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National Museum of Australia

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Object information

Physical description

A painted timber carving of a human figure, "Awelye". The figure, featuring a round base, bears red and white vertical stripes on the chest, and a wide black and narrow red band on each leg. The figure has painted eyes and grey markings around the eyes and mouth, and has painted red hair and brown shorts.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of three sculptures made during the 1990s by artists at the Ngkawenyerre camp in the Utopia homelands, NT. They are in good condition, similar in size and made of synthetic polymer paint on wood. One figure, by an unknown artist, is possibly a youth painted up before becoming a man, [65.0 x 15.0 x 11.0 cm]. The other two figures, one by Ada Panunga [45.5 x 15.0 x 15.0 cm] and the other by Lucky Kngwarreye Morton [67.0 x 15.5 x 16.0 cm] are decorated with 'Awelye', significant ceremonial designs the women paint on their breasts. The associated ceremonies are an integral part of community life and the 'Awelye' is performed by women to ensure the fertility of the land, health, happiness and social harmony.

The people of Utopia have a strong tradition of carving and their work is well represented in Australian museum collections. The craft is practised by both men and women. These three sculptures, collected in the1990s, are seminal works representing a significant departure from traditional forms and methods of carving. They are significant as examples illustrating the introduction of modern tools and use of acrylic paint to decorate sculptures. The sculptures also provide a new vehicle for the recording of traditional ceremonial designs such as 'Awelye'.

Object information

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