Tiwi Art is sourced from the art communities on the Tiwi Islands. Melville and Bathurst Islands are the Tiwi Islands, not far from Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Tiwi art is quite different from mainland indigenous art in that the Tiwi people use the designs from their ceremonial body art (Jilamara) rather than telling stories with their art.
Their designs use strong cross-hatching or fine dots and are often used to print fabrics.
Way back at the turn of the century, Art at Linden Gate’s then director Ernst Fries was responsible for arranging a ground breaking Tiwi Art & History exhibition in Germany, known as From Mythology to the Present. Two prominent Tiwi artists, Janice Murray and Pedro Wonaeamerri, travelled to Europe with Ernst and were an integral to this very successful exhibition.
It would seem that was the turning point for Tiwi Art to become recognised on a more global scale. At least in the west.
A subsequent exhibition in January 2018 included works from well known Tiwi artists Kitty Kantilla, Aileen Henry, Freda Warlipini, Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri and renown printmaker Pedro Wonaeamerri. This further reinforced the little known Tiwi Art style.
Tiwi art works include paintings on canvas, bark, paper, and ironwood carvings with ochre along with edition prints, with example styles shown in the gallery below:
Tiki Island Art Centres
If you tour the Tiwi Islands you will come across a range of art centres including the Munupiart and the Jilamara Arts & Crafts Centre.
Are Tiwi Islanders Aboriginal?
When visiting the Tiwi Islands this will likely be your first question – are Tiwi Islanders classed as Aboriginal?
Yes, the Tiwi people are classed as Indigenous Australians native to Melville and Bathurst Islands. Tiwi Islanders have a strong community culture and traditions which have been passed down through generations.
Along with many other Indigenous Australians, the Tiwi Islanders have experienced systemic oppression, dispossession, and marginalisation.
Having visited the islands I can thoroughly recommend you do too. Both for art, and culture.