Margaret Loy Pula has won this year’s Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, an award that commemorates the life and work of Frederick George Waterhouse, the first curator of the emerging South Australian Museum when it opened in January 1862, with her depiction of ˜Anatye or Bush Potato.

Waterhouse was born in London. He worked at the British Museum as a zoologist and became an avid collector of Australia’s fauna as a result of accompanying John McDouall Stuart across the Australian continent in 1861. He also collected insects, reptiles, birds, mammals and plants. He discovered 40 new species of fish off the South Australian coastline. He died on 7th September 1898 and his great, great grandson is Dr Andrew Thomas, Australia’s only Astronaut. A river in the Northern Territory and several natural history species commemorate the Waterhouse name.

Margaret Loy Pula is from the Utopia community in the Northern Territory and the daughter of another great Aboriginal artist, the SA-based Kathleen Petyarre.

“My story with bush potato, that’s my father’s Dreaming, that’s where I’m from,” she said of her entry. The women go out to collect them using digging sticks; then the potatoes are cooked in hot coals and are an important source of bush food for the Anmatyerre people. The potatoes are cooked in hot coals and are an important source of bush food for the Anmatyerre people.

Of the winning entry, the judges said: “The work makes you want to look into it and go on a journey with it. This work has a wonderful delicacy, almost fragility, but there’s a strength in the colours coming through. Spectacular detail leads to a work reminiscent of natural shapes, such as spider webs or leaf patterns, with strength coming from cells joined together.”

The 2012 Judges of the Waterhouse were Alisa Bunbury, Curator of Prints & Drawings at the National Gallery of Victoria; Ingrid Kellenbach, CEO, Adelaide Central School of Art; Jane Llewellyn, Visual Arts Writer, The Adelaide Review; Dr Jane Lomax-Smith, Chair, SA Museum Board; and Angela Valamanesh, local artist.

Twelve other works were awarded prizes in the categories for paintings, works on paper, sculpture & other objects and a youth section.

Margaret is the first Indigenous artist to win this award and was chosen from 98 finalists.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Waterhouse Art Prize and the award “highlights the artistic interpretations of our natural world by local, national and international artists.”

This year’s prize attracted a record 840 entries from Australia and overseas.

The 2012 Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize will be on show at the SA Museum until September 9. It will then tour to the National Archives of Australia in Canberra from September 21 to November 11.

Margaret is represented exclusively by Muk Muk Fine Art in Alice Springs.