Two of Us: Hetti and Thea Perkins

Art curator and author Hetti Perkins, 57, and her artist daughter Thea Anamara Perkins, 31, are women of Arrernte and Kalkadoon. Their relationship was close and loving, but it almost fell apart at the Louvre.

“Our relationship is one of total understanding,” Thea Anamara Perkins says of her mother, Hetti. “I can talk to her about anything because she knows she knows me better than I do in many ways.”Credit: Lisa Hazimihail

cap: When Thea was born, we called her “Ghost” because she was a spooky little baby – quiet, alert, observant and nocturnal. I still call her Spook. It also suits her looks well – her beautiful porcelain skin, dark hair and dark eyes.

Thea is a mix of chiaroscuro and dark contrast. She’s a calm, thoughtful kid, but if something turns her on, some creative stimulation, she has an almost instinctive reaction. She is still the same. Her older brother Tyson saw her step onto the stage and dive into the crowd during musical performances. I try to encourage the sharp, introspective side and help her manage the frenetic, creative side.

She took drawing very seriously from a young age – if the colors were wrong, she would be completely out of shape. She also writes beautifully and many of her paintings have words in them. She once drew a person laughing and explained what laughter is with a little improvisation. She loves people participating in her art, giving her feedback, because she puts so much energy into it. It’s great for me to be able to do that. Even now, she sends me photos of work in progress and asks for my opinion.

“Raising this almost otherworldly creature was fun for me as a parent. I had to figure out how best to support her in living a life unencumbered by tradition.

When Thea was 13, I took her on a business trip to Paris. She’s in her element, skipping the boulevard and looking like she belongs there. She insisted that we visit every art gallery and museum, and would get frustrated if I couldn’t keep her interested. In the Renaissance Hall of the Louvre, she gave me small lectures on artists until I had to sit down. “What reason do you have against the Renaissance?” she asked me, loudly. No one has ever asked me a question like this before.


Thea was very understanding. For years, she had no contact with her father, who has mental health issues and has been homeless. When we found him again when she was a teenager, she was eager to hang out with him and let him know that she accepted him without judgment.

Our family is always full of interesting, creative people, and Thea loves to have deep, intelligent conversations with them. Not everyone has that long attention span, especially teenage girls, so she struggled in school. Because she’s so compassionate, it’s hard when people don’t show the same sensitivity to her. She learned to manage her expectations.

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