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Barbara Weir

DOB: c. 1940

BORN: Bundy River Station, Northern Territory
LANGUAGE GROUP: Alyawarre/Anmatyerre
Urupunta (Utopia)

Barbara Weir (c. 1940–2023), was born at Bundy River Station, a cattle station in the Urupunta (Utopia) region of the Northern Territory. Her parents were Minnie Pwerle, an Aboriginal woman, and Jack Weir, a married Irish man – described by various sources as a pastoral station owner. Under the anti-miscegenation racial laws of the time, their relationship was illegal, and the two were jailed. Weir died not long after his release and Pwerle named their daughter Barbara Weir.

Barbara was partly raised by Pwerle's sister-in-law, the internationally renowned artist Emily Kngwarreye. One of the Stolen Generations, Barbara was forcibly removed from her Aboriginal family by officials, with the family falsely believing that she was later killed. This was done under the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915, which authorised government or assigned officers in the territories to take half-caste children to be raised in British institutions to assimilate them to European culture. Some, like Barbara, were "fostered out", and she grew up in a series of foster homes in Alice Springs, Victoria, and Darwin.

In Darwin, at age 18 and working as a maid, Barbara married Mervyn Torres, and it was Torres who in 1963 or 1968, when passing through Alice Springs, asked someone about Barbara's mother, discovering that Pwerle was alive and living at Utopia. Mother and daughter were reunited but, although Barbara regularly visited her family at Utopia, she did not form a close bond with her mother at first.


In midlife, Barbara began to explore Aboriginal artistic traditions. She first painted in 1989 at the age of about 45. Five years later in 1994, she was one of a group of ten Utopia women who traveled to study batik in Indonesia. Her paintings include representations of particular plants and Dreamings, inspired by deep Aboriginal traditions. Her works have been exhibited at and collected by major institutions. Art expert Jenny Green has commented, "In some of her paintings residual traces of women's ceremonial designs are almost entirely obscured by the heavy textural application of natural ochres."

Barbara Weir painting

Title: My Country

Artist: Barbara Weir

Acrylic on canvas

Painted: 2016

Size: 71cm x 71cm approximately

Catalogue number: BW001

Price: $9,000.00

Provenance: Private Collection

Location: Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia


Title: Spinifex Grass

Artist: Barbara Weir

Acrylic on canvas

Painted: 2006

Size: 120cm x 80cm approximately

Catalogue number: BW0610

Price: POA

Provenance: Mason Australia Pty Ltd > Private Collection

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


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