Language Group: Alyawarre
Country: Atnwengerrp, Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Linen, Batik on Silk and Cotton
Subjects: Awelye (Women's Ceremonial Body Paint Designs), Akarley (Northern Wild Orange), Country, Bush Foods
May began painting for Mbantua Gallery in 1996 along with her sisters Dorothy, Topsy, Mary, Mavis and Gypsy. These sisters are married into the Jones family of Utopia and therefore go by either the Lewis or the Jones surname.
May's paintings are commonly based on Awelye that is performed for the Akarley which is a bush orange that can be found throughout her country. Her paintings consist of refined dot work in various colours and patterns.
Mbantua Gallery Permanent Collection, Alice Springs
May paints the story of the northern wild orange (Capparis umbonata), known as Akarley in May's language. The small slender tree of this wild orange plant grows about 3½ m high with dark bark and weeping foliage. The wild orange hang down on long stalks, turning yellow or a red tint when ripe; most commonly during the month of February. Young fruit are often ripened in hot sand. The Akarley is generally favoured as a better fruit than others of this species by the Aboriginal people.May illustrates designs that represent elements of the wild orange plant and uses fine dot work to portray her country. There is an ancient Dreamtime story of the Akarley, belonging to her country, which May and other women of her country share with younger generations of women and girls. Akarley is an important fruit of her land and ceremonies are performed to ensure the health and well-being of this plant, both spiritually and physically.