The Bush Plum (or Conkerberry) comes from a tangled, spiny shrub that has white, star-shaped flowers. It grows as a multi-stemmed shrub, up to 2-3 metres in height. The leaves are shiny and green and the branches have thorns. The plant of the conkerberry bares some medicinal properties. The orange inner bark from the roots can be soaked in water and the resultant solutions can be used as a medicinal wash. This is particularly favoured for skin and eye conditions. The thorns on the shrub can be used to cure warts.
The plant has green berries which turn black or dark purple when ripe. The ripe berry is very sweet and contains 2 small seeds. The berries can be eaten straight off the tree, or collected as dry fallen berries and reconstituted in water. They are only available on the bush for a short period of a few weeks. The Conkerberry fruit is known as 'anwekety' in the local language. They are only edible when fully ripe; and have a sweet flavour, but the milky sap of this plant and the unripe fruit is poisonous. Anwekety are a popular bush tucker food for Central Australian aboriginals.
In the Dreaming story, the bush plum seeds were blown all over the ancestral lands by the winds and they bore fruit on Utopia lands. The first Anwekety then grew, bore fruit and dropped more seeds and became part of the food of the Anmatyerre people.
The story of the anwekety features in many works of Aboriginal art from this area. Some use the painting techniques developed by master artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye to impart the many colours of the plant, seeds, flowers and fruit. Also, many artists use the method where they load the brush with many tones of colour as they work the dotting method across the canvas, often painting wet on wet, so the colours continue to blend into one another.
Artists who paint the Anwekety or Bush Plum dreaming include Kathleen Ngale, Polly Ngale, Angela Ngale, Elizabeth Mbitjana, Belinda Golder Kngwarreye, Gracie Morton Pwerle and Bessie Pitjara.
To view artists' work that we have of this dreaming story (click on the links below)