MICHELLE WOODY MINNAPINNI
MARS presents new work by three artists from Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association a remote Indigenous art centre in Milikapiti, Tiwi Islands. Three Tiwi artists, Chris Black, Columbiere Tipungwuti and Michelle Woody Minnapinni utilise traditional ochres in their own unique style to explore aspects of their culture and country.
Chris Kojak Black is establishing himself as a Tiwi artist with a unique approach to painting with locally sourced natural earth pigments from Melville Island. “I like to paint, it is interesting and my aminya (grandfather) used to paint – Black Joe. He was naganari (magpie goose) and tartuwali (shark) – he had two totems. That’s why I like to paint the totems. The buffalo, jarranga I paint represents the Northern Territory and my stepfather. I paint Tiwi animal totems that we all dance at ceremony and my own style of jilamara (body paint design).
While being a nomadic presence all over the Tiwi Islands for many years, Columbiere Tipungwuti has in more recent history settled into a strong painting practice at Jilamara Arts and Crafts. He is a celebrated dancer at ceremonies and brings both this and a strong knowledge of Tiwi language, cultural and visual storytelling to his art. In more recent years he has focussed on painting figurative representations of Japarra – the Mooman who is a central character in the Tiwi creation story.
Michelle Woody Minnapinni’s painterly forms are reminiscent of elements of the iconic Tiwi Murrakuupupuni (Country). These include winga (salt water), makatinga (flowing fresh water) and where the two meet in the tidal estuaries of the Tiwi Islands, as well as Japarra and Japalinga (the moon and stars). In a great culmination of Tiwi art practice Michelle uses an iconic tool for creating jilamara (Tiwi body paint design) and material of the landscape to create contemporary representations of Murrakupupuni (Country) and her relationship to it.
Established as an adult education centre in the 1980s, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association was incorporated as an indigenous governed art centre in 1989. For over 30 years the artists working at Jilamara have been translating the patterns, imagery and stories of “jilamara” (body paint designs) into ochre paintings on bark, canvas, linen, paper, ironwood carvings and print. Still using natural white, yellow and red ochres exclusively sourced on country, Jilamara artists are nationally and internationally renowned for their unique, Tiwi style and colour palette. They produce contemporary works based on ceremonial body painting designs, clan totems and Tiwi creation stories.