Few art forms are as distinctive as Awelye. This particular method is a favourite of the Aboriginal women who live in the Utopia region. They practise it as a way of paying respect to their homeland while displaying their duty to other members of the tribe. In fact, indigenous women have taken part in Aboriginal body painting activities for thousands of years. As such, many experts believe that Awelye body art is one of the oldest living art forms. Various contemporary Aboriginal artists have transferred the notion of Aboriginal body paint to canvas, making it available to collectors and galleries alike.


Paint and ceremonies


Awelye also refers to ceremonies and may be unique to women in these Aboriginal tribes. The ceremonies help connect the indigenous people to the land and celebrate all it gives in terms of sustenance. In addition, the concept of Awelye pays respect to ancestral spirits and brings each community closer together.Each Awelye ceremony begins as the women paint each other's bodies. The designs may be particular to each family or "skin" and relate to their favourite Dreamings. The designs often depict plants, animals, places and laws.


How the process unfolds


To prepare for the ceremony, the artists will use various painting products, including ash, charcoal and ochre. It can take some time to apply the designs to each woman's body, and as the work progresses, the women will sing songs from the Dreaming era, while others may perform dances known as Awelye cycles.Before the body is ready to receive the ceremonial Awelye body paint, the participants must initially coat it with animal fat or vegetable oil. Then, the other lady will sketch the appropriate Aboriginal body painting symbols before painting the upper body with ground powders. Some people use a flat stick to apply these art designs, while others simply use their hands. When they use vegetable oil, it is easier to apply the powder and remove it at the end of the ceremony.


For women only


Awelye is strictly for women, and they will never perform these elaborate rituals in front of any man. The women need to be quite fit to endure this entire ceremony as well, as the dance cycles can be rather elaborate and long-lasting. Some women need to undergo rigorous training to ensure that they can last their performance.


The power of Awelye


To an outsider, Awelye might appear to be very complex. In fact, it blends many different activities, gestures and objects into an elaborate performance. It helps the women to express their affinity with each other and to share knowledge, custom and traditional Dreamtime stories along the way. In doing so, they pass these teachings from one generation to another. The communities feel Awelye is vital for the community's long-term health and invite young people to participate as soon as possible.


Aboriginal body painting for the ages


Meanwhile, older women will continue to participate in the ceremonies to ensure they can remain in close connection with the land. They may not perform a rigorous dance cycle like the youngest, but they may still dance in the dirt holding a ceremonial stick. They believe that the spirit of the land will flow through the sticks to give the older woman energy. The others believe that she is superior because she can communicate with the spirit of the land in this way.Further, the older adult can perform some of these rites whenever younger girls and children fall ill. Those that are ill are encouraged to follow along with the singing so they can get better soon.

How to understand the Dreamings


Aboriginal Dreaming can sometimes be challenging to grasp for those from other cultures. But to the Australian Aboriginal people, Dreaming (or Dreamtime) speaks to the time of their ancestors. This is when the spirits roamed the land and created life as they did so whilst giving their name to various geographic formations.The Aboriginals connect to the era through their Dreamings and believe that the ancestors' spirit lives on through each celebration. These native people ensure a continual relationship with the past through stories, ceremonies, songs and artistic expression.In many Aboriginal Dreaming stories, the ancestral spirits came down to Earth in human form to create the topography, mountains, rivers, rocks, plants and animals. They also made the Aboriginal people and taught them the importance of the land and other living beings. Once they had finished their work, the spirits morphed into trees, rocks and other features or are said to inhabit watering holes or be visible in the stars. The Aboriginal people give special meaning to all these locations or features where they believe ancestral spirits are present.


A community of expression


To ensure that their communities thrive and prosper, Aboriginals teach young people about the Dreamings from an early age. They do so through song and dance routines, storytelling, ceremonial body painting (such as Aboriginal body painting for women) and traditional artworks. This is why they have such a rich cultural heritage, even though they may have no formal language as such.It’s also worth noting that Dreamtime is timeless. It celebrates Creation as it was in the past and appears in the current day. As such, Dreaming is always in the here and now and is never a long way away. It's the very environment in which the Aboriginals live now and did so in the past. Perhaps this is why their ceremonies always champion the significance of an individual place and why there are so many sacred locations in Aboriginal lands.


Aboriginal artwork at Wentworth Galleries


If you'd like to see what Aboriginal artwork looks like on canvas, schedule a visit to the Wentworth Galleries. We have an extensive collection of this artwork here as we celebrate the life and paintings of Aboriginal artists.Some of Australia's best artists display their work at our Sydney art gallery. If you'd like to buy one of these pieces or want to rent a painting for a limited time, get in touch with one of our Wentworth Galleries specialists.Some people look at art as an investment and may want to purchase a piece of Aboriginal Dreaming artworkwith this in mind. If so, reach out to us for advice. Likewise, we are ready to help if you have some artwork of your own and would like an independent valuation.


Pick up your Aboriginal artwork today


There is no better and more affordable way to beautify or enrich your space than with a lovely piece of Aboriginal art. If you are interested in this type of artwork, we can offer you a free office or home trial and even a two-year exchange guarantee for your peace of mind. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have questions — we will be delighted to help.

Wentworth Galleries PTY LIMITED

ABN 47091912739  |  Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2023, Wentworth Galleries, Sydney

Join Artmail

1 Martin Place

Sydney, NSW

Australia 2000


61 Phillip ST

Sydney, NSW

Australia 2000


Copyright © 2024, Art Gallery Websites by ArtCloudCopyright © 2024, Art Gallery Websites by ArtCloud