Tiwi Islands. A land of smiles.

An early start today with an Uber pickup to take us to the Cullen Bay ferry terminal. We’re off to the Tiwi Islands.

Tiwi is made up of Melville Is, Bathurst Is and nine smaller uninhabited islands. There are about 2,500 people living in the two main islands.

If you’ve seen the movie Top End Wedding you will recognise it. That’s where the wedding took place!

It took 2.5 hrs by Sealink Ferry to get there but it was a very comfortable ride. It’s interesting to note the foot wear of locals and tourists alike. Thongs!

We were greeted at the dock by Bibian a 38 yr old local. He was just lovely.

Bibian outside the Museum.

After a warm greeting we made our way to the cultural centre for the Welcome and Smoking ceremony. Some locals welcome us with smoke and dance. They had us up walking around the smoking iron wood leaves.

Tiwi is known for it arts & crafts – they are bought from all over the world. So we moved into the art shed and were given a lesson in screen printing.

Choosing one of the screens was like a sport! It was the quick or the left behind. I was checking the screens out and decided to wait for the screen I wanted. This proved to be an advantage. I got to see what people were doing. The colours they choose and how to best apply the paint.

Steve’s turtle on a t shirt.
Jill also used the turtle. Chris the crocodile
I waited and chose the all over pattern of animals.
I was very happy with mine!

I had one of the most helpful guys help me. He had quite a sense of humour and was full of good advice.

While the finished products were drying we were able to explore the gallery showroom. Lots of carved birds decorated the floor and we walked around seeing one if spoke to us. Or rather squawked.

The printed fabrics were gorgeous but not being a sewing expert I passed on that.

Lunch arrived and it was fresh and lovely. We sat at the mahogany tables and I thought how I’d love to have one of those at home and the stools. They were just stumps carved with a face and very comfortable.

Our finished screen printing flapped in the breeze and we’re just about ready to be ironed and packed.

Next door was the carving shed with a man called Mario telling us about the paint and how they make the colours. The ochre is a yellow when found but after heating turns orange. The black he said ‘comes out of a can!’

The bird we selected had been carved by him.

The bird you’ll find in our home

We walked through the streets ready to explore the village. it’s one of two main villages in the island.

The school is very neat and well cared for. And is next door to the museum.

The museum is small but contains a lot of photos of early days on the missions on the island. It tells stories of it part in the bombings in 1942 in Darwin during the war. The Japanese planes were seen flying over. There was a cartoon style film explaining what happened with some very cute graphics which downplayed the seriousness of the bombings and the ship that was sunk off Darwin.

Bibian gave us a good run down of the tribes / families. There are 28 tribes with four groupings. Bibian is a member of the Pandanus group. The families don’t intermarry.

Outline of the family groupings

If you’ve seen the movie Top End Wedding you’ll know the church used for the wedding. We climbed the timber stairs into the airy shuttered church beautifully decorated with paintings.

We made our way back along the waterfront to the jetty for our 2.5 hr trip home

This time the ferry was full. Lots of the local aboriginal people, families who squished into seats together, spread out on the floor and caught up on some sleep. The trip was quite rough in some patches but it didn’t seem to worry anyone.

A quick turn around after we arrived back at 6.15 and out to Tim’s restaurant. It was just around the corner and was set in a very busy courtyard. Food was good but slow arriving. I found myself eyeing off the little crocodile swimming around a small tank.

8 thoughts on “Tiwi Islands. A land of smiles.

  1. Very interesting cultural details about Tiwi. Enjoyed seeing their arts & crafts. Your fabric prints turned out lovely!


  2. Looks marvellous Fran. Loved your screen print. Lizzy has a gig in Darwin in August and I’m going too. Some long delayed mother and daughter time. So I’m loving your travel tips.


  3. Great day for you all Fran and you get to bring home a personally made as well as a purchased souvenir – loved your T-shirt design.


  4. Yet another exciting adventure for the Maitland’s! All the way to the Tiwi Islands !
    Enjoying the journey with you and learning about the culture. Have fun 🤩


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