Tutuni and Tunga
Tutuni and Tunga

Kaye Brown

1954 - Tutuni and Tunga 2022
  • natural ochres on carved Ironwood and folded and stitched Stirngybark
45 cm x 290 cm
'Tunga was a basket for hunting. My ancestors … when they caught bush tucker they would put what they caught in the tunga and take it back to their family. We still make tunga and ceremonial objects for Pukumani [mourning ceremony] and for artworks as well … When we finish the ceremony the tunga would be put on top of the [ironwood] Pukumani pole, so the spirit of the person can use and take things with them on their journey.’ 
Using only materials from Country, Kaye is telling the story of these ceremonial and practical objects and how they relate to her lived experience.
Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award
Kaye Brown is a senior Tiwi culture woman. She is well versed in the old ways, traditional stories and speaks the ‘hard’ Tiwi language. She started painting at Jilamara Arts and Craft later in life after she retired from work. Prior to this she taught at the local primary school and worked at the Milikapiti Library. She loves teaching culture to the local primary school children who come to Jilamara for culture classes in the Museum. She has a wealth of local knowledge about Tiwi culture and the history of the Tiwi people and ancestors.

She uses the Kayimwagakimi (carved ironwood comb) and natural ochres of Melville Island to paint. Her jilamara (body paint design) and pwoja (body) styles are very layered and reminiscent of some of the old Tiwi artists and the body painting styles hey used to prepare for ceremony and yoi (dance).

The Pukumani ceremony is the culmination of ritual mourning for a deceased person. Several months after the burial, family commission in-laws of the deceased to carve and decorate elaborate tutini. These are then placed at the gravesite during a showy 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. Traditionally Tiwi use bloodwood for tutini, but cured ironwood is the prefered timber for commercial carvings thanks to its durability. Current practice of carving pukumani poles is an expression of the artist's cultural heritage through contemporary art. They are created as an artistic form of expression to be viewed and appreciated by a broader public with the intention to maintain and share Tiwi cultural knowledge.

Tutini carved with a pronged or forked apex represents the fight between Purukuparli and his brother Taparra the moon man. Diamond and curved shapes are a female embodiment, but each pole represents all and everything that is Tiwi culture.

Source:  Jilamara Arts and Crafts, Melville Island, NT

More by this artist

Kaye Brown 1954 - Yirrinkiripwoja
  • natural ochres on Stringybark
54 cm x 154 cm

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The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Custodians of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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