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Thursday 2 July 2020

Indigenous art in the travel spotlight

The largest presentation of Tiwi art ever staged, TIWI, will be exhibited from November 13, 2020, to March 8, 2021, at The Ian Potter Centre: the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Tiwi, the original inhabitants of Melville and Bathurst Islands, are known for their art and cultural practices, which are distinct from those of mainland Aboriginal people. 

Located 80km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands are unique, in part due to their geographical position, but also language, customary ceremonies, material culture, and kinship system, all of which have a profound influence on Tiwi art.

“Retaining strong creative traditions, the Tiwi Islands remain a vital place for exclusive artistic practices that are deeply rooted in traditional storytelling and feature the hallmarks of good design known as jilamara,” said Tony Ellwood AM, director of the National Gallery of Victoria.

“The NGV is delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit so many works from the NGV Collection alongside those from public and private lenders, including historical and contemporary works by artists from the Tiwi Islands’ most significant cultural institutions: Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association, Munupi Arts & Crafts Association, Tiwi Design and Ngaruwanajirri.” 

TIWI will showcase works from 1911 to the present day and will consist of almost 300 works by over 70 artists. 

TIWI avoids a linear chronology, instead dividing into spaces that reveal different aspects of Tiwi art and culture. 

A major highlight of TIWI will be a display featuring the NGV’s extensive collection of pukumani tutini (poles), which will be installed to suggest a forest setting.
Occupying a space devoted to the theme of bereavement, these monumental ironwood sculptures – painted with Tiwi ochres – are customarily created for pukumani (mourning) ceremonies. 

The selection features tutini created between 1912 and 2019 and will include the works of master carvers Declan Apuatimi, Mani Luki, Tommy Mungatopi, Paddy Freddy Puruntatameri, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Leon Puruntatameri, Pius Tipungwuti and Mario Walarmerpui.

TIWI will also feature ochre paintings on bark, canvas and paper – now recognised as important forms of Tiwi contemporary art – created by senior artists including Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, Nancy Henry and Kutuwulumi Kitty Kantilla. 

Further information is available via the NGV website.

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