This artefact comes from Melville Island, located off the coast of Darwin in the Timor sea. The artist is Old Mungatopi, so known as the eldest member of the Mungatopi family in 1975 in the Tiwi Islands.
The Pukumani ceremony is unique to Tiwi. It is a ‘final goodbye’, with singing and dancing accompanying the placement of Tutuni (standing carved logs) around the gravesite. The first Pukumani ceremony was led by Tiwi ancestor Purukuparli for his baby, Jinani, who was the first person to die; as a result, today all Tiwi must follow his fate.
The spear-head is used in the dance or mock fight between Purakapali, a god figure (ancestor) and his brother Japara (The Moon Man). In the dream time Japara stole the wife of Purakapali causing the death of his infant child, understood to be the first death. The Pukamani ceremony restores man’s ability to access the afterlife.
This piece is intricately decorated with ochre paints and some acrylics. The barbs on both sides are pointed down. (Background painting is by Makinti Napanangka)