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Ilma Savari (Ajikum'e)

Ilma Savari (Ajikum'e)
Vaig'e ohu'o soru'e (Design of the bush snail and tattoos) 2015
Natural pigments on barkcloth
76 × 96 cm

  Ilma Savari (Ajikum'e)

c.1968, Oro Province, Papua New Guinea

Anahobehi village (Gora), Ömie territory, Oro Province, Papua New Guinea




Ilma Savari is the daughter of venerated elder and pre-eminent Ömie artist Sarah Ugibari. In recent years, Sarah (the oldest living Ömie, at approximately ninety-seven years of age), has begun the crucial task of imparting her store of ancient wisdom to daughter Ilma. Among other things, this has involved Sarah teaching Ilma to paint and sew a number of enduring Ömie and Managalasi barkcloth designs. Both mother and daughter began working with Ömie Artists Inc. in 2009. These days, Ilma spends much of her time preparing barkcloths and painting and sewing the many ancestral designs Sarah has handed-down to her. She also enjoys preparing for (and singing and dancing at) tribal celebrations.

At the dawn of time, Managalasi and Ömie Ancestors emerged from the underground cave Vavago as a single people. Over time, these first people migrated across the greater Huvaimo region and into Hydrographer’s Range above Managalasi Plateau. Subsequently this group split into separate tribes which both still celebrate ‘Mina and Suja’, a shared ancestral creation story about the first man and woman. They also have many customs and barkcloth designs in common. Ilma creates works originating from both tribes because her mother Sarah was born Managalasi but later married an Ömie man. It was she who brought knowledge of Managalasi culture into the Ömie realm.

Ilma’s painted Ömie designs depict traditional Sidorajé clan tattoo markings, while her painted Managalasi designs originate from Koruwo and Kiara villages high on Hydrographer’s Range. Her appliquéd mud-dyed barkcloth designs, in the form of Chiefs’ prestige barkcloths, are derived from both tribes. Along with abstract paintings and appliquéd mud-dyed barkcloth designs, Ilma also paints important stories relating to sacred sites of Gora and her surrounding homelands. She uses a unique (for Ömie) combination of figuration and symbolism to create these compelling images.

Solo Exhibition

Aréro Ajivé (A New Light), Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane

Group Exhibitions

Hijominöe Modéjadé (Guided by Ancestors), Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane
An Exploration of Bark, Outstation Gallery, Darwin
Art Karlsruhe 2015, Karlsruhe Trade Fair Centre, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Unter dem Vulkan: Kunst der Ömie aus Papua-Neuguinea (Under the Volcano: Art of Ömie from Papua New Guinea), Artkelch, Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Artkelch, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Museum Fünf Kontinente | Staatliche Museen in Bayern, München, Bayern, Germany
Das soll Kunst sein Vol. 12, Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Painted and Woven in Song: Ömie Barkcloths and Bilums, RAFT Artspace, Alice Springs


Aréro Ajivé (A New Light) [ex. cat.], Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane, 2016
Hijominöe Modéjadé (Guided by Ancestors) [ex. cat.], Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane, 2015
Appel, Michaela; Kelch, Robyn; and King, Brennan. Ömie Artists [ex. cat.], Artkelch, Freiburg & Stuttgart and Museum Für Völkerkunde, München, 2014
Purdon, Fiona. 'Jungle Life', U on Sunday, Sunday Mail, 28 February 2016

Ross Bonthorne Collection, Sydney
The Arthur Roe Collection, Melbourne