Tiwi Mamirnikuwi Jilamara / Tiwi Women Painting — 28 January to 5 March 2016

Artists: Kaye Brown, Josephine Burak, Dymphna Kerinauia, Raelene Kerinauia, Nicola Miller Mungatopi, Janice Murray, Natalie Puantulura, Nina (Ludwina) Puruntatameri, Cornelia Tipuamantumirri and Susan Wanji Wanji

28 January to 5 March 2016

Opening: Friday 12 February, 6 to 7.30 pm

With artists Raelene Kerinauia, Nina Puruntatameri and Delores Tipuamantumirri (representing Cornelia Tipuamantumirri)

Presented by Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association and Munupi Arts, Melville Island

Concurrent with Being Tiwi at the MCA, Sydney. http://www.mca.com.au/exhibition/being-tiwi/

Associated events: Sydney East Art Walk: Saturday 6 February, 12 to 4 pm

Tiwi Mamirnikuwi Jilamara / Tiwi Women Painting  brings together three generations of artists committed to keeping their culture strong and to the artistic vibrancy of the Tiwi Islands. This exhibition considers their work from a perspective of a feminist genealogy tracing matriarchal and collegiate relationships between women.

Women Elders at Milikapiti say: 'We want to look after our strong culture. We are not white people. … Now it is our turn for the younger generation to take over.' (In Jennifer Isaacs, Tiwi: art, history, culture, 2012, p. 304.)

Women artists were vital to the launch of Munupi and Jilamara art centres located at Pirlangimpi and Milikapiti villages on Melville Island, the larger of the two Tiwi islands. One of the key authors was Raelene Kerinauia, who with Janice Murray kindly titled this exhibition.

While open to comparisons with Western abstract and minimalist painting styles, these paintings by ten artists resonate to the song and dance of ceremony. A former Jilamara arts advisor, James Bennett, calls this the 'theatrical aspect' of Tiwi art and says that the link between ceremonial body-painting as disguise and decoration is essential to understanding Tiwi aesthetics. (NGV, Art Bulletin, 1993.)

Despite their radically different personal styles, most of the artists adapt traditional body markings and use ‘back to basics’ natural ochres sourced from the cliffs along the coastlines, often applied using the pwoja (painting comb) that decorates dancers, to make contemporary art — a path pioneered by the eminent Kitty Kantilla. Collectively these significant designs are called ‘Jilamara’: some are ‘yoyi’ (dances); some are totemic (inherited from the artists' mothers). The rich ochre paint lifts Jilamara designs into new compositions and bold abstract images from free-flowing lines (Dymphna Kerinauia, Nina Puruntatameri, Cornelia Tipuamantumirri) to austere grids (Raelene Kerinauia, Nicola Miller Mungatopi, Natalie Puantulura, Susan Wanji Wanji). Also seen is a playful and poised synthesis (Josephine Burak, Janice Murray and Nina Puruntatameri). Their ages and experiences span from the Mission school days, Cornelia Tipuamantumirri (b. 1929), to Nicola Miller Mungatopi (b. 1982), to the land rights and native title movements and now the winding back with the Federal 'Intervention'.  Imagination and invention remain the key elements to retelling the classical stories mostly related to the significant Tiwi ceremonies: the 3-day Kulama (or yam initiation) which celebrates life and knowledge, and the funeral ritual Pukumani. Cornelia's spectacular paintings featured in the inaugural Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art alongside work of her daughter Dolores Tipuamantumirri at the Art Gallery of SA (curator Nici Cumpston, 2015.)

About Jilamara and Munupi Arts and Crafts Centres on Melville Island

The creation of the Aboriginal Arts Board in 1974 and the passage of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act in 1976 led to serious efforts to create viable art workshops. Tiwi Designs on Bathurst Island opened in 1970. In 1990 the Yikikini Women’s Centre (started in 1978) and Pirlangimpi Pottery (started in 1986) were incorporated as Munupi Arts and Crafts Association at Pirlangimpi (Garden Point) with women as the majority of the artists. The first artist/art advisers — Marie McMahon (who arrived in 1989 after six months teaching silk-screening at Bima Wear, at Nguiu on Bathurst Island and previously from Sydney University’s Tin Sheds Art Workshops) and ceramicist Susan Ostling — encouraged the existing diverse range of media (painting, tunga, tutini and other carving, weaving, printmaking and ceramics) and innovative approach including wild murals. Other artists followed, notably printmaker Annie Franklin who arrived in 1990, staying for four years and emphasising works on paper. Munupi’s first exhibition, Munupi Dreaming, was held in Darwin in 1990 (and then toured by Community Aid Abroad). It was followed in 1991 by a show in Sydney at the Aboriginal and Tribal Art Centre featuring five women artists (with Susan Wanji Wanji attending).  

Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association began as an adult education initiative, incorporated in 1988 as an Aboriginal arts cooperative with James Bennett as art coordinator. The word ‘jilamara’, referring to any/all painting or design for the body, signalled the interaction of tradition and the modern. The distinguished friends Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni led the charge with their ‘back to basics’ use of bush ochre and palette of soft colours. Their colleagues (notably Pedro Wonaemirri, Timothy Cook, Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri and Raelene Kerinauia) consolidated their inspired reworkings of jilamara and carving as has the next generation. In 2012 Jilamara launched a new gallery and renovations to house the Muluwurri Museum.

In 1992 two major Tiwi exhibitions consolidated the achievements of many hands: Our Country, Our Designs at the Australian Embassy in Paris and Ngingingawula Jilamara Kapi Purunguparri (Our Designs on Bark) at the National Gallery of Victoria. In 1990 Maria Josette Orsto to hold the first solo show by a Tiwi woman at Helen Maxwell’s Australian Girls Own Gallery (aGOG) in Canberra. In 1993 Nina Puruntatameri won the New Media award at the NATSIA Awards at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. (See Kathy Barnes, 1999 on the first decade.) These now long-standing community art centres are committed to strong Indigenous governance and leadership, against many threats. They continue to support artists and culture and educating the next generation.

Installation view. Photography Laura Moore

Installation view. Photography Laura Moore

Installation view. Photography Laura Moore

Installation view. Photography Laura Moore

Installation view. Photography Laura Moore

Installation view. Photography Laura Moore

Janice Murray, Whistling Duck, 2014, Ochre on linen, 150 x 75 cm.

Janice Murray, Whistling Duck, 2013. Ochre on linen, 150 x 75 cm.

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri, Winga (Tidal Movement / Waves), 2015 (Detail). Ochre on Linen, 120 x 80 cm.

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri, Winga, 2015 (Detail). Ochre on Linen, 120 x 80 cm.

Raelene Kerinauia (b, 1962), Sun Design, 2015 (Detail). Ochre on linen, 180 x 60 cm.

Dymphna Kerinauia, Jilamara Design, 2014, Ochre on linen, 91 x 58 cm.

Susan Wanji Wanji, Jilamara Design, 2014, Ochre on linen, 152 x 122 cm.

Susan Wanji Wanji, Jilamara Design, 2014, Ochre on linen, 120 x 80 cm.

Natalie Puantulura, Jilamara Design, 122 x 133 cm (15-139).

Natalie Puantulura, Jilamara Design, (Detail) 100 x 100 cm (15-192).

Josephine Burak, Kulama, 2015. Ochre on canvas, 90 x 70 cm.

Nichola Miller Mungatopi, Jilamara Design, 2015 (Detail). Ochre on bark, 117 x 63 cm.


Kaye Brown (b. 1954): A teacher who on retiring took up painting. Her country is Goose Creek, her skin group is Scaly Mullet and her dance is Shark. Her first group exhibitions were Tiwi Art Network at Darwin Festival in 2013 and 2015 and Counting Tidelines (Nan Giese Gallery, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, 2015), which featured seven Indigenous women artists from Darwin, Elcho Island, Melville Island and Tasmania whose work involves coastal collecting.

Josephine Burak (b. 1977): A painter, printmaker and weaver. Her mother’s country is Imalu and her father’s is Munupi. Her dreaming is Yirrikapayi (Crocodile). Her mother, Lydia Burak Tipakalippa, a senior artist at Munupi Arts, taught her to weave pandanus fibre into baskets and mats. Her woven objects featured in Woven Forms: Contemporary Basket Making in Australia, a touring exhibition (Object Gallery, Sydney, 2005). Her etchings were included in Ngini Ngawula Ngiramini Amititya Murakupu: Our Language and Our Country exhibited at Northern Editions, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, 2015.

