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Jeannie: An exhibition of paintings by Utopia artist Jeannie Mills Pwerle

November 05, 2021 2 min read

Jeannies Mills Pwerle leaning over a painting in progress, looking at the camera and smiling. She is holding a paintbrush and her blouse and blanket match the colours in the painting.

There used to be a little camp next to the Utopia health clinic, a few hours north of Alice Springs, called Jeannie's camp. A stack of abandoned cars blocked it from view of the road but it was there. It made sense for Jeannie to live close to the clinic because she is a ngangker - a bush doctor or healer.

She lives in Alice Springs now but it doesn't stop people travelling the distance to see her. At any hour. And she always has a supply of bush medicine made and ready.

Today she shows me some ilpengk ointment she has made and stored in an old milk powder tin. It looks like a yellowed balm and has a strong menthol smell.

Laid out in front of her is a painting she is working on, with several coloured paint pots that accidentally coordinate well with her blouse and blanket. She is, of course, an expert colourist.

Jeannie Mills' right arm stretches across a black canvas laying on the ground. She is holding a paint brush gracefully. Several paint pots are grouped on the dry canvas and half the painting has disjointed stripes in mostly blue tones painted on it.

Jeannie has been painting for years and has spent a lot of time with Ahalpere elder Lena Pwerle. She also remembers being around when Emily Kame Kngwarreye, her mother's aunt, was painting three decades ago.

Her graceful handling of a paintbrush makes her experience that much more evident, as she delicately dips a paint brush into three or four different coloured pots before gliding it across the black canvas creating a series of disjointed stripes.

These stripes, she says, are 'anaty' and the colours often remind her of its flowers.

Five desert yams lay on the ground and are dirtied with red dirt. A child's leg and hands can be seen on the top, indicating he is sitting cross legged with the yams.

Anaty is the Desert Yam; a root vegetable that can grow so large in the bush that it was considered a staple bush food. Its big, magenta coloured flowers help the people know where to dig.

Jeannie still loves to travel out to Utopia and collect anaty, and dine on food the bush provides. The anaty is also special to the people of Irrwelty, Jeannie's country, in northern Utopia where its Dreaming story belongs.

Large blue and turquoise painting by Jeannie Mills Pwerle that is featured in the exhibition. It measures 150cm x 90cm.

There are nine beautiful Desert Yam paintings by this ngangker, Jeannie Mills, in her 2021 solo exhibition 🤍

View exhibition paintings »

View paintings by Jeannie Mills Pwerle »


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