Jeannie Mills Pwerle is an Anmatyerra woman, born in 1965 and lives on Urapuntja (Utopia), Northern Territory. She lives with hunter-gather traditions at her homelands of Atnwengerrp and Irrwelty. Mills’s paintings combine important inherited stories of this region and a contemporary interpretation of the desert yam or bush potato called Anaty (pronounced ‘ungkiy-yah’, Ipomoea Costata).
Mills is the daughter of Dolly Mills Petyarre and niece of Gloria Petyarre and the full sister of the late Greeny Petyarre Purvis. Her mother, Dolly Mills began producing batik work in the late eighties with her relatives on Boundary bore Station in Utopia. Mills’s late aunt was well celebrated, Emily Kame Kngwarreye whose main Dreaming was the Anwerlarr (pencil yam), associated with her birthplace of Alhalke.
Mills’s paintings explore her father’s country of Irrwelty and this is the source of her inherited Anaty (Desert Yam or Bush Potato) Dreaming. In her paintings Mills represents the tuber of the yam, which the women dig from the soft sands around the river banks or in open country. The Anaty is a staple food for the Anmatjerra. The Yam plant grows approximately one metre high as a vine or shrub above ground with the yam tuber, or swollen root, growing underground. The yam shrub typically grows on spinifex sand plains and produces pink flowers after summer rains. Jeannie Mills Pwerle contemporary interpretation depicts the Anaty and its flower (brush work grids) and the tiny seeds (dot work).
Australian National Gallery, Canberra