Kaye Brown1954 - Yirrinkiripwoja 2021
- natural ochres on Stringybark
Kaye Brown is a senior Tiwi culture woman. The Tiwi Islands are north of Darwin, comprising two major islands Melville Island and Bathurst Island and nine smaller uninhabited islands. Brown is well versed in the old ways, traditional stories and speaks the ‘hard’ Tiwi language. She started painting at Jilamara Arts and Crafts later in life after she retired from work. In Tiwi language, Jilamara means design. Established in 1989, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association is owned and governed by Tiwi artists from one of two communities on Melville Island – Milikapiti.
Brown uses the Kayimwagakimi (carved ironwood comb) and natural ochres from 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 they used to prepare for ceremony and yoi (dance). The artist paints on bark, canvas and paper, but is particularly drawn to painting on stringybark sourced from around Milikapiti. Although relatively new to the art centre, Brown is gaining recognition as a leading female artist at Jilamara.
Traditional Tiwi Culture places special significance on the Pukumani (funeral) ceremony. Mourners are decorated using natural ochres to disguise themselves from the spirit of the deceased and song and dance is performed to honour the dead. Yirrinkiripwoja (bodypaint) is the source of many contemporary Tiwi designs and performance of the Pukumani as ritual helps to reinvigorate the imagery. The shortening of the word to Pwoja – also refers to ‘best’.
The artist's first solo exhibition was held in 2020 at Aboriginal & Pacific Art in Sydney. She was a finalist in the 2021 NATSIAA Telstra Awards Bark category and the inaugural King and Wood Mallesons Contemporary ATSI Art Prize in 2018. She made her first limited edition print in 2017 and has a very successful design as part of Jilamara’s screen printed textiles line.
This bark painting by the artist is the most recent acquisition of work from the Tiwi Islands to enter the Wesfarmers Collection, adding depth and diversity to the collection’s existing holdings by leading Tiwi Islander artists including Timothy Cook, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, and Kitty Kantilla.
Text: Zali Morgan Source: Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association. Aboriginal & Pacific Art © Kaye Brown and Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association