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Kitty Kantilla

Jilamara - 2000

natural earth pigments on paper
56.0 x 75.0 cm
Price Realised: $3,840.00

MP #374


Jilamara Arts, Melville Island, NT
Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery, NSW Cat. No KKP0050
Idris Murphy Collection, NSW

Paper Size: 56 x 75 cm

Framed Size: 74 x 94 cm 

Kitty Kantilla’s art, and indeed all Tiwi art, is informed by the ornate body painting 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, characterised 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.


The roots of Kitty'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 Tarpara while her son Jinani is left lying under a tree in the sun and 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.