Tiwi people

Australia 1924 /1928 – 2003

Female figure c.1996 Description: Figure with lines of dots on torso and face, brown legs and yellow breast
Place made: Milikapiti, Melville Island, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, natural pigments on iron wood

Dimensions: 76.0 h x 19.4 w x 16.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1996
Accession No: NGA 96.865
  • These spirit figures are made by Tiwi artist, Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu), one of Australia’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. A departure from her exquisite paintings and prints, these figures are carved in ironwood, a material readily found on Bathurst and Melville islands and used extensively for wooden sculptures that have their beginnings in the famous tutini or Pukumani grave posts of the area.

    As such the formal structures of Female figure and Male figure have great similarities with the Pukumani grave posts fashioned from the same ironwood. Being male and female, these figures possibly represent the two key ancestral heroes for the Tiwi people: Purrukurparli and Bima, who brought the first mortuary ceremonies to the Tiwi.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra