Honey Ants

Honey ants are a source of bush tucker found in Central Australia. The working ants gather honeydew and nectar and feed it to other workers who become nectar storage vessels. These bloated, helpless ants live in underground galleries, one or two metres deep.

The honey ants regurgitate some of their nectar to feed other workers, when solicited. Aboriginal women dig for the honey ants and relish the very sweet nectar by holding the head section and biting on the grape-sized abdomen. When hunting for honey ants care is taken not to kill or hurt them (or not get bitten either!) so that they can go on and collect more honey. The sac on the back of the honey ant is pure natural honey. 

Story of the Travelling Honey Ants Dreaming

The crucial theme of the Papunya landscape region is the Honey Ant Dreaming. This is a central legend of the Papunya communities and united all the traditional groups of people at the settlement.


To understand one’s connection to country and their stories you have to look at the family kinship system, which is like a family tree, and understand the different traditional groups of their belonging to a particular part of the country around Papunya.


The honey ant dreaming carries songs and stories relevant to a particular traditional group that connects them to country. The dreamtime stories travel where it starts and ends with a particular traditional group. 


Emrhan’s connection to the honey ant dreaming derives from Old Bert (Parta) Nganangana Tjakamarra who was from the Luritja tribe in the Western Desert. Old Bert was the brother of Emrhan’s great-grandmother, Brenda.


Old Bert and his brother, Old Mick Walankari Tjakamarra, took on the honey ant dreaming and totem after it travelled from another traditional group’s site belonging to the Lynch family. The dreaming travelled through the majestic country of the Western Desert before continuing it's journey from the east to the west when it then arrived in Papunya. From here Old Bert and Old Mick both held custodianship of the honey ant dreaming and it's story, song and dance.


When the honey ant dreaming arrived in Papunya the honey ant dreaming and stories become sacred. Old Bert had given permission for his family to share the story of the honey ant dreaming, though there are only certain people who can paint the traditional sacred story of the honey ants.

Old Bert and Old Mick were a couple of the first painters who worked on the original Tjala Tjukurrpa (Honey Ant Dreaming) mural at Papunya, around the early 1970's. Old Mick had a great love of painting, which can be viewed in National Art Museums in Canberra, while Old Bert rarely if ever painted. 


At a very young age Emrhan watched his grandmother, Mary Abbott, and his mother, Maureen Abbott, as they painted and shared stories of the honey ant dreaming.


Emrhan’s honey ants paintings are mixed with modern-contemporary styles which incorporates traditional styles he learned from his family at a young age.

©2018 by Mukulri Art




We acknowledge The First Nations Peoples of Australia as the traditional custodians of the land in which we live and work