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Tiwi people

Milikapiti, Melville Island, Northern Territory, Australia born 1971

Jongijongini (egret) 2005-2006 Place made: Melville Island, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, metalwork, bronze

Dimensions: 85.5 h x 10.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.897
Image rights: © Glen Farmer Illortaminni. Licensed by Viscopy
  • Glen Farmer Illortamini has been carving wooden sculptures and linoblocks since 1994 and began to experiment with metal casting in 2005. He has made a number of cast animals, a popular theme being native birds including kookaburras and water fowl. It is evident that he makes the seamless transition from the Tiwi tradition of carving ironwood to metalwork.

    The immediate beauty of Jongijongini (egret) can be seen in its elegant form and lifelike scale. The great egret is a graceful hunter that can be found throughout the world, except in arid areas. The egret usually hunts in water, wading through the shallows, or standing motionless before stabbing at prey. The elegant lines and silhouette of this jongijongini has been expertly carved, first in wood then fabricated in bronze. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn up the long graceful neck. Although egrets are naturally white, the smooth burnt-brown colouration of the bronze does not distract from the sinuous form of the egret with its beak upturned as though seeking the warmth of the sun after diving for food. The original subtle cut marks from the carver’s tools enhance the sense of movement and relate to finer features like feathers on its wings.

    This subtlety and grace of this sculpture contrasts with the bold weightiness characteristic of Tiwi carvings made from ironwood.

    Tina Baum

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010