Dymphna Kerinauia (b. 1960): A painter and printmaker who, as the niece of Kitty Kantilla, was influenced by watching her aunt. She was born at Paru, Melville Island. Her skin group is Rain and her dance is Shark. After raising her family, Dymphna began painting at Jilamara Arts in 2000. She has contributed to Jilamara Arts group shows with Tiwi Art Network at the Darwin Festival; with Raft Artspace in Darwin (2002, 2003 and 2004); with Indigenart and Seva Frangos Gallery in Perth and at Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne. International group shows include Living Tiwi: Tiwi Awuta Yimpanguwi, Museum fur Volkerkunde, Hamburg, Germany (2004). Her prints are in the folios Jilamara: New Etchings from Melville Island, Northern Editions (2006) and Wulikija Jilamara, Northern Editions (2009), exhibited at Charles Darwin University.

Raelene Kerinauia (b. 1962): Born on Bathurst Island and raised by her grandmother, her skin group is Yikwani (Sun) and her dance is Yirrikapayi (Crocodile). She contributed to the evolution of Yikikini Women’s Centre (started in 1978), an adult education and screen-printing workshop, into Jilamara Arts & Crafts. In 1989 she was one of the first women to take up painting. Raelene quickly developed a distinctive style using the traditional pwoja/comb to make kayimwagakini that is geometric and regular, and a pandanus frond brush. (Raelene’s late husband, carver James Tipiloura, carved her painting combs.) In 2011 her elegant painting won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for best bark painting in competition with established artists from Arnhem Land. Kerinauia’s winning geometric technique was described as 'a batik feel that could easily reflect an ancient Macassan influence' (art writer Jeremy Eccles) and 'a way of bringing out the totem's iridescence and its air of lurking strength' (art writer Nicholas Rothwell). Kerinauia was a finalist in the painting category, NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in 1995, 2007, and in 2011 won the NATSIAA Bark Painting Award.

Nicola Miller Mungatopi (b. 1982): The youngest artist in the show, she began painting with Jilamara when aged 19 and is already known for her strong bold lines. Her country is Milikapiti, her skin group is Sun and her dance is Yirrikipayi (Crocodile). Her great grandparents were Alie and Polly Miller Mungatopi, the distinguished elders who feature in a book by Sandra Le Brun Holmes, The Goddess and the Moon Man: The Sacred Art of the Tiwi Aborigines (1995), the dramatic story of how man became mortal and the the Pukamani ceremony.

Janice Murray (b. 1966): Painter and printmaker, born on Melville Island. Her country is Tinganu, her skin group Flying Fox and her dance is Turtle. A member of Jilamara Arts and Crafts, she is well known for printmaking and ochre paintings on paper, linen and bark. She has shown in about 50 exhibitions since 1995 including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award at the MAGNT Darwin, NT; Togart Contemporary Art Award (NT) and in collection shows at the National Gallery of Australia.

Natalie Puantulura (b. 1975): Her mother's country is Pirlangimpi and father's is Port Herd on Bathurst Island; her skin is March and her dance is Yirrikapayi (Crocodile). Natalie's large monochrome works with detailed patterning are influenced by her grandmother Jean Baptiste Apuatimi who explained the spiritual importance of her paintings. Her flare for experimentation is from her mother Maria Josette Orsto. She has been exhibiting for over a decade and has twice been a finalist in the NATSIAA Awards.

Nina (Ludwina) Puruntatameri (b. 1971): was taught to paint by her father, Romuald Puruntatameri; his ancestral country is Pukulupi, Melville Island and her mother’s is Wadeye (Port Keats). Her skin group is Japijapunga (March Fly) and her dance is Kirilima (Jungle Fowl). Her skill as a printmaker was recognised when her etching won the Wunduk Marika Memorial Award at NATSIAA in 1993. She has since been a finalist five times (1994, 1995, 2007, 2008 and 2013). She has had two solo shows of her bold paintings at Raft Artspace in Darwin (2005 and 2007). She has exhibited widely in Australia, including Nina Puruntatameri & Susan Wanji Wanji, Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney (2011), and internationally at Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Virginia, USA (2014); We Paint the Stories of our Culture, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway (2011); New Tracks, Old Land: Contemporary Prints from Aboriginal Australia, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, touring USA and Australia (1992–93). Munupi Arts Interview: http://www.indigitube.com.au/art/item/2853

