Kitty Kantilla

"I will paint until the day I die"
Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu) (Tiwi c. 1928-2003)

Kitty Kantilla was one of Australia's most remarkable Indigenous artists, celebrated for her innovation, unique style and mastery of a range of mediums. Kantilla was born at Piripumawu and grew up at Yimpinari on Melville Island, 50 kilometres north of Darwin. As a young girl, Kantilla watched her father paint his special jilamara (design) on faces, bodies and objects and experienced Pukumani ceremonies. Kantilla went on to perform her own kinship songs and dances, carving and painting tutini and painting innovative designs on the bodies of close relatives to disguise them from mapurtiti (malevolent spirits of the deceased). She began to carve for the art market in 1977 when living at Paru, an important centre of art production on Melville Island. She settled at Milikapiti in 1989, just as Jilamara Arts & Craft Association (Jilamara) was being established. Here, with support from the art centre she produced most of her work and was known as the Queen of Jilamara.