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Yirrinkirripwoja Jilamara

Each August, art centres from the Tiwi Islands join forces to showcase their works in the big smoke, giving artists from the region the opportunity to share their art and culture much to the delight of new and familiar audiences.

This month, as part of Darwin Festival, Munupi Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Association and Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association return to DoubleTree by Hilton to present Yirrinkirripwoja Jilamara, exhibiting recent and classic Tiwi paintings and carvings.

Munupi Arts Centre Manager Guy Allain says it’s an important event on the Top End calendar.

“This is an annual event that everybody knows on the cultural calendar, and is very important for the local community and for Tiwi. We show the best artworks, especially from Melville Island. The artists are very proud,” he says.

Jilamara Vice President Pedro Wonaeamirri, also an artist, agrees.

“I am a senior artist from Milikapiti, Melville Island … I’ve travelled all around Australia and overseas representing Tiwi culture and my family. Sharing our culture to the Australians and to the outside world [is important to me],” he says.

As getting out to Melville Island can be a bit of a challenge, the annual exhibition – which has been going for over 10 years – is one of the only opportunities for Tiwi artists to exhibit and sell their works to a large audience.

“We get hardly any visitors, as it’s quite difficult for people to come and visit us … This exhibition is a lifeline for the artists to share their culture and sell their authentic artworks,” Allain says.

Celebrating Tiwi culture through both traditional and contemporary mediums, works reflect big themes in life through the unique lens of the Tiwi worldview. Characterised by a simplified colour palette, artworks are created using natural and found pigments of yellow, red, white and black ochre.

“There are no acrylics! They’re mostly painted with natural ochres, and can be mixed into other colours like pinks, oranges, even greens.”

The curated event usually showcases over 100 works, but this year looks to be a bit bigger. In addition to the work displayed on the walls, art is presented on tables in the exhibition space.

The event typically kicks off on a Dry season Friday morning with a yoi - an energetic Tiwi celebration of song and dance by the artists, painters, dancers and songmen. The plan is to go ahead as planned, but if any health restrictions limit the amount of people permitted inside the exhibition space, Allain says they’ve already thought of a backup option.

“We might end up taking the performance across the road to the parklands.”

Wonaeamirri says song and dance is an important part of his culture.

“As an artist at Jilamara, I also do a lot of dancing and singing. Dancing and singing is very important to me, it’s like painting. It gives me passage to find a way to the next step in my art.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to soak up the incredible bounty of Tiwi art and culture, right here in Darwin.

Yirrinkirripwoja Jilamara

Thumbnail & header: Mario Walarmerpui painting a Tutini, 2020. Photo: Guy Allain

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