Betty Mbitjana


About the Artists:


Born circa 1954 in the artistically rich area of Utopia , Betty Mbitjana is the daughter of one of Australia's most renowned artists Minnie Pwerle and the sister of celebrated artist Barbara Weir. Now married to Paddy Club, Betty exudes a great passion for painting that has led her to become a talented and highly collectible artist in her own right. Her vivaciously coloured paintings rich in cultural significance have made a remarkable impact on the Aboriginal Art scene.

Betty's paintings depict the designs that the women would paint on their bodies, and the dancing tracks which are made in the sand during women's (awelye) ceremony. Through their awelye ceremonies, women pay homage to their ancestors, show respect for their country and dance out their collective maternal role within their community. A design based on these dancing tracks is painted on women's bodies before a ceremony is performed, and this same design can be seen today in Betty's works on canvas and in the works of her mother, sisters, and aunts. Ochre, charcoal and ash are all used to paint designs on the women's upper bodies, and Pwerle women paint their chests, breasts and upper arms for awelye in ochre, red and white. The designs they use have been passed down for many generations, and only the Pwerle or Kemarre owners can paint them.The rich colours and variety of patterns are distinguishing features of Betty's expressive artistic style.

Betty also paints the Bush Berry and Bush Plum. The berry is a form of bush tucker picked in times of scarcity, cut into pieces, skewered onto wood and dried to be eaten. Betty adopts a painting style similar to the late Minnie Pwerle to convey these dreamings. Betty's mother and other women used to collect these fruits, cut them up into pieces and skewer them on a piece of wood and dry them to be eaten in times when bush tucker was scarce.Betty's inclusion of her mothers dreaming in many of her artworks symbolises a deep respect for her culture and family. Betty adds to this meaning by expressing her mother's dreamings through her own distinctive style, attributing a modern touch to the paintings.

Betty Mbitjana is consistently growing in popularity, as she continues to attract attention with her energetic and colourful designs painted cleanly and evenly onto the canvas. Her artwork abounds in rich traditional meaning and significance, most notably decorative body designs passed down through generations of the Pwerle and Kemarre women exclusively. Body painting onto canvas was a style started by Minnie that Betty has adapted. The energy and exuberance Betty creates on the canvas is being admired both domestically and internationally. As a result Betty's artwork has become a valued entity in many private and public collections.