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Shark Dance (2011)

Artist: Dymphna Kerinaiua

Region: Melville Island, Tiwi Islands

Medium/Type: Painting

Size: 90 x 70 cm

Catalogue Number: 14331DK

Status: Vatu Sanctuary 2


In this work Dymphna Kerinauia depicts the jilamara (design) which comes from the body painting which accompanied many of the Tiwi ceremonies.

Mixing lines and shapes in natural pigments (yellow, red and white ochre, charcoal), the painting adapts traditional body markings and connect the stories of the collective Tiwi memory. Using a ‘back to basics’ natural ochres that is sourced from the cliffs along the coastlines, this work is the artist Tartuwali (Shark) dance.

In Tiwi dreaming or totem, that is inherited from their father, a Tiwi may not kill or eat their dreaming. Each dreaming has its associated dance, that is used to identify a Tiwi at ceremonies.

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


Dymphna Kerinaiua

Region: Melville Island, Tiwi Islands

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).

More about Dymphna Kerinaiua

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If you have any specific questions about this artwork please email us at info@gallerygondwana.com.au. Be sure to include the catalogue number in your email.


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