Women's business by Emily Pwerle (c. 1922 - )

The depth and linear complexity of Emily Pwerle’s paintings have their origins in the separate dreaming symbols which the artist brings together on each of her canvases.

Emily often paints three dreamings at once, overlapping the symbols for each one until a web of lines and shapes is formed.

One of these dreamings is the dance tracks, which are described in the essay on Molly Pwerle.

The second concept which Emily describes in her paintings is awelye, an Anmatyerre word referring to women’s business and to ceremonies associated with ritual knowledge owned only by women. Through their awelye ceremonies, women pay homage to their ancestors, show respect for their country and dance out their collective maternal role within their community. Awelye is never performed in the presence of men.

Awelye also refers to the designs which the women paint on each other’s upper bodies as a crucial part of ceremonial occasions. Ochre, charcoal and ash are all used to paint these designs onto the skin. Pwerle women paint their chests, breasts and upper arms for awelye in ochre, red and white.

The designs they use have been passed down for many generations, and only the Pwerle or Kemarre owners can paint them. Each woman is permitted to bring her own style to the painting of the design.

The circular shape which appears in many of Emily’s canvases represents the bush tomato, which is an important staple food for the Anmatyerre people (see introduction).