Roma Butler is a female artist born in Australia, currently working in Western Australia, Australia.
Roma Butler image

Roma Nyutjangka Butler belongs to the Pitjantjatjara language and cultural group. She was born in 1949 at Wilu rockhole, on the kanyala tjukurpa (euro kangaroo dreaming) track. Roma spent her early years at the Ernabella mission in South Australia, before travelling to Warburton in Western Australia, where she went to School. At the age of 12 she moved to Irrunytju, her grandfather’s brother’s country.

Roma continues to practice traditional cultural activities including hunting and gathering bush foods, and singing and dancing inma. She paints for Irrunytju Arts and works at Ngaanyatjarra Media presenting a daily radio news program with her husband, Simon Butler. She says “It’s really good work broadcasting and telling stories for anangu (Aboriginal people), interviewing all the school kids as well as the elders. I really want to help pass on anangu knowledge to the younger people”

Roma began painting in 2001, choosing to paint geometric designs related to country. She has since been encouraged by the minyma pampa (old women), particularly senior Pitjantjatjara artist Kuntjil Cooper, to paint the many sub-plots and inter-connecting stories of the tjukurpa. Tjukurpa explains creation and existence, reveals how one should live, and is relevant for the past and the present. Roma is a powerful story-teller and her paintings focus on the drama and emotion of incidents and relationships in tjukurpa narratives.

Roma frequently paints the Minyma Kutjara Tukurpa (Two Sister Dreaming) which is very important for anangu at Irrunytju. While representations of this tjukurpa often focus on the grand journey, the locations of rock-holes and significant sites, Roma explores incidents which refer to women’s business, relationships and birth.

In one such narrative, a little sister was separated from her family by a big wind. She was raised by another anangu and did not want to leave. The big sister found her younger sister and was taking her home to be re-united with her family. As they travelled across the desert, the big sister taught the little sister the tjukurpa, the ancestral tracks and where the rock-holes were. Roma has painted many aspects of this story, including when the two sisters sat on hills near Irrunytju weaving string belts in preparation for women’s business. They were indiscreetly sitting with their legs open as they worked. A strange woman walked by and saw them and started to laugh, then all the women laughed together. The places where they sat marked the landscape, forming creeks and gullies. They picked up their wana and threw them, creating the rock-hole at Irrunytju called Wana Wani. Other aspects of the story are a secret, known only to older women, and must be communicated through whisper.

Group Exhibitions:

2006 Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award, Queensland Art Gallery
2006 Western Desert Satellites, Art Gallery of Western Australia