Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi : Tiwi Art

Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi was a well-known Tiwi artist. The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if a Tiwi sculpture or Bark Painting is by Purawarrumpatu.

It comparing 35 examples of her work. Purawarrumpatu also did a lot of work on paper and canvas in her later years. These later works are not discussed here.

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



Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi sculptures have a chunky and crude blocky appearance. The face has a strong wide nose sometimes in a hexagonal shape. Her painting on the sculpture is often made up of lots of dots and blocks of solid color. All her earlier early indicate the sex of the figure. Kutuwulumi has also done several pukumani posts and seabirds as well.



Her earliest works were Tutini (grave poles) and figures carved from ironwood. She used only a tomahawk, chisel and malle bark paintings and tunga (bark baskets). Instead of using the Tiwi painting comb (pwoja), Purawarrumpatu painted with a fine stick of coconut palm frond. Her paintings featured variable dots, each bearing the mark of her inimitable hand, earning her the nickname ‘Dot Dot’.


Her paintings on bark are often made up of lines of dots within frameworks of rectangles or squares. These designs are a reflection of traditional body painting designs that the Tiwi use during the Pukumani ceremony. Purawarrumpatu was amongst the very last who inherited these designs intact from her father.



Kutuwulumi’s works reflect the Tiwi creation story. In the Tiwi version of creation Bima, the wife of Purukapali, makes love to her brother in law while her son Jinani, is lying under a tree. As the sun moves the baby exposed dies under the full heat of the sun. Purukapali becomes enraged and after his wife changes into a bird he begins an elaborate mourning ceremony for his son. This was the first Pukumani (mortuary) ceremony and tells how death first came to the Tiwi Islands.


Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi was born around 1928 at Yimpinari, on the eastern side of Melville Island. She lived a traditional life as a child. The mission settlement located on the eastern coast of Bathurst Island established in 1911.

In the 1960’s she was a part of the Paru community. Paru was the base for many major Tiwi island artists including  Apuatimi, Ripijingimpi and Puruntatameri.

In 1970 Kitty, along with a number of other countrywomen, created a tiny outstation in her mother’s country at Paru, on Melville Island. It was here that Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi first began working as an artist. She worked with a group of widowed women who became renowned during the early 1980’s. They mainly made ironwood sculptures of ancestor figures drawn from the Purukupali legend.


In the early 1990’s, Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi moved into Milikapiti (Snake Bay). Jilamara Arts and Crafts had grown from an Adult Education center supporting more and more artists who lived closer to their own country. Here as she grew older, she ventured away from sculpture and began working on canvas and paper.


Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi was also known as Kitty Kantilla


Purawarrumpatu Kutuwulumi Images

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

If this post has been informative please take the time and make the effort to share it on social media. By clicking any of the share buttons below you create a link from your social site to this article. Links are what google uses to calculate what information on the web is useful. By sharing this article you are letting google know you found my article / images of some value. Thanks!