Jean Baptiste Apuatimi (dec), Maria Josette Orsto, Raelene Kerinauia and Janice Murray are senior Tiwi artists of national repute. Each has forged a distinct style within the artistic traditions of their culture. This group of women have also been leaders in their art centres and prolific, consistent and innovative artists and printmakers over many years.
The art of mother and daughter duo Jean Baptiste Apuatimi (dec) and Maria Josette Orsto emanates from a deep knowledge of Tiwi culture and ceremonies. Their innovative and powerful designs are characterised by the constant exploration of new ways of expressing connections to their culture.
Raelene Kerinauia is a celebrated artist and finalist in the 2020 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin and won the Telstra Bark Painting Award in 2011. She is well-known for painting with the kayimwagakimi (ironwood comb).
Janice Murray is celebrated for her depictions of a vast array of Tiwi birds. Her works incorporate the body designs used in the Pukamani ceremony. The geometric patterns reference stories of mythological significance involving ancestors who were changed into animals or birds.
Tiwi art is unique; inspired by the distinct language, ceremonies and material culture of the Tiwi people. Tiwi art is often inspired by two significant ceremonial rituals, Pukumani (mourning ceremony) and Kulama (initiation or yam ceremony) which echo Tiwi cosmology and origin myths of the Tiwi.
Painted designs are based on patterns of lines and dots derived from ritual body paintings, however emphasis is also placed on innovation and individuality rather than associations with totemic groups or kinship systems. The result is powerful and individual imagery created within the bounds of natural pigments. Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, Maria Josette Orsto, Raelene Kerinauia and Janice Murray are extraordinary exponents of this convergence of freedom and constraint informed by the powerful heritage of Tiwi culture.
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