Tiwi Design, Bathurst Island NT Cat No. MU11JBA241
Finalist in the 2011 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards, Darwin
Art Mob, Tas, Cat No. AM8562/12
Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, was just 14 years of age when she married her late husband, Declan Apuatimi. Declan was a renowned dancer, singer and the pre-eminent Tiwi artist of his time. During their life together they raised fourteen children and, as she watched him create poles for important ceremonies, he taught her how to mix ochres and paint.
She became a full time artist in her own right in 1997 and from the outset her beautiful and personal paintingss conformed to the twin conventions of Tiwi art – moving between the figurative depiction of ceremonial objects, and body paintings designs (Jilamara).
Many of her decorative body designs dated back to the time of the spirit ancestors. Amongst those that she inherited from Declan, were jirtaka (sawfish) and parlini jilamara (body paintings from the creation period). However, her own personal interpretation and adaptation of these saw her move away from tight formal horizontal and vertical lines to a much freer, looser composition. Her finest works were characterised by the prominence of negative space, loose composition, and the magnification of design elements, as seen in her sawfish imagery. Jean was a meticulous painter who took great care to keep her ochres pure. This ensured that they emanated the true power of this timeless Tiwi tradition.
“Jirtaka is lovely tucker. My husband used to get that fish and bring him home. After we eat that fish we get that bone and paint him up. First black, then Jilamara (body paint design. The first paintings my husband did was on that bone. I like to paint this because my husband taught me.”*
* Artist’s statement for NATSIA awardShare