Minnie Pwerle

Minnie Pwerle

Born sometime between 1910 and 1920 Minnie passed away on 18th March 2006 at her home in Atnwengerrp, Utopia. She is survived by her children, grand children, great grand children, and siblings Margie, Molly, Emily, Geyla, Lois, Ally and Louie.

Many of Minnie's paintings reflect possibly the oldest designs of art in the world; the body painting for women's ceremony - Awelye. These are linear designs that are painted onto the chest, breasts, arms and thighs. Powders ground from red ochre (clay) and ash are used, applied with a flat stick with soft padding. This stick is called a "typale". During the ceremony, Minnie and the women would sing the songs associated with their awelye, paint each other and dance. Awelye ceremonies are performed to demonstrate respect for the country and the total well-being and health of the community.

Minnie also painted the Dreamtime story of the Anemangkerr (Bush Melon) and also of the Akarley (Wild Orange), which are represented in her paintings by "a-lube-eh-ditch" loops.

Her works are very bold and free flowing and immediately capture the attention of art lovers. Having never been taught art by way of European methods, nor having visited museums and contemporary art galleries, Minnie was one of Australia's top female contemporary Indigenous artists. Her paintings are loved for being so modern in style and yet so traditional and raw in subject.

Minnie was born in Alyawarre country, approximately 200 kilometers north east of Alice Springs, in approximately 1920. Speaking very little of the English language, Minnie made a bold, swift and unexpected entry into the European world of Australia in 2000 through painting. Minnie's eldest daughter, Barbara Weir, born in 1945, was taken away at the age of 9 but they were both reunited in the late 1960's. For many years Minnie detached herself from Barbara. Sorry business had been done for her many years before and it was hard for Minnie to welcome a stranger claiming to be her daughter. Their lives were so different.

Minnie married an Aboriginal man by the name of Motorcar Jim, and had six children; Aileen, Betty, Raymond and Dora Mpetyane (two other daughters passed away and are not spoken of). But it was Barbara who encouraged Minnie to paint in the latter years of her life. Barbara, being an established artist herself, gave Minnie some canvas and paints while she waited for Barbara to finish painting at a workshop in Adelaide. Minnie painted what she has always painted - the body paint designs (awelye) that belonged to her country, Atnwengerrp. The traditional colours of this country are red ochre and white; however Minnie was excited by the vast amount of colours in front of her, and never looked back. When asked numerous times if Minnie enjoyed painting, Minnie’s family always replied for her with wholehearted conviction "absolutely". And very evident it was in her enthusiasm to paint and in her work; her freedom of brush stroke and fervour of colour.

Minnie’s work is highly sought by art collectors. Her works of art are fabulous with a good balance of tones and possess a multi-dimensional nature and sheer physical presence. They are powerful and are imbued with intricate details and subtle shades of colour.

Minnie was rated in the March 2003 issue of "Australian Art Collector"
magazine as one of the 50 most collectable artists in Australia.

Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne; AMP Collection Melbourne; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Darwin; Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra; Art Gallery of Western Australia Perth; National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia Canberra; Art Gallery of South Australia Adelaide; Artbank Sydney; Holmes a'Court Collection Perth; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Gallery of NSW, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia; Kelton Foundation, USA; Kreglinger Collection; Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands; corporate and private collections throughout the world.

Individual Exhibitions:
2004 Minnie Pwerle, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne.
2003 Minnie Pwerle Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art, Melbourne
2001 Women Artists of the Australian Desert Auckland, New Zealand
2000 Minnie Pwerle Sydney

Group Exhibitions:
2000, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT
2001, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT
2002, 'Generations', Japingka Gallery, WA
2002, 'The Utopia Six', Flinders Lane Gallery, Vic
2002, Chapman Gallery, ACT
2002, 'United - Mother and Daughter', Alison Kelly Gallery, Vic
2002, New York City, USA
2002, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT
2002, October, Heart and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN, USA
2002, October, Mary Woods, Portland, OR, USA
2002, October, Urban Wineworks, Portland, OR, USA
2002, October, Carriage House Gallery - 'In the Cove', Portland, OR, USA
2003, Feb, World Vision Walkabout Gallery, Sydney "My Grandmother and Me" 2
2003, March, Light Over Utopia, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA

Ryan, Judith. Colour Power - Aboriginal Art Post 1984, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2004.
Birnberg & Kreczmanski, Aboriginal Artists dictionary of biographies, JB Publishing, (C).




Awelye - Body Paint - 2001
Minnie Pwerle
  • $6,600.00
  • $3,800.00