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© Ian Cook/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2017

Tiwi design

Date: December 1994
1900 x 290 mm, 0.3 kg
Medium: Natural ochre, cotton duck
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Ian Cook
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00028907
Place Manufactured:Melville Island

User Terms

    A long and narrow canvas, similar to the Pukumani pole ('ortutini') in size and shape, painted by Tiwi artist Ian Cook Mungatopi. The painting is based on traditional Tiwi designs and is divided into two main sections. It is typical of much Milikapiti Tiwi art in the use of strong patterns.The decorative motif 'mulpinyini amintiya pwanga' (line and dots) forms a common basis for many of the abstract designs.

    SignificancePaintings such as this by Ian Cook Mungatopi show how traditional Tiwi designs, derived from the ceremonial body-painting and ornate decoration applied to funerary poles, have been executed in new mediums This ability to operate on a number of levels simultaneously without artistic compromise is a powerful indicator that Tiwi culture is alive and thriving.
    HistoryThese paintings relate to Pukumani mourning ceremony, which is performed to ensure the safe departure of the dead to their spirit home.It is the most important of the Tiwi ceremonies and according to mythology, Purukuparli was responsible for bringing death to the world. It was he who directed the Tiwi to perform their burial ceremonies, carve posts and to dance and sing.

    Originally, the practice of carving the extremely hard ironwood tutini was traditionally carried out by the Melville and Bathurst Island men. The painting of the tutini and the tunga bags was also the province of the men even though the women made the tunga (bark) bags.The elders were the artists as they were no longer able to hunt so had the time as well as the knowledge and skill to create the ceremonial objects.

    However, these days many younger women are painting the tradititional designs after being taught by their fathers.The designs used on the tutini use the same elements of abstract design that are found on the ceremonial spears, bags and body painting during the final rituals of the Pukumani ceremony.

    The designs are abstract and usually broad and bold. Each completed object has to be unique, not a copy of a previous design,therefore latitude is encouraged within Tiwi design.These patterns may be used in combination with images of ritual objects such as pamagini (armbands) and a rawuningkiri (ceremonial barbed spears).
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    Artist: Ian Cook

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