On the two islands, consisting of dense rainforest and cascading waterfalls, around 2,500 Tiwi-speaking people make their home. In recent years they have achieved international recognition for their unique art forms and geometric patterns mainly derived from very decorative traditional body paint designs and painted in natural ochre pigments on fine handmade Arches paper or canvas and carved ironwood sculptures. Tiwi art is distinctive in its utilization of  continuous patterning and its emphasis on strength of design (jilamara) rather than on narrative.
The Tiwi hold many traditional ceremonies throughout the year, incorporating song, dance and body painting. The art of body painting (pwoja) is used for ceremonial purposes and has been practiced by the islanders for thousands of years. For the Pukumani funeral ceremony the body painting, which is made of natural ochre pigments applied to the oiled skin of the mourners, serves to mask their identity from the spirit of the deceased. Individuality and innovation in design are highly prized. Body paint designs are similarly applied for the Kulama ceremony which is the Tiwi ceremony for coming of age, the cycle of life and initiation into Tiwi kinship systems.  These ceremonial body painting designs are often the inspiration for contemporary  paintings.
TIWI   ISLANDS
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                                         Ochre Dot Gallery    2008-2012mailto:sherry@ochredotgallery.comshapeimage_3_link_0
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Located in the Arafura Sea just north of Darwin off the coast of Northern Australia, Bathurst and  Melville Islands are home to some of Australia's most exciting artistic talent. All Tiwi art is done using natural ochre pigments sourced from the cliffs and beaches of the islands and ground and mixed by hand. The yellow occurs naturally, and to achieve red ochre , the dry yellow powder is heated in a tin until it changes to the desired red.  The white is from a clay found locally and black is made of charcoal from camp fires.
Here is a selection  of work from  JILAMARA,  MUNUPI ARTS  and TIWI DESIGN  art centers:
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