Born: c. 1922
Language Group: Alyawarre
Country: Atnwengerrp, Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Linen
Subjects: Awelye (Women's Ceremonial Body Paint Designs), Anemangkerr (Small Melon), Akarley (Wild Orange)
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. 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 wellbeing and health of the community.
Minnie also painted the Dreamtime story of the Anemangkerr (Bush Melon) and also of the Akarley, which may be 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 land, approximately 200 kilometers north east of Alice Springs, in approximately 1922. 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 had earlier 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 numerously 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 fervor of colour.
Minnie passed away on 18th March 2006 at her home in Atnwengerrp. She is survived by her children, grand children, great grand children, and siblings Margie, Molly, Emily, Geyla, Lois, Ally and Louie.
AMP Collection, Melbourne
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra
Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica
Kreglinger Collection, Melbourne
Mbantua Gallery Permanent Collection, Alice Springs
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Thomas Vroom Collection, Amsterdam
|2002||Selected entrant in the 2002, 19th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award.|
|2002||BIG COUNTRY small worlds, Fire-works Gallery, Qld|
|2002||Awelye Atnwengerrp, Dacou Gallery, Adelaide|
|2003||Minnie Pwerl, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2004||Minnie Pwerl, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2004||Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne|
|2006||Minnie Pwerl, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2006||Memorial Exhibition, Gallery Savah, Sydney|
|2000||DACOU in association with AMP, an official sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, hosted an exhibition of mixed Utopia artists in the AMP building, Sydney|
|2000||Mother and Daughter, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2001||Group Exhibition, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2001||Painting Country, Tandanya, SA|
|2001||Out of Utopia, Chapman Gallery, Canberra|
|2001||Combined exhibition in San Anselmo, Marin County, California USA|
|2001||'Minnie Pwerle', Mary Pantjiti McLean- 'Tumaru Purlykumunu- small stories'- Japingka Gallery, Perth, Western Australia|
|2001||Painting Country, combined exhibition at Tandanya, Adelaide|
|2001||Combined exhibition at Dreamtime Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2001||Women Artists Of the Australian Desert, combined exhibition Gallery 202, Auckland, New Zealand|
|2002||Generations, Japingka Gallery, WA|
|2002||The Utopia Six, Flinders Lane Gallery, Vic|
|2002||United Mother and Daughter, Alison Kelly Gallery, Vic|
|2002||UTSA, New York City, USA|
|2002||Group Exhibition, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2002||Mixed Utopia exhibition at Knut Grothe Galeri, Charlottlenlund, Copenhagen|
|2002||Mixed Utopia exhibition at Galerie a Le Temps Du Reve, France|
|2002||Contemporary Aboriginal Art from the Utopia Region, combined Exhibition at BMGART, Adelaide, SA|
|2002||Minnie's Country, Dacou Gallery, Adelaide, SA|
|2002||Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland OR; Urban Wine Works, Portland OR; Mary's Woods, Portland OR; New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN|
|2003||My Grandmother and Me, World Vision, Walkabout Gallery, Sydney|
|2003||Light Over Utopia, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA|
|2003||Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville TN; 'The Cove Gallery', Portland OR; Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank, Portland OR; Mary's Woods, Portland OR; Art From The Dreamtime, Portland Art Museum, Portland OR|
|2003||Minnie Pwerle & Mitjili Napurrula, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA|
|2004||Diva's of the Desert, Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs, NT|
|2004||Black and White, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2004||Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Portland, Nashville, Knoxville, Hartford, Greenwich, New York and Philadelphia|
|2005||'Small Wonders', Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2005||Utopia Revealed, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA|
|2006||The Pwerle Sisters, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne|
|2007||Standing on Ceremony, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA|
|2007||Utopia in New York, Robert Steele Gallery, New York, USA|
|2007||Group Exhibition, Australian Embassy, Washington, USA|
|2007||Desert Diversity, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne, VIC|
|2007||Treasures of the Spirit, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA|
|2007||New Works from Utopia, Space Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, USA|
|2008||Atnwengerrp: Land of Dreaming, Minnie Pwerle carpet launch, Designer Rugs Showroom, Edgecliffe, NSW|
|2008||Emily and Her Legacy, Hillside Gallery, Tokyo with Coo-ee Art Sydney in conjunction with the opening of the landmark retrospective exhibition Utopia the Genius of Emily Kngwarreye at the National Art Centre, Tokyo, Japan|
The bold linear pattern of stripes and curves throughout Minnie's painting illustrates Awelye, women's ceremonial body paint design. After smearing their bodies with animal fat, the women trace these designs onto their breasts, arms and thighs, singing as each woman takes her turn to be 'painted-up'. Their songs relate to the dreaming stories of ancestral travel and other totemic plants, animals and natural forces. Awelye, woman's ceremony, demonstrates respect for the land and in performing these ceremonies they ensure well-being and happiness within their communities.
In this painting, Minnie also illustrates the Anemangkerr, a small globular fruit that she describes as being 'a little melon'. This fruit is high in Vitamin C and is favoured for its exceptional keeping qualities. Excess fruit is often threaded onto sticks, after removing the inedible black seeds. The fruit can then be dried and stored for a considerable period of time.
Minnie enjoys using many vivid colours in her paintings, however the traditional colours used during ceremony for her dreamtime stories are red and white. Her stories belong to her country, Atnwengerrp. Atnwengerrp lies in the heartland of Alyawarr country, approximately 200 kilometres to the northeast of Alice Springs, in Central Australia.