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© John Martin Tipungwuti/Licenced by Viscopy, 2017

Pukumani Pole (tutini) by John Martin Tipungwuti

Date: 1995
2700 x 260 mm
Display Dimensions: 2730 mm
Medium: Ochres, carved ironwood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © John Martin Tipungwuti
Classification:Ceremonial artefact
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00019444
Place Manufactured:Melville Island

User Terms

    A tutini made by John Martin Tipungwuti. The tutini is used as part of the burial or Pukumani ceremony performed on the Tiwi Islands (Melville and Bathurst Islands). The pole is made from a single piece of carved ironwood and is painted with natural ochres in patterns unique to the Tiwi language group.
    This pole is part of a series of six poles and associated objects relating to the Pukumani ceremony that were commissioned by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

    ARTIST: John Martin Tipungwuti
    REGION: Bathurst and Melville Island
    AREA: Milikapiti
    SKIN: Punguluwnila (Stone)
    DANCE:T arrangigi (Buffalo)

    SignificanceThe Tiwi have three significant ceremonies that are performed on the islands.These are the Kulama (sacred yam ceremony), the Iliana (funeral ceremony) and the Pukamani (mortuary ceremony). The Pukamani ceremony has been practised since the first death of a human, Tjinani, and is held months after the burial or Iliana ceremony.
    HistoryJohn Martin is an active member of the arts centre along with his wife Brenda Tipungwuti. His mother is the elder Mary Magdalene Tipungwuti, and his older brother Pius Tipungwuti is also a respected carver. John Martin and Pius are the nephews of the highly acclaimed Tiwi carver Declan Apuatimi, their father Dermot Tipungwuti's half-brother.

    Burial rituals (Pukumani) are based on the teachings of ancestral spirits. The elaborately carved and painted poles (tutini) are placed around the grave of a Tiwi person.
    The poles are commissioned by the dead person's family along with new songs, dances and body paint designs. The works placate the spirit of the dead and ensure safe travel to the spirit world where it will dwell forever. Tunga (woven and painted bark baskets) are placed on top of poles at the end of the Pukumani funeral ceremony to signify the end of life. Each tutini is made from a single piece of carved bloodwood or ironwood that is intricately painted with natural ochres in abstract patterns unique to the Tiwi. The base is left bare as it is inserted into the ground.
    Early in the 20th century the Tiwi were moved into towns under the administration of non-Indigenous people and the Pukumani ceremony was banned. In 1976 the Tiwi regained control of their land under the Northern Territory Land Rights Act and this has led to a cultural revival of the Pukumani ceremony and some include Christian elements in the ritual.
    The Tiwi people have produced tutini for commercial purposes since early this century. The poles are for traditional uses but are adaptable to new approaches and ideas expressed by the carvers for the art market sector.
    The artists who created these poles for the Australian National Maritime Museum took a new direction in producing the poles. Through their arts centre, the artists consciously studied older pole carvings, design and colours from books that had not been at the centre before. The younger carvers were returning to the old ways. This was an interesting development for the Milikapiti community. Painters often looked towards old styles of painting to influence their work, but not carvers. This appreciation to return to the traditional styles bought a unique quality to the poles commissioned by the Museum.
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