Printing Knowledge and Preserving Tradition: Printmaking on the Tiwi Islands
My research examines silk screen printing on the Tiwi Islands and the significant role textiles play as carriers of values connecting people across time and maintaining important cultural knowledge. Silk screen printing is an introduced technique that flourished on the islands in the late twentieth century. My aim is to show how the Tiwi have retained their identity while engaging in a non-traditional form of artistic expression. I argue that the silk screen print designs produced on the
... duced on the islands express a relationship to the land, ancestors and cultural artefacts. Early print designs produced in the 1970s by Tiwi men at the Tiwi Design workshop depict images relating to cultural artefacts, myth and ceremony. Later designs produced by the women in the 1980s are predominantly images connected to the environment. Still later images produced in the 1990s by an older generation of artists revert back to the traditional markings using lines and dots. My thesis shows how visual markings are produced in a new context and for new uses. I explore the print designs produced by the Tiwi in the twentieth century as a type of meta-media, that is, an expressive form of thought showing a relationship to land, ancestors and culture. The designs printed by the Tiwi on fabric are a means by which the old is linked to the new and cultural identity is reinforced during a time of great change. The designs show how tradition has been transformed to meet new circumstances.