Etching & aquatint
49.2 x 38.8 cm
Traditional Tiwi Culture placed special significance on the Pukumani (funeral) ceremony. Mourners are decorated using natural ochres to disguise themselves from the spirit of the deceased and song and dance is performed to honour the dead. Yirrinkiripwoja (bodypaint) is the source of many contemporary Tiwi designs and performance of the pukumani as ritual helps to reinvigorate the imagery. The shortening of the word to Pwoja - also refers to 'best'. (Jilamara Arts and Craft, August 2006)
Raelene was born on 1 September, 1962, on Bathurst Island and raised by her grandmother. Her older brother Vivian is also a painter. Raelene began designing screens for fabric printing in 1985 as part of the adult education program in Milikapiti, and then took up painting with the establishing of Jilamara Arts and Craft in 1989. Initially, Raelene used brushes with ochres but since 1999 she has adopted the traditional painting technique of using a comb (kayimwagakini). Combs were primarily used in the past for ceremonial body painting applications and are typically made from bloodwood or ironwood.
Raelene was inspired to incorporate the traditional technique of the kayimwagakini after observing Pedro Wonaeamirri using it, and viewing older pole carvings in the National Museum by the late Tiwi carver, Sugarbag Kapiti. The making of the comb is a skill in itself and Raelene's partner James Tipiloura, a carver with Jilamara Arts and Craft, carves the combes for Raelene's work.
In addition to printmaking, Raelene works with ochres on paper, bark, and canvas, and her work has been acquired for major public and private art collections including at the National Gallery of Australia. Raelene has participated in group exhibitions since 1991 and has held several solo shows in Darwin and Sydney since 2004. (Jilamara Arts and Craft, July 2006)