Early records from British explorers who came into contact with the Tiwi Islands suggest they witnessed a distinctive culture of patterned body paint, vivid dances and bright ochre burial poles. To this day, this arts and culture scene has mercifully survived and is the very essence of what makes the Tiwi Islands a must-see destination. Although only 80 kilometres north of Darwin, Jen Pinkerton says “Tiwi is very much off-the-beaten track, and the centres themselves are tucked inside Aboriginal communities, so really, you’re accessing something quite authentic”. A permit is required to visit and you need to board a small plane or boat to get there but the trek is certainly worth it to experience one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world creatively through unique art. Of the 11 islands, three host art and culture centres, which are “home to some serious artistic talent,” according to Jen. Day trip with AAT Kings from $484 per adult including airfare or the Tiwi Art Network runs group tours of 4–8 people, price on application.
Sit down with the ‘morning tea ladies’ on Bathurst Island, a group of elders who’ll serve damper and billy tea and teach you how to weave pandanus.
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