Jilamara, By Jean Baptiste Apuatimi - Tiwi Designs


Artist - Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, Wurrumiyanga

Jean (1940-2013) is internationally acclaimed as a carver, painter and printmaker. She was born in Pirlingimpi (Garden Point), on Melville Island into the Tapatapunga (March Fly) skin group. When she was young her family moved to Wurrumiyanga, where she lived in a dormitory at the convent and was educated and cared for by the nuns from the Catholic mission. She was married to her husband Declan Apuatimi at age 14, and they had 11 children – many of her children and nieces and nephews continue to work at Tiwi Design.

Jean recreated and interpreted body-painting designs used in Tiwi Ceremony through her art. Painting was a way for her to remember her late husband and mentor, who taught her to carve and paint, and passed on his personal jilamara (design): “I love my painting, I love doing it. My husband, Declan Apuatimi taught me to paint. The designs are ones he taught me. He said ‘One day you will be an artist, you will take my place.’”

Art story

Jean recreated and interpreted body-painting designs used in Tiwi Ceremony through her art:

“All my paintings are ceremony, same like this one. We Tiwi paint our bodies with ochre for ceremony. This is our body painting design. This is olden days painting. Long ago in the early days we put Yalinga (red ochre), Arrikininga (yellow ochre) and tutuyangini (white ochre) on our face and body for Pukumani (fineral) and Kulama (Yam) ceremonies. The bars going across are the Jilamara (body painting) we put across our stomach and chest. Sometimes we still do this. My husband taught me this style, he used to tell me story about that painting.” 

Art Centre- Tiwi Design

Jean’s design is hand screen printed at Tiwi Design, Wurrumiyanga (Nguiu), on Bathurst Island (Tiwi Islands), 80km North of Darwin. Tiwi Design aims to promote, preserve and enrich Tiwi culture – it supports over 100 artists to do painting, wood sculptures, textiles, ceramics, pandanus weaving and printmaking.

Tiwi Design started from a small room under Catholic Presbytery on Bathurst Island in 1968, with Bede Tungatalum and Giovanni Tipungwuti working with the school art teacher, Madeline Clear, to produce wood block prints. By 1969 Tiwi artists were transferring their designs onto silk screens, and textiles quickly became a major activity for Tiwi Designs artists.

Bio and photo provided by Tiwi Design. Read more at: tiwidesigns.com