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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)

Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu) (c. 1928-2003) was the most acclaimed Tiwi artist of her generation. Kantilla was from Yimpinari country on Melville Island, off the west coast of the top of the Northern Territory. For a time she lived on nearby Bathurst Island, but in the 1970s she moved to Paru on Melville Island where she joined a group of women who sold their art at Nguiu. During this period she produced mainly carvings, but around 1985 she moved to Milikapiti, a nearby settlement, where she began to produce paintings at Jilamara Arts and Crafts. She is now best known for her ochre paintings on paper, canvas, bark and ironwood, incorporating traditional geometric designs. Her work is represented in most major Australian galleries, and the National Gallery of Victoria mounted a major touring retrospective of her art in 2007-2008. Freda Warlapinni (c. 1928-2004), also an artist, started painting in ochre on paper, bark and canvas in 1996. She lived with Kantilla in the 'widow's camp' on the coast of Melville Island for some years, and the two remained close, needling each other unrelentingly, for the rest of their lives.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2004
© Jo Bertini

Accession number: 2004.17

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Jo Bertini (age 39 in 2003)

Kitty Kantilla (age 75 in 2003)

Freda Warlapinni (age 75 in 2003)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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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), 2003 Jo Bertini
Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay), 2003 Jo Bertini
Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay), 2003 Jo Bertini
Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni at Milikapiti (Snake Bay), 2003 Jo Bertini

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 both past and present.

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