During ceremony on the Tiwi Islands a series of ‘yoi’ (dances), are performed; some are totemic (inherited from the person’s Mother) and some serve to act out the narrative of newly composed songs. Participants in these ceremonies are painted with turtiyanginari (the different natural ochre colours) in varying designs, transforming the dancers and, in some cases, providing protection against recognition by mapurtiti (spirits). These designs can be applied in different ways, one of which is using the finger, or in this case a brush. Painting of the face also occurs. These significant artistic designs collectively are called ‘Jilamara’.
Virginia Galarla was born in 1951 at Wurrumiyanga. Her maiden name was Pangiraminni. She went to the catholic primary and high school at Wurrumiyanga.
When she turned 18 she got a job at the health centre and in 1972 she transferred to the leprosarium at East Arm in Darwin. In 1973 she got married and went to Maningrida with her husband for 1 year. In 1974 they returned to Wurrumiyanga where they had 5 children. The family moved to Pirlangimpi in 1979.
After her family grew up she returned to the work at the Health Centre in Pirlangimpi until she retired in 2010. When she retired she was sitting at home making baskets as she didnt know about the Art Centre until 2104 when she joined and started to paint. Her paintings depicting seasons, ceremonies, bush foods, bush medicine, insects, ceremonial objects etc have continued to evolve and her are sought after.