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Indepth Arts News:

"Yikwani:Contemporary Tiwi Ceramics - Reflections of Tiwi Spirituality and Traditions"
2002-05-02 until 2002-06-30
National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne, VI, AU Australia

Indigenous spirituality and the merging of traditional and contemporary hunting practices are explored in the National Gallery of Victoria’s next exhibition Yikwani: Contemporary Tiwi Ceramics. This exhibition will showcase prominent and emerging Indigenous artists associated with Bathurst Island’s Tiwi Design Pottery studio. Bathurst Island is part of the Tiwi Islands, Aboriginal land managed by the Tiwi Land Council, located 80 km north of Darwin in the Arafura Sea.

The exhibition’s co-ordinating curator, David Hurlston, said: Tiwi Design Pottery is fast gaining an international fine art reputation and its success is a strong example of the richness and pride in the Tiwi culture.

Yikwani: Contemporary Tiwi Ceramics comprises 16 innovative and sometimes whimsical ceramic sculptures translating the effects of contemporary influences on the traditional Tiwi lifestyle.

It is a collaborative project involving the NGV, Tiwi Design Aboriginal Corporation (an arts center established to preserve, promote and enrich Tiwi culture) and NETS Victoria (National Exhibition Touring Support).

Mr Hurlston said Yikwani: Contemporary Tiwi Ceramics celebrated the Tiwi people’s intricately entwined themes of spirituality, belief systems and the enduring importance of hunting and gathering of yinkiti (bush tucker).

Rifles, buckets and Toyotas have replaced spears, tunga bags (bark baskets) and feet but the important social aspects of hunting, collecting and cooking food remain a fundamental shared activity for the Tiwi people, Mr Hurlston said.

The sculptures illustrate traditions such as turtle hunting and the weekly search for yinkiti in a Toyota ute carrying the hunting party in the back. Other works depict important Tiwi ancestral beings, such as Murtankala (the creator woman), Bima, Purrukuparli and Japarra (the moon man).

The exhibition will also feature 50 narrative-style photographs of every day island life to provide a context for the sculptures and an insight into the Tiwi way of life, Mr Hurlston said.

The Tiwi Design Studio, established in 1972, became known for beautiful, functional ceramic objects and closed in the mid 1990s. It re-opened in 1999 with a new focus on innovative hand-built ceramic sculpture reflecting Tiwi spirituality and past and present traditions.

Yikwani: Contemporary Tiwi Ceramics, will be on display at the National Gallery of Victoria on the corner of Russell and La Trobe Streets, Melbourne, from 2 May to 30 June 2002. Entry is free. A tour of regional Victoria and NSW will follow.

This tour is also supported by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council, Arts Victoria and the Community Support Fund and Arts Northern Territory.

Mark Puautjim

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