Rene Nelson was born around 1955 at Warlu, a rockhole west of Irrunytju, near Papulankutja (Blackstone). “Kapi Pirni. There are a lot of rockholes in my country. When I was little I walked in the bush with my mother and father from rockhole to rockhole. If a little rockhole got dry we would travel to one of the two main rockholes which always had water in them.”
Rene belongs to the Pitjantjatjarra language and cultural group. As a young child Rene lived a traditional lifestyle in the desert. She walked with her family to the mission at Warburton where they camped for a while before continuing to Areyonga where she went to school. They camped for a while at Papulankutja, then Irrunytju, where she has raised many children and grandchildren, and is an active member of the community.
In her paintings Rene often draws on her knowledge of country, the location of important rockholes aound the place of her birth. She uses layers of vibrant colours intensified by presice uniform dotting. Rene worked at Irrunytju Arts where, as well as pursuing her own art practise, she assisted with tjanpi projects; art markets to sell work of emerging artists and bush-trips.
Rene is very skilled at hunting and cooking using traditional methods. Following fresh lizard tracks between the clumps of spinifex to the burrow Rene can tell from the tracks if they were made from tinka (lizard) or perentie (goanna), if it is make or female, it’s size, if the tracks are fresh, how fast it was going, if it is carrying eggs, the number of lizards in the burrow and if there are snakes nearby. Using a crowbar with one end flattened and sharpened she prods swiftly into the sand tracing the burrow in the ground until she hits and stuns a lizard. She digs it out and snaps the back
legs to immobilize it.
After a sufficient number of lizards are caught the women make a fire to cook the tinka, perentie and wipu (kangaroo tails). Dry mulga wood is piled up in a shallow oval depression made in the ground and set alight. The lizards are killed and gutted and with the wipu are quickly seared in the hot flames. The wipu and scrapped to remove the charred fur and are straightened out. When the fire burns down the lizards and wipu are buried in the hot coals and left to cook. When ready the wipu curl up poking out of the coals.