Minnie Pwerle was born around 1910 in the Utopia region.
As one of 6 six children she enjoyed a colourful childhood,
later becoming the mother of 7 children of her own; Minnie
was always a well-loved member of a large family. Her
country is known as Atnwengerrp and her languages
Anmatyerre and Alyawarr.
Minnie’s career as an artist began through Aboriginal
ceremony and ritual. Her craft instigated by her
appointment as a body painter during Women’s
ceremonies. Body paint designs are worn to represent
Dreamings and various symbols specific to particular
rituals. Usually the upper body is covered in animal fat and
intricate designs painted on the chest, back and arms with
paints made from ochre’s.
It was not until 1999 at approximately 80 + years of age,
that Minnie began painting on canvas. Her first series of
works painted at the Utopia Communities workshops were
linear paintings, expressing a bold, free-flowing, enigmatic
style that quickly drew the interest of critics and art lovers
alike. The artists primary Dreamings include “AwelyeAtnwengerrp” (Women’s Dreaming), “Bush Melon”, and
“Bush Melon Seed”.
The Bush Melon itself once bountiful in supply has slowly
diminished over time. The fruit could be eaten immediately
or dried and stored for later use. A plant specific to the
Atnwengerrp region, Minnie’s Dreamings tell the story of a
treasured delicacy that sustained her people for long
periods of time. Linear designs of circles, curves and
breast designs depict the “Bush Melon”, while “Bush Melon
Seed” is represented by large and small patches of colour
strewn across the canvas. Lines of various width and
colour represent the body paint designs worn by the
women during ceremony or “Women’s Dreaming”.
Minnie’s more recent works have drawn comparisons to
Emily Knwarreye’s “Wild Yam Stories” painted in the mid
1990’s. Eclectic in nature, her work seems to combine
modernism, contemporary theory, impressionism and
Aboriginality while also expressing a story of her own
sacred Dreamings. Her combination of historical visual styles
and spiritual content promote a sense of unity amongst two
vary different spheres of influence.
In 2003 the reputable Australian Art Collector listed Minnie as
one of Australia’s Top 50 most Collectable Artists. She is
regarded as one of Utopia’s foremost artists with her
paintings in continual demand from both galleries and the
Minnie has exhibited her works extensively throughout
Australia and the world with great success. Exhibitions
include, 2000 AMP Building, Sydney; 2001 San Anselmo
Gallery, Marin Country, California; 2001 Dreamtime Gallery,
Santa Fe, USA; 2002 Gallery New York City, USA; 2002 Knut
Grothe Galeri, Charlottenlund, Copenhagen, Denmark; 2002
Heart and Soul Gallery, Nashville, USA; 2002 Urban
Wineworks Gallery, Portland, USA; 2003 Glen Eira City
Council Gallery, Melbourne.
Minnie’s paintings are held in the AMP Collection and the
Hank Ebes Collection , Melbourne.
As the mother of Barbara Weir, also a well know
Aboriginal artist, it is clear that Minnie has successfully past
on her talent. Her contributions to the Aboriginal art
movement have been invaluable, as a respected elder of her
community her work offers insight in to the spiritual world of
the Australian Aborigine, whilst providing visual art lovers with
a striking, and highly unique collection of works to enjoy.
Minnie passed away in March, 2006, aged in her 90’s of old
age. Her funeral was attended by many Aboriginal and wider
community Leaders, as a mark of respect for one of
Aboriginal Arts more colourful characters. She leaves behind
a rich catalogue of recent works that will continue to entertain
and enrich the lives of those lucky enough to possess them
for years to come. She will be sadly missed by the Aboriginal
Art Industry and the community at large.