Maria Josette Orsto and Art From the Tiwi Islands

1 Maria Josette Orsto,Miyinga Tunga

We've just put up some impressive ochre paintings by Maria Josette Orsto. She's using some of the ceremonial designs from Tiwi Islands in her work. This artist has a strong family tradition of painting and design.

Maria has worked as an artist from a young age, helping out her father Declan Apuatimi with his painting and carving. These impressive paintings use various body paint designs from ceremony and other motifs from Tiwi culture.

The paintings are offset by a wonderful range of totemic carvings from Bathurst Island. These include carvings of owls, pelicans and other waterbirds, jabiru and crane. There are also carvings with a mythological twist, the first Tiwi family. They are the very first Tiwi ancestors from the narrative of Tiwi people's history.

2 Japingka - Tiwi Design Artists

The sculptor has encapsulated the whole group instead of individual figures. I think that's fantastic. Also, there are ceremonial poles, Tutini. These are the most iconic image we have of the Tiwi people. You'll see those fabulous totemic poles against the island beaches or out in the open landscape.

We also have some tungas in the exhibition. They're like open baskets made from two sections of bark and stitched together. They're freestanding as we see them in the exhibition, but they open at one end, with the sides stitched together with natural fiber. In the gallery, they're standing, much like 3D free-standing sculptures.

These tungas were amongst the first collectables that the wider art world could identify from Tiwi culture. They were the items that lead to the bark paintings after the 1950s.  They have quite a large surface and they're decorated with clan body painting designs by the artist. This, again, is the work of Maria Josette Orsto. There is a set of three of them. They're black and painted all in ochre, with the body design on both sides.

3 Maria Josette Orsto at work

Tungas are an interesting part of the art story. They represent the transition from painting on everyday and ceremonial objects to the creation of an aesthetic piece. These artworks don't actually have a traditional function but they do express the tradition and culture.

You can see this wonderful work by Tiwi Design artists of Bathurst Island showing in Gallery 1 from July 22.

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