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri (b. 1929):  A renowned traditional weaver and painter known for her fluid use of the kayimwagakimi / comb and an ochre palette of pinks and yellows that often portray the reflected lights on the surface of the Arafura Sea, waves breaking on the coastline or suspended fishing nets — impressions rather than events. Tipuamantumirri draws inspiration from her totem, the loggerhead turtle (jarrikalani), and the way it spends its life amongst the waves (winga). She has held solo shows at Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne and Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney. She featured in the inaugural Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art alongside work of her daughter Dolores Tipuamantumirri at the Art Gallery of SA (2015).

Susan Wanji Wanji (b. 1955): Painter, printmaker and weaver. Her style is a unique synthesis of Tiwi and Arnhem Land aesthetic traditions using natural ochres. Her dreaming is Mantupunga (Tuna fish). Her mother’s country is Liverpool River and her father’s is Flying Fox Creek in East Arnhem Land. She grew up at Maningrida, a community at the forefront of innovation and artistic endeavor, where she learnt to make bark paintings and weave. She started working at Munupi Arts in 1990 and in 1992 she attended the first major Tiwi art exhibition Our Country, Our Designs at the Australian Embassy in Paris. She was a finalist in the Togart Contemporary Art Award (NT) in 2008 and the Telstra Award at Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory in 2013.

Artist biographies: Courtesy of Jilamara and Munupi Arts and Crafts Centres, Alcaston Gallery, Nomad Gallery, Jennifer Isaacs Tiwi: art, history, culture, biographies section.



ANKAAA – http://www.ankaaa.org.au/

Jilamara Arts & Crafts – http://www.jilamara.com/

Munupi Arts and Crafts – http://munupiart.com/

Being Tiwi at the MCA – http://www.mca.com.au/exhibition/being-tiwi/

ANKAAA Arts Backbone Volume 14: Issue 2, December 2014 - Download pdf

Tiwi Art, 2015. Director Elaine Vedette. Photography and Editing Elaine Vedette. Narration Lucy Freyer. - https://vimeo.com/144677877



Kathy Barnes, Kiripapurajuwi: Skills of our Hands, 1999. (Overview of first decade of Jilamara and Munupi Arts Centres.)

James Bennett, ‘Narrative and decoration in Tiwi painting: Tiwi representations of the Purukuparli story’, Art Bulletin of Victoria no. 33, 1993.


Roger Butler & Brian Robinson, (eds), Islands in the Sun: Prints by Indigenous Artists of Australia and the Australasian Region, ANG/Thames and Hudson, 2001 and Printmaking – Jilamara etchings (2009) – http://www.printsandprintmaking.gov.au/exhibitions/7242/

Jennifer Isaacs, Tiwi: art, history, culture, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2012.

Nicholas Rothwell, ‘Drawing from a Deep Tiwi Well’ [on Raelene Kerinauia], The Australian, 2013.

Judith Ryan, ‘Obituary, Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwalumi Purrawarrumpatu) c.1928-2003’, Art and Australia Vol. 41, no. 3 (Autumn 2004), p.394.

Marielle Schwerin, Living Tiwi: Tiwi Awuta Yimpanguwu, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association, 2004.  (Overview of contemporary artists at Jilamara Art and Craft Association.)

Marielle Schwerin, ‘Kayimwagakimi: The painting of Raelene Kerinauia and Pedro Wonaeamirri’, Art Monthly Australia, March 2005 #177.

Bibliography of Tiwi Language and People

Selected bibliography of published materials held in the AIATSIS Library http://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/collections/language_bibs/tiwi_published.pdf

At the MCA, Sydney: Being Tiwi Exhibition and Talks

The artists participating in the exhibition Being Tiwi share their influences, culture and ideas for a special three-day program. 

Thur 11 Feb 2016, 6 to 7.30 pm, Panel Discussion: Experimenting with Print & Painting.

Fri 12 Feb 2016, 1 to 2 pm, Artist Talk: Pedro Wonaeamirri.

Sat 13 Feb 2016, 10.30 am to 12.30 pm: Print Making & Tunga workshop with Maria Josette Orsto. Booking required.

Sat 13 Feb 2016, 1 to 2 pm: Performance and guided tour with the artists. MCA Galleries, Level 1.