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A small island community in the Northern Territory is producing nationally and internationally recognised artists, seven of whom have been nominated in this year’s Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art Awards.

Pedro Wonaeamirri has been an artist for 30 years and says his natural surroundings inspire his art.

Walking along the cool sand on the shores of Melville Island, the bigger of the two islands that make up Tiwi, the 47-year-old searches for the perfect rock to collect materials to make his work.

“When I paint, I like to come out here and collect ochres or earth pigments. Ochres have always been used, not just for our art but in ceremony as well,” he explained.

“We sand down the pigments and mix them with water and PVA glue. The only difference with ceremony is that we don’t use glue, we keep it natural.”

While Melville is the larger of the Tiwi Islands, its population is only small, with only 1,049 residents split between Milikapiti, Pirlangimpi and small outstations.

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