Awelye (Women's Ceremony) for Alpar (Rat-Tail Plant) SP8501-Rosemary Bird Mpetyane

Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 30cm
Year Painted


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Awelye (Women's Ceremony) for Alpar (Rat-Tail Plant) SP8501-Rosemary Bird Mpetyane

In this painting Rosemary represents Awelye (Women's Ceremony) for Alpar (rat-tail goosefoot or green crumbweed plant). The women sing the songs associated with their Awelye as each woman takes her turn to be 'painted-up'.

The rat-tail goosefoot or green crumbweed plant (Dysphania kAlpari) is called Alpar in Rosemary's language. This small, erect herb is sticky to touch and scented heavily of citrus. Growing especially well in Mulga tree communities, it is found in abundance in Rosemary's home in the Utopia Region, north east of Alice Springs. It produces small clustered flowers that form long spikes, resembling that of a rat tail, as well as small black shiny seeds. These seeds are high in protein and low in fibre. Due to the sticky nature of this plant, the seeds are not shed as soon as they mature, making them available much later in the season than most other plants. In the olden days, the women would collect these seeds, sometimes soak them in water until swollen or cooked in hot coals, and then grind them into a powder that was used for making damper (bread).

This practice is not as habitual now due to ready made bread, however the story is continually taught to the younger ones and ceremonies are carried out to ensure its productivity. The scented leaves of Alpar were also collected, soaked in water and used as a medicinal wash. Alternatively they would be ground into a powder and mixed with animal fats for use as an ointment, making this plant a very important food and medicinal source.

Dot work represents the seeds of Alpar. Rosemary also depicts coolamons (carved wooden bowls) and digging sticks which are typical instruments used for collecting many bush foods.

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Located at
Mbantua Alice Gallery (MGA)