Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Tiwi: Art/culture/history

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Tiwi: Art/culture/history

Article excerpt

Tiwi: art/culture/history Jennifer Isaacs 2012 Miegunyah Press, Carlton, Vic., 327pp, 800 ills, ISBN 9780522858556 (hbk)

This a truly beautiful book, not only for its colourful images from cover to cover. It is an introduction to the Tiwi nation and homeland - a group of islands not far from the coastal city of Darwin, capital of our Northern Territory.

A well-researched publication, it draws on the work of anthropologists and other researchers and their careful recording of language, music, art and legends of the Tiwi people. These enquir ies attempt to show how Tiwi life was before and after Europeans and others settled in the Tiwi lands. Isaacs demonstrates in her book how Tiwi people have retained many of their cultural practices in spite of moving forward and embracing their connection with introduced technology and tourism.

The author's note on page 316 should be read before the Tiwi cultural information that forms the book. To be close to the Tiwi for 40 years and attain such a level of respect as to be given the title of Auntie adds authority to Isaacs' research.

Isaacs' reference list (pp.312-14) is enormous and valuable for readers wishing to go beyond this publication for more information and points of view. The index of Tiwi artists and their work (p.319), along with illustrations of Tiwi visual codes and symbols, is helpful for understanding Tiwi art, whether ceremonial body decoration, artefact embellishment or traditional storytelling illustration as bark 'paintings'.

A little over a century ago Christian missionaries set up their businesses to 'save' the Tiwi people. In fact, their mission - besides teaching the rules and regulations of Christian religion to control a community - was to teach European languages, principally English, as the new form of oral communication. The Christian Bible stories, hymns and prayers replaced Tiwi ancestor stories, songs and spirit talking. There were request prayers for safety, guidance and forgiveness of sins etc. for converts.

European cuisine was introduced. Livestock was imported for meat and dairy. …

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