Esmae Bowen (nee Ford) was born in Hopevale, 1956. She is a historical member of the Hopevale community, meaning that more recent history has relocated her from her ancestral region. She is a descendent of the Stolen Generation. Her father was taken from Laura in Cape York to the Cape Edward Mission. Her mother is from Woorabinda in the Rockhampton area where her parents met. They later returned to Cape York and settled in Hopevale. Her clan is Gugu Thaypan.
She has fostered two children and now has five grandchildren.
Esmae still doesn’t think of herself as an artist but she likes to be creative. She started working at the Hopevale Community Arts & Cultural Centre collecting the materials for the Gamba Gamba arts group (senior women). Esmae learnt to gather the natural materials and make traditional dyes from her elders growing up. At the centre, she learnt to apply the technique to hold the colour and to work with paints and textiles.
She is inspired by the forms and colours she sees in the environment and her love of plants.“When you see plants and you’re so down and out the beauty of that plant can lighten your day. A flower can put a smile on my face for the whole day.” She often paints baby lady apples (also called bush apples) at the time just before the flower grows into fruit. Lady apples only fruit in the early part of the wet season. For Esmae, they remind her of Christmas’ spent at the beach in her childhood.
Esmae first exhibited at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2019, with nine works selected for the exhibition.