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Jean Baptiste APUATIMI

Tiwi people

Australia 1940 – 2013


Tiwi people

Nguiu (Wurrumiyanga), Bathurst Island, Northern Territory, Australia born 1966 /1970

Tutini 2008 Place made: Nguiu, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, woodwork, natural earth pigments on iron wood natural earth pigments on ironwood

Dimensions: sculpture 220.0 h x 38.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2013
Accession No: NGA 2013.4407
Image rights: © Jean Baptiste Apuatimi. Licensed by Viscopy
  • Tutini was painted by extraordinary elder and Tiwi artist Jean Baptiste Apuatimi before she passed away in early 2013 and carved by her son-in-law Greg Orsto. Apuatimi began painting in 1997 and is well known for her striking geometric designs, often featuring her clan designs, on canvas and sculptures. Orsto was tutored by Apuatimi’s late husband and pioneer Tiwi sculptor Declan Apuatimi, which is evident in the similarity of carving style. The work depicts the Pukumani ceremony, which tells how death came to the Tiwi people.

    Legend tells that, in a time before death, the ancestor Purukupali went hunting, leaving behind his wife Bima and infant son Jinani. While Purukupali is away, his brother Tapara seduces Bima. Enthralled, she leaves Jinani under the shade of a tree and makes off with her lover. Sadly, on returning, Bima finds her son dead in the sun. Purukupali is enraged, hitting his wife and chasing her into the forest, where she turns into a curlew to forever wail for her dead son. His brother pleads with him, saying that he can bring Jinani back, but Purukupali does not believe it. They fight, wounding each other badly. Purukupali takes his son’s body into the sea. Grieving, he declares that death shall come to the world.

    The figures of Bima at the base, Tapara in the centre and Purukuparli on top all face the same direction, with their arms, faces and backs showing traditional Tiwi body designs. Tutini is a remarkable final work by a much-loved artist that truly represents the excellence of Tiwi art.

    Tina Baum Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art

    in artonview, issue 77, Autumn 2014