Women’s Ceremony Art – Central Art in Australia


Awelve is the Anmatyerre word for women’s ceremonies. Awelye also refers specifically to the designs applied to a women’s body as part of a ceremony.

The Awelye is performed by Aboriginal women to recall their ancestors, to show respect for their country and to demonstrate their responsibility for the wellbeing of their community.

Since it reflects women’s role as the nurturer the Awelye makes connections with the fertility of the land and a celebration of the aboriginal food it provides. It is women’s business and is never done in the presence of men.

The Awelye ceremony begins with the women painting each others’ bodies in designs relating to a particular women’s Dreaming and in accordance with their skin name and tribal hierarchy. The Awelye designs represent a range of Dreamings including animals and plants, healing and law.

The designs are painted on the chest and shoulders using powders ground from

ochre, charcoal and ash. It is applied with a flat stick with padding or withfingers in raw linear and curved lines. This is a meditative and sensualexperience.

The act of decorating the body transforms the individual and changes their identity. During the painting which can take up to three hours, the women chant their Dreaming. The final part of the ceremony is when the women dance and chant.

Central Art has a wide collection of Awelye paintings from the women in Utopia including the prominent artist Ada Bird Petyarre. She was one of the first to paint the Awelye and her bold strong paintings remain iconic Awelye art.

Minnie Pwerle’s work combines the traditional Awelye and the bush melon seeds conveying her connection with her country and her Dreaming. The linear pattern represents the designs painted on the top half of a women’s body.

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“Central Art is a leading gallery specialising in art from the very heart of Australia – contemporary works by Aboriginal artists of the Central and Western Deserts. It uniquely combines a large private showroom in Alice Springs with a richly informative on-line gallery, so that viewers anywhere can enjoy this exceptional art and learn more about the Aboriginal artists, their traditional lands and culture. . . . “

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