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Declan Apuatimi Tiwi Art

Although Declan Apuatimi did several bark Paintings he is best known for his Aboriginal sculpture. He is a well-known artist from the Tiwi Island and has a very distinctive style of carving.


The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their aboriginal sculpture or bark painting is by Declan Apuatimi. It compares known examples of his works.


If you have a Declan Apuatimi sculpture or bark painting to sell please contact me. If you want to know what your Declan sculpture is worth to me please feel free to send me a Jpeg. I would love to see it.



Declan Apuatimi sculptures are almost always in ironwood and often have heads the same size as the body. Sculptures are painted in designs associated with Pukumani ceremonies. They have distinctive almond-shaped eyes that are white, with black pupils. Declan also carved birds. They tend to have white bodies and are plainly decorated other than the wings. The wings are elaborately designed in motifs previously used for skin designs. Declan also did several bark paintings based on skin designs. His barks are collectible but not as popular with collectors as some other artists such as Alie or Deaf Tommy.


Most of Declan’s works were collected after 1978. His earlier works have more muted ochre whereas his later works are brighter. He never mixed ochre but made sure each was distinct. Earlier works often show the sex whereas later examples do not. He quite often did sculptures of just the top half of the figure.


Declan Apuatimi was born at Iminulapi in the north-west of Bathurst Island. Though this was his home, his actual country, was Munupi on the north-west coast of Melville Island. As a boy, he had learned how to weave fine ceremonial armlets. He also learned to carve delicate barbed ceremonial spears, fluted clubs, and the burial posts for Pukumani ceremony. In the 1930’s Declan worked with Japanese, Malay and Filipino pearling boats. With the onset of World War II the pearling era came to an abrupt end and Declan went to a RAAF army base in Darwin. He did not return to Bathurst Island until the war ended.


Declan started carving for sale in the late 1950’s, under the encouragement of Father John Cosgrove. The market for these objects was mainly anthropologists, museums, and art galleries. It wasn’t until the 1960’s, that production increased for an outside market. Declan continued to carve funeral posts and began carving his distinctive figurative forms.


During the 1970’s Declan consolidated his artistic career and technique following the establishment of Tiwi Pima Art. Tiwi Pima Art was a community-based body responsible for marketing traditional art and craft of the Tiwi.


In 1984 craft adviser Mick Reid collected his work for the first ever Tiwi one-man exhibition. Lord Alistair McAlpine purchased the entire exhibition. Two years after his death there was a solo retrospective touring exhibition Declan- A Tiwi Artist.  It was at the Araluen Art Centre in Alice Springs.

Apuatimi is sometimes spelled Declan Napuatimi

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Declan Apuatimi Images

The following is not a complete list of works but gives a very good idea of this artists style and variety.

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