Senior artist Kaye Brown draws on the longstanding visual languages of the Tiwi Islands to create contemporary works celebrating connections between Murrakupupuni (Country), family and ceremonial practice. Her work keeps alive the knowledge of the wulimawi (old people), including ancestral modes of minga (body markings) and contemporary forms of yirrinkiripwoja (body painting), which represents spiritual attachment to ancestral beings. Her tightly clustered dots and layers of ochre are reminiscent of the body-painting styles used to prepare for ceremony and yoi (dance), made using the pwoja or kayimwagakimi (carved ironwood comb) and demonstrate the collective approach of Tiwi people to art, culture and storytelling.
Brown also creates tutini (pukumani pole) and tunga (folded-bark basket), acknowledging the profound significance of honouring the dead and aiding the spirit’s journey to the afterlife through the objects used in pukumani ceremonies. In Tiwi culture, pukumani marks the end of the mourning period, allowing them to rest on Country. Mourners disguise themselves with markings to protect themselves from the spirits of the deceased and perform songs and dances to honour them. Following ceremonies, tunga baskets are placed atop the pukumani pole so the person’s spirit can use and take things with them on their journey.