LANGUAGE GROUP: Anmatyerre
COMMUNITY: Utopia, NT
Alvira Bird Mbitjana is an Anmatyerre woman from the Utopia community, north east of Alice Springs. Her Country is Ilkawerne and she is the daughter of artist Eileen Bird and the late Paddy Bird. Her grandmother was senior law woman and highly respected artist, Ada Bird Petyarre.
Alvira comes from one of Australia's most famous painting families which includes Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Minnie Pwerle and Kathleen Petyarre. She grew up during the transformative time when the Utopian women were experimenting and transferring traditional designs and knowledge from sand and body painting to batik, and then to canvas.
With the encouragement of her mother, father, grandmothers and aunties, Alvira learnt her painting skills from an early age as well as a deep and intimate knowledge of her Country and Women's Dreamings. The designs in her paintings represent Awelye (Women's Ceremony and Body Paint Designs) for bush plum (Ahakeye), rat-tail plant (Alpar) and mulga seed (Ntang Artety).
During Awelye, the women's body painting is a ritual of song and dance itself. It begins with the women painting each other's bodies in designs relating to a particular woman's Dreaming and in accordance with their skin name. Designs are painted on the upper breast, chest and arms using powders ground from ochre, charcoal and ash. The women sing during the body paint process to call the spirit Ancestors to the approaching ceremony.
In Alvira's paintings, women are symbolically depicted as 'U' shapes, and their ceremonial body paint designs are infused into the arc linear motifs in the corners of her paintings. The colours used in Alvira's paintings are very intentional. Black dots symbolize the bush plum when they are ripe and ready to be collected. White dots represent the seeds of the rat-tail plant, and yellow dots represent the mulga seed.
Alivra's exquisite artworks are exceptionally detailed and would infuse a calming ambience to any space.
Copyright Kate Owen Gallery, May 2023