Dymphna Kerinaiua

Dymphna Kerinauia is a strong cultural woman from Tamulampi region of Melville Island that is part of the Tiwi Islands, on the northern tip of Australia. Her Skin group is Anjiluwi (Rain) and her Dance is Tartuwali (Shark).

Region: Melville Island, Tiwi Islands

DOB: 15 May 1960

Place of Birth: Melville Island

Significant Country: Tamulampi Melville Island

Language: Tiwi

Community: Milikapiti (northern coast of Melville Island), NT

Art Centre: Jilamara Arts & Crafts

Dymphna Kerinauia is a strong cultural woman from Tamulampi region of Melville Island that is part of the Tiwi Islands, on the northern tip of Australia. Born in the bush at Paru, Melville Island, on the Apsley Strait opposite the mission on Bathurst Island, her mother was sister to the late highly acclaimed Tiwi artist Kitty Kantilla (c. 1928 - 2003). In Tiwi culture the daughter of a sibling is considered to be also one’s own daughter.

Dymphna came to live at Milikapiti as a young girl, where she married and raised a family. Milikapiti, or Snake Bay, is a village on the northern coast of Melville Island, Northern Territory, Australia. One of two Tiwi communities on Melville Island, Milikapiti community was established on the north coast of Melville Island in 1941 as a permanent aboriginal settlement by the Native Affairs Branch of the Northern Territory Administration.

Dymphna is one of a large family of artists. Her Skin group is Anjiluwi (Rain) and her Dance is Tartuwali (Shark). She started painting at Jilamara in 2000 and was greatly influenced by watching an old lady, who would sit in her special chair in the same spot in the painting workshop every working day. 

“When I was little I learn from old lady when she was staying at Paru (small community on Melville Island) she told me things, like she made pukumani pole for man and women. She made a dot then a line. She wanted me to learn too. Old lady used stick, but I now use brush.” 

Dymphna talent was recognised and encouraged by the art co-ordinator and which saw her developed her own unique style as a painter and printmaker.

Tiwi: Painting with Ochre

Ochre is collected when we go out on country. Arrikirninga (yellow ochre), comes from the earth, on the mainland. We have to dig it up. When we heat up the yellow ochre on the campfire, it changes to yaringa (red ochre). Kirijipuni (white ochre) comes from the cliff faces on the coast. Some artists still use charcoal for black.

Ochre paintings come from Tiwi ceremonies, where ochre painted jilamara (design) is used for body painting to protect from mapurtiti (spirits of the dead). Each artist has their own style and design, which is used in both art and ceremony.

We sometimes paint with the kayimwagakimi, also known as pwoja, which means bone. It is a traditional Tiwi painting ‘comb’, made from ironwood and is unique to the Tiwi. It’s a special tool for dot painting, Tiwi style. Each comb is hand carved.

Source: Jilamara Arts and Crafts

Traditional Tiwi Culture places special significance of the Pukumani (funeral) ceremony. Mourners are decorated using natural ochres to disguise themselves from the spirit of the deceased and song and dance is performed to honour the dead. Yirrinkiripwoja (body paint) is the source of many contemporary Tiwi designs and performance of the pukumani as ritual helps to reinvigorate the imagery. The shortening of the word t Pwoja - also refers to ‘best’.  

Source: Jilamara Arts and Crafts


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Gallery Gondwana
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