Jilamara at Collins Place Gallery: Past, present, future

Above: Pauletta Kerinauia preparing etching plates.
Right: Timothy Cook, Kulama, 2017, etching with screenprint, editor of 20, 39.5 x 49.5 cm.  Created by the artist during a bush workshop at Jilamara in collaboration with master printer Basil Hall in 2017. Editioned by Basil Hall and staff at Basil Hall Editions, Canberra. This project was supported by Arts NT.
Below: Pedro Wonaeamirri, Timothy Cook and Pauletta Kerinauia exploring the Tiwi Collection at MAGNT 

Ngini Parlingarri Amintiya Ningani (Past, Present, Future) is an exhibition by artists from the Tiwi Islands’ Jilamara Arts & Crafts Asscositaion. President Michelle Woody Minnapinni talks about the show. 


Q: Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association was established in 1989 – can you outline the history of the organisation, why it was established and what it does in the community?

MWM: Before Jilamara was incorporated in 1989 it was an Adult Education and Training Centre. Anne Marchment and Ian Foster were running the centre out of what is now the Muluwurri Museum on the grounds of the Art Centre.

Anne was training up people with skills in screenprinting, sewing and leather work.

Artists like Kitty Kantilla, Freda Warlapinni, Mary Magdalene Tipungwuti, Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri, Paddy McMillan and Pius Tipungwuti helped to turn it into an Art Centre.

The old ladies wanted to develop their skills in painting, weaving and screenprinting and the old men wanted a place for carving and painting. They wanted a place where they could teach the young people these skills. James Bennett became the manager when it turned into an Art Centre.

Jilamara is Milikapiti’s cultural centre. People from the community can come and engage in the activities at the Art Centre. Jilamara also looks after the Muluwurri Museum, which is Milikapiti’s Community Museum. Jilamara artists, elders and the Executive are the custodians and caretakers of the Museum. The Museum was named after a traditional owner of the country around Milikapiti. He was a senior and well-respected warrior of the Tiwi people around Milikapiti and had 40 wives.

Jilamara also teaches culture classes to children from the Milikapiti Primary School. The Museum is an important resource for teaching classes and for promoting Tiwi Culture to visitors.

In 2012 a new building was constructed. It is a gallery and office space which was named Kutuwulumi, which is Kitty Kantilla’s traditional Tiwi name.

There is a men’s shed named after Paddy Freddy who was a senior carver in the community. It is called Murrunungumirri after his Tiwi name.

We are currently renovating the women’s shed where the women paint so that we can begin textile screenprinting again.


Q: Earlier this year, with funding from Arts NT, Jilamara took a group of younger and older generation artists from Melville Island to Darwin to look at Tiwi art. What was the intention and the outcome of the trip?

MWM: With funding from Arts NT, eight artists travelled to Darwin in April to see the work of our ancestors, to get ideas for a print workshop that Basil Hall conducted at Jilamara later that month. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) has a lot of works that were from the collection of Sandra Le Brun Holmes. She spent a lot of time in Milikapiti in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s working with the Tiwi people to help them look after and promote their culture to the outside world.

Many of the barks and tutini poles that the artists looked at in the collection are illustrated in Sandra’s book The Goddess and the Moon Man. The younger artists had not seen these works in the flesh, so it was a very important to them to see the works of their ancestors and know they are carrying on the traditional Tiwi ways.

Some artists took ideas they garnered from the visit and made new prints in the workshop Basil Hall conducted and then these ideas started feeding into new paintings they made.

Q: What did the following collaboration with senior printer Basil Hall involve and what were the results?

MWM: Jilamara artists have been making prints since the early 1990s. Anne Virgo and Martin King from the Australian Print Workshop were the first printmakers to visit Jilamara and to conduct bush workshops. Anne organised for a printing press to be shipped to Melville Island so that future bush workshops could take place at the Art Centre. Many Jilamara artists such as Janice Murray, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Timothy Cook, Glen Farmer and Raelene Kerinauia have been involved in lots of workshops with APW since then. We have also worked with Northern Editions at Charles Darwin University, Franck Gohier from Red Hand Print, and now Basil Hall.

For some of the artists who did the workshop with Basil like myself, Barbara Puruntatameri, Dino Wilson, Tina Patlas and Pamela Brooks, it was our first time making prints.

The funding from Arts NT allowed for Basil to come up and work at Jilamara to make new prints. There were only supposed to be 12 artists to take part in the workshop. It ended up being 22 artists with 28 new prints made. When we have workshops at Jilamara everyone gets excited and wants to be involved. Some of the artists got inspired to make new paintings referencing the prints.

The prints have shown at Nomad Art Gallery in Darwin and at Tarnanthi Art Fair in Adelaide and now here in Melbourne at Collins Place Gallery.


Q: What are some of the themes that emerge in the artworks produced?

MWM: Some artists responded to the works of their ancestors in the MAGNT Collection. Pauletta Kerinauia’s work Japarra and Japalinga references an old bark by Deaf Tommy Mungatopi. His bark is about the celestial cycle of the moon and stars. Japarra and Japalinga are the Tiwi words for Moon and Stars.

Colleen Freddy made a work about her totem the Tjurukukuni (owl). Her work was also inspired by Agnes Carpenters work from the MAGNT collection.

My work titled Purukapali, Japarra Amintiya Minga is about Purukapali the Tiwi ancestor that bought death to the Tiwi Islands and Japarra (the Moon), Purukapali’s brother and minga, the tribal body scarification that were marked on the body. People used to get these marks so that everyone knew which clan you were from and sometimes it showed how many wives or husbands you had.

Glen Farmer’s print is the Wutjurrini (seagull). This is Glen’s dance. The Wutjurrini have been made into tutini poles in Glen’s print.

Tina Patlas’s print is called Timrambu. This was her Grandmother and Grandfather’s favourite fishing, hunting and camping place. Her family would go there for gatherings. Tina still goes there to fish.

Johnathon Bush’s print is called Regeneration. In his print he shows his grandfather and father handing down important knowledge and 40,000 years of indigenous culture.

Janice Murray’s figures are based on Tiwi mythology about Tiwi hairy people that live in the mangroves. If you are by yourself in the bush they will take you away. Tiwi believe they are out there and don’t want to make contact with the modern world. We tell our children these stories, so they won’t wander off and get lost in the bush.

Q: What are the benefits of exhibiting in urban centres such as Melbourne?

MWM: It is good for us to have shows in cities so that new audiences can learn about our Tiwi Culture. It gives us Tiwi mob an opportunity to have artistic careers and to earn money for our families when our work sells. When we travel to other places we meet new people from different cultures and share our stories about our culture.


Artists from Jilamara will be “In Conversation” at the Collins Place Gallery, 45 Collins St, Melbourne, (near Sofitel entrance), from 11am-2pm on Tuesday 5 December and Wednesday 6 December. Pedro Wonaeamirri, Johnathon Bush, Timothy Cook, and Michelle Woody Minnapinni will give demonstrations and talk. 

The official opening is at 6pm on Wednesday 6 December. Dr Jacqueline Healy, Curator of the Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne, and former Director and current ambassador of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, will speak.

RSVP by Tuesday December 5, 5pm to Marguerite Brown generalmanager@printcouncil.org.au