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Kitty Kantilla

Jilamarra - 1998

natural earth pigments on arches paper
78.0 x 96.0 cm
Price Realised: $5,290.00

MP #102


Jilamarra Arts, Melville Island, NT, 1998
Gabriella Roy, NSW Cat No. KK99LP423
Private Collection NSW
Private Collection SA


Aboriginal and Pacific Arts, 1999
Tineriba Art Gallery SA, Dec 2017

The roots of Kitty Kantilla’s art, regardless of medium, were always tied to the fundamental Tiwi creation story. Bima, the wife of Purukapali, makes love to her brother in law while her son Jinani, left lying under a tree in the sun, dies of exposure. Purukapali becomes enraged and after his wife is transformed into a night curlew he begins an elaborate mourning ceremony for his son. This was the first Pukumani (mortuary) ceremony, and tells how death first came to the Tiwi Islands.


Kitty Kantilla’s art, and indeed all Tiwi art, is informed by the ornate body paintings of the Pukumani ceremony. What makes the art of Kitty Kantilla and those of her generation so inherently important is that the meaning of these designs, characterized by abstract patterns made up of dots and lines, has been largely lost since the missionary era. She was amongst the very last who inherited these designs intact from her father.