that include the wattle — with over 1,000 species of acacia Australia-wide, it’s the nation’s largest family of flowering plants. While the flowering times of wattle vary greatly depending on the region, Australia’s national flower — the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) — displays our national colours, green and gold, with flowers from the beginning of September signalling the start of Spring.

The wattle has become a popular symbol of Australia and Australians and can be depicted as a unifying symbol for land and people. The wattle flower is also synonymous — as is the poppy —to acknowledge those Australian service men and women that have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice their lives.

ARTWORK STORIES: Delve into QAGOMA’s Collection highlights for a rich exploration of the work and its creator

Mavis Ngallametta ‘Mo’Yakal (White and yellow wattles in flower)’ 2008

Referring to the painting Mo’Yakal 2008 (illustrated), Mavis Ngallametta said ‘White and yellow wattle flowers are all around starting in the Easter month of April with white ones and then finishing with the yellow ones around June.

An elder of the Putch clan and a cultural leader of the Wik and Kugu people of Aurukun (Cape York Peninsula, Far North Queensland), Ngallametta was one of the most well-regarded senior community-based artists in Australia, depicting her community’s riotous scenes of post-wet season abundance, a climatic phenomenon well known to people who live their lives just feet above the swamp line. Many of Ngallametta’s works were bold and celebratory — with brightly coloured flowers.

ARTISTS & ARTWORKS: Explore the QAGOMA Collection

Mavis Ngallametta, Kugu-Uwanh people, Putch clan, Australia 1944–2019 / Mo’Yakal (White and yellow wattles in flower) 2008 / Synthetic polymer paint on linen / 84 x 96cm / Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Fondation 2015. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Mavis Ngallametta

Video: Delve into ‘Mo’Yakal (White and yellow wattles in flower)’

Explore the work of Mavis Ngallametta with Katina Davidson, Curator of Indigenous Australian Art, QAGOMA

eX de Medici ‘Cure for Pain’ 2010–11

Currently on display in the exhibition ‘eX de Medici: Beautiful Wickedness’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 2 October 2023 is Cure for Pain 2010–11 which when you look closely features a sprig of wattle.

In 2009 eX de Medici was appointed Official War Artist with the Australian War Memorial who commissioned her to capture the activities of Australian peacekeepers deployed with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Cure for Pain 2010–11, made after her commission concluded, features helmets and flowers from a range of countries, and conflicts from the colonial period to the present. The helmets — or ‘brain buckets’ — are scattered across a field of poppies that, historically, represent war dead and reference the use of opium as a battlefield drug. A memorial of sorts, the painting denounces our predisposition for violence and the futility of armed conflict.

eX de Medici, Australia b.1959 / Cure for Pain (and detail) 2010–11 / Watercolour on paper / 114 x 415cm / Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Erika Krebs-Woodward / Collection: Australian War Memorial, Canberra / © eX de Medici

Artists & Artworks: Explore more works by Mavis Ngallametta in the QAGOMA Collection

Curatorial extracts, research and supplementary material compiled by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land upon which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution Indigenous people make to the art and culture of this country. It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs on the QAGOMA Blog are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.