Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Bathurst and Melville islands, Northern Territory
Give and take
I want to share this culture of mine with other cultures, to understand about Tiwi Islands ... It makes me really strong and very proud of who I am. And where do I come from and what language do I speak – it’s Tiwi.
Pedro Wonaeamirri, Tiwi, 2013
In Tiwi belief, the creation figure Mundangkala moved across the landscape, forming the Tiwi Islands. It is a place with a distinct culture. Objects like tunga (bark baskets) and pukumani poles are only made by Tiwi people.
By the early 20th century, the Tiwi were trading cultural items such as spears, dance ornaments and baskets to Darwin’s growing non-Indigenous population.
There’s this give and take – I’ll give you this, and you pay me this, or give me some money.
Jedda Puruntatameri, Tiwi, 2013
In 1912, Dr William Dawson briefly served as Port Darwin’s quarantine officer. During his short stay, Dawson collected some 50 items, mostly from Melville Island. Frustratingly, he left almost no information about the people he met or the objects he collected.
Our material goes away and Tiwi people don’t know about it.
Gibson Farmer Illortamini, Tiwi, 2013
In 1913, Dawson gave his collection from northern Australia, including this tunga (bark basket) pictured right, to the British Museum. After his posting in Darwin, he returned south and worked in Newcastle, New South Wales.
We want to share objects with people, so they can understand what we do, and how we do it ... They can see what I'm doing now – they can learn.Kenny Brown, Tiwi, 2013