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Illortaminni Mick Aruni

(Australia circa 1917 – 1973)

Language group
Tiwi, North region
Male figure in ceremonial array
Place of origin
Melville IslandNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Cultural origin
Tiwi Islands
circa 1960s
Media category
Materials used
carved and painted blackwood, wax, feathers, cane, natural pigments

91.0 x 15.0 cm

Gift of Harry Messel 1990
Accession number
Yiribana Gallery
Further information

A male is depicted ready to take part in a Kulama ceremony. He is wearing a white cockatoo feather headpiece, armbands of jungle cane, an artificial (goose feather) beard and a goose feather neck ball.

The painted facial and body designs are typical of Tiwi painted design, as applied also to the unique carved and painted grave poles and bark baskets.
The calico loincloth is a post-European contact phenomenon. Formerly, Tiwi males wore no loin covering in their everyday life.

The figure has been carved from bloodwood – a dense hardwood typically employed for the mortuary poles; it is from the latter that carved human figures have evolved. The ears and nose have been set in native beeswax.

Harry Messel

Bibliography (2)

Hetti Perkins and Ken Watson, A material thing - objects from the collection, Sydney, 1999, 6.

Margie West, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘It belongs to no one else: The dynamic art of the Tiwi’, pg. 125-131, Sydney, 2007, 124 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (3)

A material thing - Objects from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Aug 1998–09 Feb 1999

One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007

Our spirits lie in the water, 15 Nov 2014–01 Nov 2015