Tiwi artists
_Tutini (Pukumani grave posts)_ 1958
AGNSW collection

Tiwi artists

Tutini (Pukumani grave posts)


Tutini or ceremonial grave posts like these are unique to the Tiwi culture of Melville and Bathurst islands, just off the coast of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. A central feature of this particular Indigenous Australian culture is the Pukumani funerary ceremony. This is a 'final goodbye' for those who have passed away. At the climax of the ceremony, after days of song and dance, monumental posts are erected at the gravesites.

The first Pukumani ceremony was led by Tiwi ancestor Purukuparli for his baby, Jinani, who was the first person to die; as a result, today all Tiwi must follow his fate.

This was a groundbreaking artwork in 1958, presenting Aboriginal work in an art rather than an anthropological context.

It was the first major commission of Aboriginal work for this gallery. The people who commissioned it were the then deputy director of the Gallery, Tony Tuckson, along with Dr Stuart Scougall. The six senior Tiwi artists who produced it were Laurie Nelson Mungatopi, Bob One Apuatimi, Jack Yarunga, Don Burakmadjua, Charlie Quiet Kwangdini and an unknown artist.

To make a distinction between tutini produced for ceremony and those produced for an outside audience, the artists chose a different type of wood, although they still utilised traditional carving and painting techniques.

natural pigments on iron wood, 274 x 250 x 250 cm overall, gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959, Art Gallery of NSW collection © The artists' estates. Courtesy Jilamara Arts Centre. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney IA1.1959.a-q