Aboriginal body paint designs are perhaps the oldest living art form in the world, these are designs with prehistoric origins.
Awelye (or Awely for Alyawarr people) is the term used to describe a women’s ceremony to Anmatyerre and Alyawarr people. It can also be used to describe the ceremonial body painting which is a ritual of song and dance itself, or the ceremony as a whole.
To apply body paint before ceremony, women firstly smear their upper bodies with animal fat, or now often generic vegetable oil. Powders ground from ochres, charcoal and ash may be applied, usually with their fingers or a tyepale (a flat stick with soft padding). The oil helps to keep the powders in place and for easier removal of the ochre powder from the skin. Particular designs and colours would be used for certain reasons.
“The spirits of the country gave women’s ceremonies to the old woman. The woman sings, then she gives that ceremony to the others, to make it strong”. - Kathleen Petyarre
Women perform awelye to heal the sick, connect with their country and teach the younger women so they can carry on the traditions of the community.