The linear pattern in Myrtle’s painting represents Awelye (women’s ceremony and body paint designs) for the Arnkerrthe Dreamtime story. This story belongs to the people from Atnangkere and Alhalkere country in the Utopia region, northeast of Alice Springs.
The women smear their bodies with animal fat 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 and applied with a flat stick with soft padding. This stick is called a typale. 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 Waramugu country, carrying the ochre for body paint in the small sac on the back of its neck.
The Mountain Devil Lizard has the ability to camouflage itself by changing colours. The traditional colours used for ceremony are ochre red, yellow and white.
Colours in this piece: Yellow ochre, Red ochre and White.
Artist: Myrtle Petyarre
Skin name: Petyarre (also spelled Pitjara)
Language group: Anmatyerre
Area: Utopia Region, Central Australia
Born: c. 1930
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