top of page

Minnie Pwerle

DOB: c. 1920

BORN: Near Utopia
LANGUAGE GROUP: Alyawarre/Anmatyerre
COUNTRY: Atnwengerrp

Minnie Pwerle (also Minnie Purla or Minnie Motorcar Apwerl, c. 1920–18 March 2006)  was born near Utopia, 300kms north-east of Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Utopia was a cattle station that was returned to Indigenous ownership in the late 1970s. Minnie was one of the traditional owners of Utopia station recognised in the 1980 Indigenous land claim made over the property; her particular country was known as Atnwengerrp.


Pwerle (in the Anmatyerre language) or Apwerle (in Alyawarr) is a skin name, one of 16 used to denote the subsections or subgroups in the kinship system of central Australian Indigenous people. These names define kinship relationships that influence preferred marriage partners, and may be associated with particular totems. Although they may be used as terms of address, they are not surnames in the sense used by Europeans. Thus "Minnie" is the element of the artist's name that is specifically hers.


Minnie's style was spontaneous, and typified by "bold" and "vibrant" colour executed with great freedom. As with other contemporary artists of the central and western deserts, her paintings included depictions of stories or features for which she had responsibility within her family or clan, such as the Awelye Atnwengerrp Dreaming (or Women's Dreaming).


Minnie's paintings include two main design themes. The first is free-flowing and parallel lines in a pendulous outline, depicting the body painting designs used in women's ceremonies, or awelye. The second theme involves circular shapes, used to symbolise bush tomato, bush melon, and northern wild orange, among a number of forms of bushfood represented in her works. 


Minnie's art was quickly added to major public collections and was also included in a 2009 exhibition of Indigenous Australian painting at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Regarded as one of Australia's leading contemporary women artists, Minnie ranks alongside other notable Indigenous female painters Dorothy Napangardi, Gloria Petyarre and Kathleen Petyarre. One of a number of women, such as Emily Kngwarreye, who dominated central and western desert painting in the first decade of the 21st Century, Minnie is considered to be one of Australia's best-known Indigenous artists.

Minnie Motorcar Pwerle painting

Title: Awelye – Antwengerrp, Bush Melon and Bush Melon Seed

Artist: Minnie Pwerle

Acrylic on linen

Painted: 2006

Size: 150cm x 60cm approximately

Catalogue number: MP0633

Price: POA

Provenance: Mason Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Mason Gallery > Private Collection

Location: Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Please refer to our FAQs for more information about purchasing with confidence from The Indigenous Art Book.

bottom of page