Skip to main content

Your free what's on guide to the NT

How it all Began: Tiwi Textiles and Print

Delve into the rich history of Tiwi art and design this month, as Library and Archives of the Northern Territory (LANT) presents How it all Began: Tiwi Textiles and Print, a vibrant exhibition that includes the launch of an exciting book that shares the story behind the birth of an art movement.

By Kate Conway

In the late 1960s, Bede Tungutalum and the late Giovanni Tipungwuti co-founded the Tiwi Design art workshop at Wurrumiyanga (then Nguiu) on Bathurst Island. The artists were pioneers in early experimentation with woodblock and linocut prints, that evolved into silk screen designs for fabric and artwork, now synonymous with the Tiwi region.

Diana Wood Conroy was an artist and project officer, dispatched by the Australia Council to work with the artists as one of the first round of art advisors.

“There was a real sense under the Labor government that things were changing. The Aboriginal Art Board was set up by Whitlam with Aboriginal people on it in 1973 … they were able to have a huge say in this emerging arts movement,” she says.

“In the 1980s, it all exploded with international exhibitions. It was the beginning.”

Tiwi Textiles: Design, Making, Process is a book that combines research and scholarship, from art historians and anthropologists, with extracts of Conroy’s personal journals and oral testimony from Tungutalum. It offers a first-hand account of a formative moment in First Nations art history.

Spanning 50 years, the exhibition is filled with lino prints, woven tapestries, watercolour paintings and brightly coloured screen prints, showcasing the multifaceted artforms that make up the fabric of Tiwi art and design.

“Some of the images in the exhibition were done by Bede and Giovanni when they were only 17. The imagery grew from mission-inspired, more representational work, to taking on board the great abstract and symbolic traditions of Tiwi art,” Conroy says.

“Out of that, we get the current Tiwi design and all the wonderful things that are happening. I hope people can see that something like silk screen design, which seems imported into the Tiwi, was actually made entirely Tiwi, by them.”


How it all Began: Tiwi Textiles and Print
UNTIL NOV 2023 | ARTIST TALK FRI 11 AUG, 12.30PM
AT NT LIBRARY, PARLIAMENT HOUSE
COST FREE
INFO lant.nt.gov.au

Tiwi Textiles: Design, Making, Process - Book Launch
WHEN WED 9 AUG | 4PM

Photos: Bede Tungutalum with Diana Wood Conroy, 'Blue Circles' (detail), 1974, screen print on calico, 1.6x1.34m

More reads

Advertisement: Join the Team – Assistant Editor