This exhibition is brought to you by Outstation, in collaboration with the following art centres:
- Dino Wilson
Dino Wilson: kurluwukari, pwanga, marlipinyini (circles, dots, lines)
“My people didn’t have written text…it’s all done by painting. The story, like, it goes on from there…through painting is a way of remembering.” – Brian Farmer, long-time Executive Board member of Jilamara Arts and a custodian of the Muluwurri Museum collection at the art centre in Milikapiti.
Image making continues to play a central role in the living story of the Tiwi people. For many years artists have been adapting and drawing on cultural designs to create contemporary artworks. These designs are derived from ceremonial shapes and patterns often referred to very generally as jilamara – compositions of kurluwukari, pwanga and marlipinyini [circles, dots and lines] using turtiyanginari [locally sourced earth pigments] historically painted on the body, carved tutini poles and tunga [bark baskets] for ceremony on the Tiwi Islands.
For over 30 years artists at Jilamara Arts and Crafts have been bringing these Tiwi compositions to a broader international audience. Established painters such as Kitty Kantilla, Freda Warlipinni and Timothy Cook have each been acclaimed for gestural adaptations of these ancestral Tiwi designs. From the small community of Milikapiti they have led a formidable succession of artists whose imagery have been appreciated across the globe.
Dino Wilson is fast gaining recognition as one of these artists. Although only practicing in recent years he has become a significant contributor to the current Tiwi art story. In 2021 he was the recipient of the Award of Excellence at the National Emerging Art Prize at Michael Reid Sydney and was selected as a finalist in the NATSIA Awards. He has also held acclaimed solo exhibitions at Outstation in Darwin and in Melbourne at Vivien Anderson Gallery. Dino Wilson draws on long-standing modes of visual storytelling, while adapting familiar images into something new and unique as part of contemporary living culture. As he recently described of a painting while working in the studio:
“This painting is warnarringa – that is the sun in Tiwi. In Tiwi the red ochre is yellow that we burn on the fire – it is the colour of the sun. Murtankala is our creation story – that old lady came up when it was all dark and she made light with yikwani [fire] and it became the sun.”
The sun is very important to the Tiwi people. Parlingarri [creation time] it is believed that the whole world was in perpetual darkness and inhabited by yamparriparri [evil spirits]. The wulimaka [old lady] Murtankala came up from underground with three children in a tunga [bark bag] on her back. As she moved around on the surface, she created grooves and crevices in the land with her body. Some of these filled with water, gradually forming the geographical shapes and channels of the Tiwi Islands. She made yikwani (fire) by rubbing grass and sticks together and lifted it up into the sky with her two hands to create light for her children, one of whom was Purukuparli [the first Tiwi man].
“I like using yingarti (lots) colours from Pickertaramoor ngiya murrakupupuni (my Country) - yellow, red and white. I paint tunga (bark basket), warnarringa (sun), jaliwaki (yam) and my Country.” – Dino Wilson
To this day contemporary Jilamara artists still use natural earth pigments from Country to paint. The yellow ochre is burnt on the fire to make the red pigment. There is something poetic in the way Dino applies ochres coloured by the fire, to depict a sun created by the same energy source – the colours of the land, the sun and fire applied to recall the old designs and creations stories of the Tiwis.
“With small and big sticks and brushes I make lines and pwanga (dots) based on the old designs we have here on Tiwi. Like the old stories and making new designs painting is how we tell stories in Tiwi culture.” – Dino Wilson
Dino Wilson’s work embodies what Brian Farmer has to say about the visual language of the Tiwi people. Using both raw and burnt ochres from Country he applies sequences of circles, dots and lines to give his take on stories related to the yam used in Kulama ceremony, the sun as it rises and sets over Country shaped by the crawling body of that old lady Murtankala – because like Farmer says “it goes on from there, through painting is a way of remembering.”
Will Heathcote, Studio and Workshops coordinator, Jilamara Arts and Craft