Last Sunday was Tiwi Day… well not exactly, technically it was their footy grand final, but it’s as big as any event the Tiwi Islands will ever have because some clever cookie decided to tag on the Tiwi Art sale with the footy. Either of these events is probably worth a visit, but combined it is something you should chuck into your bucket list whenever you come down to Darwin around this time of the year.
I bought my tickets at the last minute, unfortunately I couldn’t get a ticket on the ferry. I bought a ticket with an air charter instead, Fly Tiwi. The ferry is probably the way to go because the ride on the ferry is an experience in itself, but the biggest difference is price. $150 return as apposed to $240 return. Also if you are based in the city centre, the ferry terminal in Cullen Bay is an easy 20 minute walk. To get to the air charter airport I literally cycled for an hour on a mountain bike I borrowed cheaply from a mate. (If you are looking at hiring a cheap bike while you are in Darwin I can refer you. When I say cheap I mean cheap. Just let me know you are interested in the comments).
At about 10am I finally arrived at the terminal. By this stage I am absolutely drenched in sweat. I only hope the people sitting next to me had a blunt sense of smell.
I locked my bike and prayed that no one would steal it even though I had a pretty solid bike lock (again supplied by mate).
If you have never been on a small aircraft and have avoided it because it looks rather dinky, I have to say the ride was quite a comfortable one. The pilot is literally at arms length, but because of the noise no one really talks much. I was on a plane of about 8, all of them were footy umpires going to the game.
Once we landed we were picked up by the local teachers driving a school bus. A gold coin donation sufficed.
The most amazing and cringe worthy thing I saw when I was over there besides the footy was the omnipotent food van and not just any food van (see below). It does not matter where you are on this planet, in every corner of the world, every nook and cranny you can always rely on one thing –
I was kinda bamboozled, but them Asians are freaking entrepreneurial. Geographically it makes sense since Asia is practically next door. Reading the history of the Macassan Traders in Tiwi validates that. I usually don’t eat Asian food from a food van or bain marine but I simply could not resist. I felt an urge to help my fellow brethren… so I bought 2 chicken satay sticks and a spring roll… I wouldn’t rate the chicken satay but the spring rolls were a hit.
The main hub if you could call it that is really just the one road that goes from the airport all the way into town, pass the schools and shops, footy oval and all the way to the beach where the ferry terminal sits.
Starting from the beach end of the main road I stopped first at Tiwi Art. This place is where the business end occurs. Cash was being exchanged for art left right and centre, some people went nuts. By my own estimates, 8 out of 10 people their had bought something. From what I’ve heard it’s the only time where a sale really means a sale – especially for this kind of art, so I guess you can be forgiven for letting loose on the plastic. If I had a house I most definitely would have bought something, a wood sculpture would look right at home in anyone’s house, a printed canvass begs to be hanged on the wall. There is something about indigenous art that just exudes character, history and man’s evolution.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the art in the store. For some reason I didn’t feel like it was the place to take photos of the art work, not sure why but it was how I felt at the time. I did however take photos of the church that contained some artwork –
The next stop was the main game. Throughout the day there were curtain raisers, but due to a shortage of time, the main game was the only game I saw. The final was the IMALU Tigers Vs RANKU Eagles.
I am now in awe of Tiwi footy. If you watch Aussie rules, you will immediately notice the difference in pace. Tiwi footy is very fast pace. The kicking in the game was one of the most accurate I’ve seen in a long time. The players just seem to know where their team mates are in advance. The marking was just as good as the kicking and together it made Tiwi footy a very enthralling spectacle.
The Imalu tigers won by a comfortable margin, I forgot what the final score was, but it was something like 90 to 45.
That ended my experience at Tiwi. It’s as close as I have come to experience indigenous culture since coming to Darwin. I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious to see what it’s like to see a culture that has remained relatively intact. If they ever hold any events that allow you to learn first hand how the Tiwi’s gather and hunt, I will be the first one to buy a ticket. The museum gave me a small vestige into their day to day lives and was one of the many things I was deeply impressed by.