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Awelye for Arnkerrthe by Myrtle Petyarre

Size: 30cm x 30cm
Medium: Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

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For the people of Atnangkere, the Dreamtime tells the story of a small little lizard called Arnkerrthe that carries the sacred white, yellow and red ochres of their country in a small sack on the back of his neck.

This lizard danced the story in Atnangkere country, where the dancing tracks can still be seen today embedded in the rocks. He then carried the ochre powder north, making travelling paths as he went slowly along. 

The linear pattern in this painting represents women’s ceremony and body paint designs called Awelye. Like in this painting, Myrtle and the women of Atnangkere country use yellow ochre, red ochre and white in their body painting. 

The women will smear their bodies with animal fat or vegetable oil then trace these patterns onto their breasts, arms and thighs. Powders ground from red and yellow ochre (clays), charcoal and ash are used as body paint. The women sing as each woman takes her turn to be ‘painted-up’. Their songs relate to the ancestral travels of the Mountain Devil Lizard as it makes the long journey north to Waramungu country.

Colours in this piece: yellow ochre, red ochre and white.

Comes rolled in a tube.

Artist: Myrtle Petyarre
Skin name: Petyarre (also spelled Pitjara)
Language group: Anmatyerre
Country: Atnangkere
Area: Utopia Region, Central Australia
Born: c. 1930
Read Myrtle Petyarre's full bio »

    • Medium: Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    • Size of painting: 30cm x 30cm
    • Size of canvas border: Approx 6cm
    • Background colour: Black

    Catalogue number: 37002


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