The Pukumani ceremony is the culmination of ritual mourning for a deceased person. Several months after the burial, family commission in-laws of the deceased to carve and decorate elaborate tutini. These are then placed at the gravesite during a showy performance of song and dance, and tunga (bark bags) are placed upside down on top of the poles to signify the end of life. These sculpturally beautiful ‘artworks’ are left to the elements, returning to the bush from which they are made. Traditionally Tiwi use bloodwood for tutini, but cured ironwood is the preferred timber for commercial carvings thanks to its durability. Current practice of carving pukumani poles is an expression of the artist’s cultural heritage through contemporary art. They are created as an artistic form of expression to be viewed and appreciated by a broader public with the intention to maintain and share Tiwi cultural knowledge. Tutini carved with a pronged or forked apex represents the fight between Purukuparli and his brother Taparra the moon man. Diamond and curved shapes are a female embodiment, but each pole represents all and everything that is Tiwi culture.
© Jilamara Arts and Crafts