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45 x 45cm, locally sourced ochre on canvas


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Kulama is the Tiwi coming of age ceremony which coincides with the harvest of wild yam. The ceremony is performed late in the wet season when a ring or halo appears around Japarra (the moon). Elders of both sexes sing and call out to the ancestors for three days, welcoming children into adulthood. The ceremony is held on a prepared ground of concentric circles at the centre of which round yams are prepared for eating. Circular motifs in Tiwi art often symbolise the moon, yam and ritual circles of the Kulama ceremony, the pwanga (dots) reflect the japalinga (stars). As Tiwi artist and cultural leader Pedro Wonaeamirri describes:

Japarra (moon), warnarringa (sun) and the circles on the ground all important for Kulama. Three days and nights – Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the ceremony. No little children at the Kulama. No dancing, just calling out to the ancestors, each direction. This way, that way. Just singing, calling out and crawling in a circle calling out and sharing stories from parlingarri [old times]. At the end of the Kulama, on Sunday we eat, then Monday morning everyone comes in, the children and old people. The cooked yam is mixed with red ochre and put on their bodies. Sometimes people have one side of yam for eating and one side for mixing with red ochre and rubbing on the body – Pedro Wonaeamirri. 


Cat: 417-23