Collection Online

Pumpuni jilamara

Artist/s name
earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.), pandanus string
67.2 x 44.5 cm
Place/s of Execution
Milikapiti, Melville Island, Northern Territory
Accession Number
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of The Peter and Susan Rowland Endowment, Governor, 1995
© Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu)/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Not on display
About the work

A seemingly abstract inconography lies at the heart of Kitty Kantilla’s art. Far from being non-representational, however, the different combination of dots, lines and blocks of colour called jilamara (design) together invoke inside elements of ritual and reveal the essence of Kantilla’s cultural identity.

Like other Tiwi artists, Kantilla gained the stuff of her art-making in ceremonial contexts before learning to express her individuality by carving and painting objects of the Pukumani (mourning) ceremony. In explaining her work the artist says, ‘The jilamara that I do, it’s my father’s design. I watched him as a young girl and I’ve still got the design in my head.’

Kantilla’s Pumpuni jilamara is composed largely of densely textured blocks of colour on black or white – Kantilla’s elegant geometry is broken by minor segments of dots and lines. The artist is working with broader gestures and fields of cloudy white, intense red and dense yellow on black: chords in a four-part harmony. Most of the composition consists of solid ochre fields, infused with tonal and textural variations: the end result remains a measured and balanced synthesis and has an adagio rhythm.