We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.





Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu


circa 1928 – 04 Oct 2003

Language group: Tiwi, North region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Milikapiti (Snake Bay) Melville Island Northern Territory Australia
    Media category
    Materials used
    natural pigments on linen
    115.8 x 77.6 cm stretcher
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased 2002
    Naala Badu, ground level, Yiribana Gallery
    Accession number
    © Estate of Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu/Copyright Agency

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    The specific geometric designs that are the hallmark of Tiwi art are usually applied to a dark background. In a bold move around 1997 Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu, also known as Kitty Kantilla, reversed this aesthetic and began to produce paintings of delicately painted dots and lines on white. The white background helped give the paintings a light, ethereal quality and marked a strong contrast with her previous works painted on black such as the three works in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection, acquired in 1995.

    The decorative motif mulypinyini amintiya pwanga (lines and dots) forms a common basis for many of the abstract designs that are said to have no specific meaning. The imagery in these paintings, like that of most Tiwi art, is derived from the jilimara or ceremonial body painting and the decoration applied to Pukamani funeral poles and associated ritual objects made for the Pukamani ceremony. Traditionally the participants in funeral ceremonies decorate themselves with a rich variety of ochre designs so as to conceal their true identity from harm by malevolent mapurtiti (spirits of the dead). Thus Tiwi art generally avoids reference to totems, Dreamings, or stories connected with the palaneri or Creation Period.

    Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu's legacy is continued in the work of artists such as Pedro Wonaeamirri whose works demonstrate the continuation of Tiwi traditions with his own innovation of design and aesthetic.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

Other works by Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu

See all 26 works