Baptiste Apuatimi (1940–2013) was born at Pirlangimpi (Garden Point) on Melville Island, Northern Territory, around 1940 and she comes from a family of Tiwi painters, printmakers, ceremonial singers, dancers and sculptors. She was mentored by her late husband Declan Apuatimi, to whom she was promised from a young age.
Apuatimi took up painting after her husband’s 1985 and began working with Tiwi Design Aboriginal Corporation in 1997. In 2007 her work was selected for the inaugural National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia.
As an artist she developed a unique style based on creative interpretations of creation stories, body markings and designs used to decorate objects. Traditionally Tiwi people painted jilamara or triangle and square designs on their bodies with sacred ochres for ceremonies. These designs disguised their bodies from the evil spirits of the dead. Similar designs were carved or painted onto tutini, or pukumani poles but also became the signature design for her art.
Apuatimi’s work is innovative and striking and her complex designs resulted in considerable recognition in the art world as both a painter and a senior custodian of Tiwi culture.
Jean Baptiste Apuatimi is represented in the collections of the national art gallery of Australia, numerous state gallery collections, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Kelton Foundation, California, USA, the British Museum and many private collections. She sadly passed away in February 2013.