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Emily Pwerle

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Emily Pwerle was born around 1922 on Utopia Station, about 300km north east of Alice Springs. Emily comes from a family of great painters including her blood sister Minnie Pwerle and her nieces Barbara Weir and Betty Mbitjana.

Emily has essentially led a traditional lifestyle for the entirety of her life. Her great nephew's first recollection of Emily was in the mid 1970s when she was still living in the bush with her parents without any "whitefella" comforts.

Life began to change around 1977 or 1978 when Utopia station was handed back to its indigenous owners following lobbying done by Barbara Weir, Minnie's daughter and Emily's niece, and a group of others. Originally everybody was living in one community at 3 Bores, however, the council eventually came to the realisation that one large community was not working for the different sub-tribal groups that had historically lived apart. Simply put, the people were not getting along. As a result, the different tribal groups started to establish outstations at the bores nearer their own traditional lands. Typically, these outstations were located at the bore nearest their native lands. By doing so, the tradition of living in family groups had been re-established. It was in this way that Emily moved back to "Irrultja" outstation where she still lives today. Emily continues to live a traditional tribal life. She still goes hunting and gathering each day, the main food being collected being bush yams.

Emily started painting in 2004 and has developed a style similar to her sister Minnie's. Both were handed their stories by their mother as part of the shared tradition of "painting up" prior to women's ceremonies or awelye atnwengerrp. The icons Emily paints variously represent the women's bodies and breasts that traditional ochres are applied to and the symbols painted, such as dancing tracks, bush oranges and bush tomatoes.


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