The artist has depicted the Kulama (Yam) ceremony. Not long before the death of Purrukapali (the ancestral hero), when all the birds and animals were still men and women, Purutjkini, a boo-book owl man and his wife Pintoma, a barn owl, decided to perform the first Kulama ceremony. The white-headed sea eagle Jirakati was the first person to be initiated, and still wears the paint to this day. At the close of the creation periods, the spirit performed a second and complete Kulama ceremony. This included the preparation of the Kulama yam for food and the performance of all stages of initiation. At its completion, they agreed that this form of ceremony should always remain the same.
Large concentric circles often appear as the main element of contemporary Tiwi paintings, representing the Kulama circle or ceremonial dancing ground. They are the icons of Tiwi spiritual belief. When a gold ring forms around the moon during the final stages of the wet season, Japara the moon man is performing Kulama. Tiwi people believe that a multitude of star people sing and dance Kulama songs inside the gold ring. This is the signal for them to begin preparations for Kulama, the annual celebration of life. The ceremony involves three days and three nights of ritual body painting, singing, dancing and eating yams.
The Kulama yam is a round root vegetable found in the bush. It can be highly poisonous and must be properly prepared before eating. During Kulama ceremony many new songs and dances are performed. The composition of songs and dances was traditionally one of the duties of new initiates.
The Tiwi people inhabit Bathurst and Melville Islands, north of Darwin.
Biography – from Munupi Arts
Born in 1965, Francesca Puruntatameri attended secondary school at St Johns College in Darwin. After finishing year 11 she returned to her home town of Pirlangimpi. She took various jobs, working in the bank and library and studied book keeping at the Darwin Community College. She then took some time for parenting her baby daughter. Francesca worked for a short time at Munupi Arts in 1993 but left to work at the bakery for a period of 6 months. She returned to Munupi Arts made an impression with her decorated canvas paintings and gouaches on paper. She has also completed printmaking workshops and assists with fabric screen-printing. Francesca has completed her Certificate II in Arts and Crafts with Batchelor College.
From 2009 – 2013 Francesca served as President of Munupi Arts & Crafts, an Aboriginal owned art centre on Melville Island..
Aboriginal Fertility prints
This is one of a range of 14 limited edition screen-prints on paper exclusively available through Songlines. The prints have not been exhibited or offered for sale since 1999, the year they were created by eight Indigenous women artists. Images of the prints were used as slides by Fay Nelson, then Director Aboriginal Arts Board, Australia Council, in her keynote address at the landmark Sydney IVF Fertility Conference held at Darling Harbour Conference Centre.
The prints and Dr Nelson’s essay ‘Aboriginal Fertility’ are documented in the conference proceedings published as Towards Reproductive Certainty – Fertility and Genetics beyond 1999 edited by Robert Jansen and David Mortimer with the assistance of Karen Coote, published by The Parthenon Publishing Group.