Emily Pwerle is an An/gmatyerre / Alyawarra woman born c.1920 on her fathers’ traditional country Atnwengerrp. Emily now lives in Irrultja, a tiny settlement of about 100 people situated in Utopia, a region of central Australia approx. 350 km north east of Alice Springs. She has had little exposure to western culture and only picked up a paintbrush for the first time in 2004.
Many members of Emily’s extended family are artists: Barbara Weir, Aileen and Betty Mpetyane, and her older sister, the late Minnie Pwerle. Emily, along with her sisters Gayla and Molly Pwerle were encouraged by all to paint the traditional stories of their father country. However, It wasn’t until late 2004 that Barbara Weir, Minnie Pwerle’s daughter, organised the first workshop for the sisters which was held at Irrultja station. This inaugural workshop heralded the start of an amazing painting experience. Just as Minnie showed the glorious freedom of expression, Emily, Molly and Galya followed suit. Another workshop was quickly arranged and so it continues.
The sisters had an instant free flowing response to applying paint onto canvas, developing expressions of their Dreamings that have been passed down from generation to generation. Emily paints “Awelye Atnwengerrp”, meaning women’s ceremony in her country. “Awelye- Atnwengerrp” is depicted by a series of lines and symbols, often criss-crossed patterns that are layered across the canvas creating a vibrant mass of colour. The patterns represent the designs painted on women’s bodies during bush tucker ceremonies in Atnwengerrp. Emily has developed her own contemporary style and is proving to be a prolific, energetic and talented artist, much like her late sister Minnie Pwerle.