12 March - 27 April 2021
Jilamara Arts & Crafts is based at Milikapiti on Melville Island, as part of the Tiwi Islands. Established in 1989, the art centre originally focused on hand screenprinted textiles. Painting, carving and printmaking quickly evolved as part of the art practice, all strongly connected to the traditional cultural skills associated with island ceremonial life. These include the carving of tutini poles and body painting for the Pukumani and Kulama ceremonies.
Pattern, or Jilamara, is a vital part of life on the Tiwi Islands, seen in the performance yirrinkiripwoja, body painting, and the Pukumani, or mortuary ceremony. In these events the Creation stories of Tiwi people are enacted and integrated into everyday life.
The artistic output of the Jilamara art centre is strongly influenced by all these traditional practices and ceremonies. The patterns remain the collective cultural inheritance for all Tiwi artists, who continue to celebrate the traditions through their own unique impressions of culture.
Two influential artists from Jilamara Arts, Kitty Kantilla, 1928-2003 and Freda Warlapinni, 1928-2003, were major contributors to the recognition gained by the art centre for carefully wrought paintings in ochre that exemplified Tiwi culture. The National Gallery of Victoria presented the exhibition ‘Our Designs on Bark’ in 1991, highlighting the distinctive culture of Tiwi art. The word Tiwi means ‘We the people’ and has come to be used to name the people of the Tiwi Islands since first contact.