Country: Irrultja, Central Desert / Utopia
Language Group: Alyawarre
Born circa 1922 at McDonnell Down Station (N.T.), Emily Pwerle was nonplussed over the ambiguity surrounding her year of birth, simply stating ‘I been here long time’. Though the Utopia community had been engaging in organised art practice since the 1970s it was not until 1994, when she was in her early 70s, that Emily Pwerle began painting with her 3 sisters Minnie (c 1910/1920), Molly (c 1920), Gaya (c 1925/1930) at a workshop initiated by her niece, Barbara Weir, Minnie’Pwerle’s daughter. The stories she painted primarily concerned Awelye (women’s body painting and ceremony) and important food sources ;Tomato (Anemangkerr) Wild Desert Orange (Atwakey) Munyeroo Seeds (Ntang Iylaw). Emily Pwerle produced compelling, colour-rich designs, showing her intimate knowledge of Awelye and the land. Her work often contains arcs representing the women’s body paint applied with ochres, white clay and ash to the chest, breasts and upper arms. These important Awelye body marks display the status of this senior custodian and in performing Awelye, connect her in song and dance to her Ancestor’s.