Cornelia Tipuamantumirri Jilamara Design, ochre on linen. Photo: Munupi Arts

Cornelia Tipyuamantumirri: Tiwi artist

Arlumpuwaniyo Jamangija  [See the saltwater coming in]
Arlumpuwaniyo Jamangija  [See the saltwater coming in]           
Arlumpuwaniyo Jamangija  [See the saltwater coming in]  
Lul … Lul … Lul … Lul …

Arlumpuwaniyo Jamangija  [Hear the salt water rushing]
Arlumpuwaniyo Jamangija  [Hear the salt water rushing]
Arlumpuwaniyo Jamangija  [Hear the salt water rushing]

Lul … Lul … Lul … Lul …

Tawu  [Hear the sound of rushing water creating a bang, ending]

Ngawarraya Mangi Munupi Murrakupuni. 
[Let’s look after our Munupi Country]

Pili ngawa ampi putuwurupura ngini ngawula ngirramini. 
[Our stories were given to us from the old people and are connected with songs from the dreamtime.]
Cornelia Tipuamantumirri

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri, portrait
Cornelia Tipuamantumirri. Photo: Munupi Arts

Under the guardians of the mission, Cornelia Tipuamantumirri grew up on Bathurst Island in the Tiwi Islands. She went to school under the old mission church and was given a slate and chalk. Salvation came in the form of the Catholic nuns. She lived in a dormitory with the other Tiwi girls. She was never allowed to speak her language or practice our culture.

Cornelia’s parents worked for the Garden Point Mission, looking after the farm, planting and tending the land. Every bush holiday she went with her parents to Garden Point on Melville Island.

She married Stephen Tipuamantumirri and had a daughter, Dolores. She is blessed with three grandchildren and lots of great grandchildren.

Cornelia has a son whom she and Stephen looked after at Garden Point Mission. His name is H. Wilson Senior from Peppimenarti, the late husband of renowned Peppimenarti artist Regina Pilawuk Wilson. This family has visited her from time to time. Their friendship will last a lifetime.

Cornelia walked into Munupi Art Centre wanting to paint on canvas in 2010. She is an elder who has taken over the art industry like a wild storm. She paints the land and sea from her beautiful Munupi country. Every painting tells a story with a connection to the land and sea. 

Cornelia has a strong bond to the waters surrounding the Tiwi Islands, forged by a lifetime of memories living encircled within the tides of the Arafura Sea. She learnt by going to meeting places for ceremonies, in the bush. They just went ahead and did it, despite the church, and no one tried to stop them.

She looks at the moon like it is a calendar: she knows when time is good for hunting, good for fishing. She looks at the trees and reads the signs and passes them on to her daughter and grandchildren.

She just has to look at a tree with yellow flowers and she will say, it’s good for hunting possum, turtles. She reads and she interprets different signs. When you see a dragonfly she’ll say, dragonfly, dry season is coming, it’s around the corner. It’s her way of passing it down.

It’s not being done so much anymore, but we need to tell our stories with every painting, and write it down. If you are visiting Munupi Art Centre, come and see Cornelia smiling all the time.

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri, Jilamara Design
Cornelia Tipuamantumurri, Jilamara Design, 2015, ochre on linen. Collection: Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. © Cornelia Tipuamantumirri/Licensed by Viscopy, 2016


Cornelia Tipuamantumirri is a senior Tiwi artist from Munupi Arts at Garden Point Community, Melville Island.

Jedda Puruntatameri is Chair of Munupi Arts and a director of ANKA. |