Awelye by Minnie Pwerle (1910-2006)

Minnie Pwerle, who passed away in March 2006 at Utopia, started painting in late 1999 when she was already a very old lady. Minnie’s country is Atnwengerrp (pronounced similarly to a-noong-rah-bah).

The dreamings Minnie painted included the bush tomato and the wild desert orange. The people of Utopia refer to the bush tomato as anemangkerr, and to the wild desert orange as akarley.  The fruits of both plants are represented on Minnie’s canvases by a circular shape.

Also common in her work is a pendulous shape painted with parallel lines. This shape represents the breast of a woman which has been painted for the performance of women’s business. In her life as a tribal elder, Minnie had been appointed a ceremonial body painter and she sought to preserve aspects of this important role when she came to do paintings on canvas.  

Minnie was one of six children, and had seven children of her own. Until several years before her death, she had visited Alice Springs only once. In the final years, however, Minnie travelled widely within Australia. She never went overseas.

Her first exhibition was in 2000 at Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne. She is now one of Australia’s collectable indigenous artists. Her works can be found in the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queensland Art Gallery.