Born in central Australia approximately 1954 to well known artist Minnie Pwerle, Mbitjana became a well known
artist in her own right in the early 2000’s. She is married to another well known artist, Paddy Club. Her
country is Atnwengerrp and her language is Anmatyerre and Alyawarr.
Following her mother in her rhythmic linear style this work depicts Awelye, related to bush melon. Once very
abundant and fruiting in the summer it is now very hard to find. Betty and the other women used to collect this fruit and scrape out the small black seeds. They would then eat the fruit immediately or cut it into pieces and skewer them on a piece of wood and dry them to be eaten in the times when bush tucker was scarce.
Awelye are the designs applied to a woman’s body as part of their ceremonies. The Awelye (ceremony) 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 food it provides.
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, applied with a flat padded stick or with the fingers in raw
linear and curved lines. 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.