Tiwi Designs, N.T
Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Accompanied by a Tiwi Designs certificate
Jean Baptiste Apuatimi was the wife of the renowned Tiwi artist Declan Apuatimi. The Tiwi people live on Bathurst and Melville Islands, north of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. Tiwi culture is quite different to that of mainland tribes. Here, the main ceremonies are associated with fertility, increase and abundance (Kurlama – Yam ceremonies) and funeral rites (Pukumani ceremonies) during which the soul of the deceased makes its spirit journey back to live amongst the ancestors.
This painting was created when Jean herself was very old and at the end of her life. It depicts the Moon (Tapara) and the clan designs (Jillamara) associated with the story of Purukapali, the ancestor of all Tiwi People. Purukapali and Tarpara were brothers. Tapara made love to Purukapali’s wife Bima who left her son Jinani out under the hot sun. When Jinani passed away, death came to the Tiwi Islands for the first time. The two brothers fought and Tapara fled into the sky, where he became the moon.
This image is painted on Pukumani poles that are situated outside the ceremonial circle during funerary rites. The Tiwi carved totem-like poles out of bloodwood trees by slowly burning sections, which were then scraped away using shell knives. As this wood is extremely hard, it was not until metal axes were introduced that Tiwi carving became more refined. The poles are completed with elaborate paintings representing aspects of the deceased person’s creation story.Share