Born: c. 1922
Language/Country: Anmatyerre and Alyawarre/Atnwengerrp, NT.
Emily has had little exposure to western culture and only picked up a paintbrush for the first time in 2004. Emily is now 101 years old and still living together with her sisters at Irrultja, a tiny settlement at Utopia which is home to about 100 people.
Emily paints ‘Awelye Atnwengerrp’, depicting the symbols and elaborate designs which the women paint on their bodies during ceremonies and celebrations for their homelands. She also paints Anemangkerr (Bush Tomato), Akarley (Wild Orange) and Munyeroo, a cactus like Pigweed known in Alyawarre as Lyaw. Often Emily will combine several of her Dreamings into one painting.
Many members of Emily’s extended family are artists including her older sister, the late Minnie Pwerle and the next generation, award winning artists, Barbara Weir and Aileen and Betty Mpetyane, all Minnie’s daughters and Charmaine Pwerle, Minnie’s granddaughter (Barbara’s daughter). Later her sisters Galya and Molly both became artists as well.
Emily was encouraged to paint, along with her two sisters, by Barbara and in 2004 she organised their first painting workshop which was held at Irrultja station. This inaugural workshop was a success from the moment the Pwerle sisters picked up brushes, and the workshops continue roughly every six weeks. Just as Minnie had shown a radical departure from the paintings of her time, Emily, Molly and Galya all displayed the same tendencies to bold colours, abstracted iconography, and their own unique styles.
Minnie took a close and supportive role in the development of her younger sisters, enthusiastically joining their workshops and mentoring them. The sisters had an instant response to applying paint onto canvas, developing creative expressions of their ancient Dreamings passed down from generation to generation.
Emily is still enjoying her painting.