In her paintings, Michelle applies Tiwi earth pigments using the Kayimwagakimi comb — a toothed painting tool carved from locally harvested ironwood and used in ceremonial Tiwi body painting. In the long-standing tradition of her ancestors, she also works in natural ochres sourced on country around Milikapiti. These materials are collected, crushed and burned into the three traditional colours of the island landscape: white, yellow and red.
“Artwork makes me think about the wulimawi (old people)…like going out on Country, same feeling. It makes me feel emotional, makes me think about my Ancestors and how they used to live. We need to keep that culture alive through art, ceremony and spending time on Country.” – Michelle Woody Minnapinni
Michelle’s painterly forms are reminiscent of elements of the iconic Tiwi Murrakuupupuni (Country). These include winga (salt water), makatinga (flowing fresh water) and where the two meet in the tidal estuaries of the Tiwi Islands, as well as Japarra and Japalinga (the moon and stars). In a great culmination of Tiwi art practice Michelle uses an iconic tool for creating jilamara (Tiwi body paint design) and material of the landscape to create contemporary representations of Ngiya Murrakupupuni (My Country).
BIO: MICHELLE WOODY MINNAPINNI
REGION: Milikapiti, Melville Island
COUNTRY: Pupatuwu (Fourcroy)
SKIN GROUP: Miyartuwi (Pandanus)
DANCE: Kapala (Sailing boat)
Michelle Woody is a strong Tiwi culture woman and artist whose distinct painting style is becoming increasingly recognised on a national level. She has shown in a range of exhibition formats, including coming runner up for the 2018 Summer Salon at Collins Place Gallery in Melbourne and the Rising Stars exhibition at Outstation in Darwin the following year. She often uses the distinct Tiwi pwoja (ironwood comb) to paint depictions of Ngiya Murrakupupuni (My Country), winga (saltwater) and jlamara (Tiwi body paint design).
Since joining Jilamara, Michelle has taken on key governance roles and is the current President and Gallery Assistant, as well as holding key responsibilities as a director on the ANKA Board (Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists). She oversees the Muluwurri Museum collection held at the art centre and has since completed a Specialist Certificate in Arts Conservation from the Grimwade Centre at the University of Melbourne. She was selected for the ANKA Artsworker Extension Program in 2018 and in 2019 was also invited to take part in the Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership Program at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. In 2020, she was awarded the King Wood Malleson Contemporary Indigenous Art Award. In 2022, Michelle is looking forward to her first solo exhibition at MARS Gallery in Melbourne.