Judith Ryan Curator NGV talks to David about the upcoming exhibition. TIWI.


23 November 2020 – 8 March 2021 | The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia | Free

15 July 2020: “TIWI is important because it tells a story
from parlingarri (long time) and today. Tiwi culture is
unique. The dance, songs and art of the Tiwi people
connect us all in what it means to be Tiwi. Melbourne is a
long way from the Tiwi Islands, but I like to be able to
share our stories with others.” – Pedro Wonaeamirri
The National Gallery of Victoria has revealed that TIWI,
the largest presentation of Tiwi art ever staged, will be
exhibited from November 2020 to March 2021 at The Ian
Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
The Tiwi, the original inhabitants of Melville and Bathurst
Islands, are known for their extraordinary art and cultural
practices, distinct from those of mainland Aboriginal
people. Located 80 km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands
are unique, in part due to their geographical position, but also language, customary ceremonies, material culture, and
kinship system, all of which have a profound influence on Tiwi art.
“Retaining strong creative traditions, the Tiwi Islands remain a vital place for exclusive artistic practices that are deeply
rooted in traditional storytelling and feature the hallmarks of good design known as jilamara,” said Tony Ellwood AM,
Director, National Gallery of Victoria.
“The NGV is delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit so many works from the NGV Collection alongside those from
public and private lenders, including historical and contemporary works by artists from the Tiwi Islands’ most significant
cultural institutions: Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association, Munupi Arts & Crafts Association, Tiwi Design and
Ngaruwanajirri,” said Ellwood AM.
TIWI, showcasing works from 1911 to the present day, will consist of almost 300 works by over 70 artists. The exhibition
features 153 works rigorously selected from the NGV Collection and 130 loans of rare historical objects and
contemporary paintings from Australian lenders. TIWI marks the first time the majority of the NGV’s comprehensive Tiwi
collection is displayed, and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Tiwi Design art centre which began as a partnership
between Bede Tungutalum and Giovanni Tipungwuti.
TIWI avoids a linear chronology, instead divided into spaces that reveal different aspects of Tiwi art and culture. The two
principal cultural events for the Tiwi are the pukumani (mourning) and kulama (coming of age) ceremonies. Each Tiwi
person is encouraged to participate in customary visual and performative art as part of these ceremonies – including the
creation of tutini (poles), jilamara (body painting), kawakawayi (song) and yoyi (dance). Tiwi creativity is expressed
through random combinations of turtiyanginari (colour), patterns of marlipinyini (lines), kurluwukari (circles) and pwanga
A major highlight of TIWI will be a display featuring the NGV’s extensive collection of pukumani tutini (poles), which will be
installed to suggest a forest setting. Occupying a space devoted to the theme of bereavement, these monumental
ironwood sculptures – painted with Tiwi ochres – are customarily created for pukumani (mourning) ceremonies. The
selection features tutini created between 1912 and 2019 and will include the works of master carvers Declan Apuatimi,
Mani Luki, Tommy Mungatopi, Paddy Freddy Puruntatameri, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Leon Puruntatameri, Pius Tipungwuti
and Mario Walarmerpui.
TIWI will also feature ochre paintings on bark, canvas and paper – now recognised as important forms of Tiwi
contemporary art – created by senior artists including Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, Nancy Henry and Kutuwulumi Kitty Kantilla,
plus rising talents such as Johnathon World Peace Bush. The exhibition also includes exquisite, layered canvases
painted with a pwoja (comb) by young Tiwi leader Pedro Wonaeamirri and elder Cornelia Tipuamantumirri. Their subtle

abstract paintings will be exhibited alongside the bold canvases of contemporary artist Timothy Cook, who became the
first Tiwi artist to win a National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2012.
Additional highlights of TIWI will include a striking display of historical and contemporary tunga (bark baskets), which
are unique to the Tiwi; a significant loan from the South Australian Museum of twelve bark paintings and five tunga,
commissioned by Australian anthropologist Charles P. Mountford in 1954.
A richly illustrated publication, providing a scholarly, in-depth study of Tiwi art and culture, will be produced to accompany
the exhibition. Edited by the exhibition’s curator Judith Ryan AM, the publication features major essays by artists Pedro
Wonaeamirri and Jonathan Jones, plus contributions by leading curators and managers of Tiwi art centres.