Submitted Review

Pedro Wonaeamirri with Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri

  • Museum of Contemporary Art • New South Wales

  • 13 March—07 June 2020

  • Marielle Soni • Published 14 June 2020

‘Kurrujupuni, arrikininga, yarringa, tunuwuni kapi katukuni (white, yellow, red, black on ironwood)’ by Wonaeamirri (with assistance from master carver Puruntatameri) is a striking collection of 20 ironwood poles carved in geometric segmented forms following the organic growth of the trees from which they were born. They are painted in opaque layers of natural ochre paint with cylindrical components further decorated with feathery dots, sharp lines and  languid long bands applied with a variety of brushes & Tiwi kayimwagakimi (wooden comb), a tool specifically created to apply yirrinkiripwoja (body paint design) in ceremony, and now also in contemporary art by Tiwi artists.

‘Kurrujupuni, arrikininga, yarringa, tunuwuni kapi katukuni’

Each tutini (mourning pole) is unique in both form and jilamara (design), but they speak to each other through considered placement. Leaning into each other as if whispering delicate secrets. One sees them collectively, sees through them as if peering through a forest, and sees them individually as unique sculptural objects as we walk around the island of sand in which they are grounded.

An audio component, a male voice, deep & rich in timbre fills the room, singing in language. One I do not understand, but I feel it. It is the voice of Wonaeamirri singing to the Tutini & here they bend, reach, sway, perhaps singing and dancing back to his familiar voice. The marriage of audio and installation is an important development, one I would love to see progress. The artist has spoken of the importance of song & dance to his practice, to the very core of his identity. It starts with the song. He is a composer of great talent, knowledge & experience. To hear him sing live is to experience something extraordinary.

Now is a strange moment. The pressures of crises have merged. The natural world warns us of our follies, the COVID pandemic shuts & slows us down, the cries of #blacklivesmatter are fever pitch. As we rub our eyes to face the beginning of what comes next, NIRIN re-opens. Thank god, because it’s a good place to start.