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Artist BiographiesMinnie Pwerle - Artist of Utopia


Minnie Pwerle was born around 1922 in central Australia and died in 2006. Her country was Atnwengerrp and she spoke Anmatyerre and Alyawarr languages. Atnwengerrrp is a very small community on the bank of the Sandover River, 350 kilometres north east of Alice Springs.

She started painting her distinctive linear canvases in late 1999. In 2000 Minnie had her first solo exhibition in Melbourne. Since then, she exhibited regularly throughout Australia. Her rhythmic, linear works representing her country of Atnwengerrp immediately captured the attention of collectors, both nationally and internationally.

Minnie Pwerle's main Dreamings were Awelye-Atnwengerrp, Bush Medicine and Bush Melon Seed, all of which convey her connection with her country and the food it provides to the people.

Awelye-Atnwengerrp was depicted by a series of lines painted in different widths, patterns and colours. This pattern represents the designs painted on the top half of women's bodies during ceremonies in their country of Atnwengerrp.

Bush Melon was represented by meandering linear design, circles and breast motifs in different colours, creating very fluid and bold paintings. Bush Melon Seed paining include large and small patches of colour strewn across the canvas.

Both these Dreamings tell the story of the sweet bush tucker that comes from a very small bush and is only found in Atnwengerrp. Once very abundant, it is now hard to find. Minnie Pwerle and the other women used to collect this fruit and scrape out the small black seeds. They would then eat the fruit immediately or cut it into pieces and skewer them on a piece of wood and dry them to be eaten in the times when bush tucker was scarce.

Minnie had seven children, including Barbara Weir, who is a well-known Aboriginal artist. Minnie lived in Utopia at the Arlparra store with some of her children. She continued to paint up until her death in March 2006.

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