Acrylic on canvas
150 x 202 cm
This work depicts Awelye, 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.
Aboriginal women have been applying body paint for thousands of years and awelye could claim to be one of the oldest living art forms in the world, still being practiced today.
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