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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay)

2003
Jo Bertini

oil on canvas (support: 152.0 cm x 135.0 cm)

Acclaimed Tiwi artists Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu) (c. 1928–2003) and Taracarijimo Freda Warlapinni (c. 1928–2004) lived in the 'widow's camp' at Milikapiti on the coast of Melville Island for many years. They were both instrumental in the development of Jilimara Arts and Crafts. The two remained close, needling each other unrelentingly, for the rest of their lives. Jo Bertini first saw Kantilla's work in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in the early 1990s, soon after she had returned from studying art in Europe. Following many attempts, she eventually met the artist on Melville Island in 2001. Initially hesitant, Kantilla allowed Bertini to sketch her once she promised to buy one of her works; she also sketched Kantilla's friend and rival Warlapinni. When Bertini returned to Sydney, this painting germinated over a two-year period. She later noted: 'I wished to capture my great respect for these two artists, as women of their time; their resilience and independence, their strength of character, their defiance in the face of any intrusion in their lives, their fiercely proud and protective instincts, their unity with their culture and traditions and their extraordinary artistic ability.' Sadly, Kantilla died two days after the work was hung in the Portia Geach Prize of 2003; just a few months later, Warlapinni died.

Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2004
© Jo Bertini

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Jo Bertini (age 39 in 2003)

Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu) (age 75 in 2003)

Taracarijimo Freda Warlapinni (age 75 in 2003)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

Related portraits

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay)
Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay)
Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay)
Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay)

Eye line

Magazine article by Jo Bertini, 2004

Jo Bertini describes the evolution of her portrait of artists and friends Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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