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Painting by Utopia artist Mollie Pwerle


Mollie Pwerle (1919 - 2023) 

Anemangkerr (Bush Melon) Dreaming 

​30 x 30 cm. Acrylic on linen Canvas.



    Molly Pwerle’s country is Atnwengerrp and her language is Anmatyerre and Alyawarr. Born circa 1919 (no records exist), she has had little exposure to western culture and picked up a paintbrush for the first time in 2004.


    Many of Molly’s extended family are artists, including her famous sister the late Minnie Pwerle and niece Barbara Weir,


    Molly and her sisters know intimately every aspect of the bush melon, passed down to them in Dreamtime stories and songs by ancestors who conveyed where, when and how to collect the small green fruit, and the women’s ceremonies and body painting for it. Utopia women used to collect this fruit in the summer and scrape out the small black seeds. They would eat the fruit or cut it into pieces, skewering them onto a thin piece of wood to dry for the coming months when bush tucker was scarce. Sadly it is now difficult to find due to over-grazing.


    During Awelye ceremonies at Atnwengerrp, the Pwerle sisters pay homage to their Bush Melon Dreaming through singing, dancing and ‘painting up’ their bodies with ochres in distinctive linear patterns. When painting on canvas, Molly frequently uses acrylic colours resembling the ochre pigments the women collect for body painting: yellow, red, brown and creamy white, and black for the colour of her skin.


    Molly paints ‘Awelye Atnwengerrp’.


    Utopia has produced some of the most recognisable names in Aboriginal art and is notable for its strong tradition of discovering female artists. This continues today with a new generation of talented painters who are inspired by greats such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Gloria Petyarre, Kathleen Petyarre and Ada Bird who worked at Utopia.

    The legacy of these pioneering woman is a diversity of style and approach that welcomes hundreds of other artists from the Utopia clan groups.

    It is a region of approximately 5,000 sq km north-east of Alice Springs and is home to around 2,000 aboriginal people. The region largely lies on aboriginal owned land called Urapuntja, it is made up of several larger communities and some very small ones!

    Art is by far the largest source of employment in an area which lacks employment opportunities and skills. There are well over 250 professional artists in the region, most of them have never attended an art class!

    The creative movement in Utopia began with batik and the work they produced came to international attention and was exhibited around the world. When painting reached the communities in the late 1980’s, acrylic paint on canvas with its quick drying and no mess properties, soon overtook batik.

    This is a multi-generational art movement that has led Utopia's artists to become leaders in female aboriginal art.

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