Tiwi pop up success

James Hilditch, Indigenous & Cultural Development Coordinator

When Victoria went back into lockdown earlier this year, we weren’t sure if this much anticipated Tiwi Pop up exhibition could even go ahead. Just in time, restrictions were lifted and we enjoyed a really successful event.

When the set up day arrived, I watched in wonder as the team working for Jilamara, Munupi and North transformed our Wellbeing Centre into a celebration of Tiwi art and culture. Every wall reflected Tiwi culture and the iconic Pukumani poles stood proudly in the centre of the room.

The Pukumani ceremony is the culmination of ritual mourning for a deceased person. Several months after the burial, the family commissions in-laws of the deceased to carve and decorate elaborate tutini. These are then placed at the gravesite during a performance of song and dance, and tunga (bark bags) are placed upside down on top of the poles to signify the end of life. These sculpturally beautiful ‘artworks’ are left to the elements, returning to the bush from which they are made.*

Junior and Secondary School students had a special preview of the show, our Tiwi boys hosted their Tutor groups through and our Year 11 and 12 Art students had a chance to chat to one of the Jilamara artists, Pedro Wonaeamirri, over Zoom.

Hundreds of visitors attended over the weekend, all admiring and purchasing the art. It is great to know that there are many more artefacts of Tiwi culture in our community now. Among the visitors were Tiwi people from all over Melbourne, providing an opportunity to meet extended family members of the Tiwi boys and the girls from Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville.

Thank you to all the amazing artists and the people from Jilamara, Munupi and North for making this event such a success. We are very much looking forward to doing it all again next year.

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