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 Albert Croker  (1908 - 1968)

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Lived/Active: Australia      Known for: sculpture

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
The Buffalo (circa 1959)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Mossgreen Auctions:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Albert Croker is a member of the Tiwi artists’ ‘hall of fame’, as described by Jennifer Isaacs in Tiwi: Art/History/Culture, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne 2012, (p. 7).  Isaacs’ artistic elite included a group of highly influential and innovative artists who lived in the community of Paru on Melville Island during the 1960s.  Among them were Cardo Kerinauia (1892-1964), Maudie Kerinauia (c.1899-1984), Don Hocking (c.1930-deceased), and a young Kitty Kantilla (nee Illortamini, c.1928-2003).  These artists chose Paru as their base to be away from the influence of the Catholic Mission that had been established across the Apsley Strait at Nguiu on Bathurst Island.  While Paru offered the independence to continue traditional practices, these artists also developed a tradition of figurative sculpture.  Among their favorite subjects were the great ancestors Purukuparli and Bima, whose tragedy resulted in the Tiwi becoming mortal, and other characters of Tiwi cosmology.

Albert Croker’s most original sculptures are renderings of painted buffaloes or buffalo heads.  Water buffalo had been introduced to the Tiwi Islands from Timor early in the 19th century with the establishment of the short-lived Fort Dundas on Bathurst Island in the 1820s.  Once the fort was abandoned, the buffalo ran feral.  Croker’s naturalistic buffalo sculptures have an affinity with the buffalo imagery of the Toraja people on Sulawesi in modern day Indonesia.

Sulawesi, or the Celebes, is home to the Makassan fishermen and traders who regularly visited the northern coasts of Australia until early in the 20th century.  The square-profiled grave markers and figurative sculptures of the Makassans are believed to have influenced the sculpture of the Tiwi and that of the Yolngu in eastern Arnhem Land.  Among Croker’s major tutini or Pukumani pole featuring a buffalo head is one in the Sandra Holmes Tiwi Collection at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, which is illustrated in Holmes, S. Le Brun, The Goddess and the Moon Man: The sacred art of the Tiwi Aborigines, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, pp. 47, 50 (detail), 56 and 88, and in Isaacs 2012:155.

While the buffalo is an introduced species, it entered Tiwi cosmology and that of the Kunwinjku and related groups in western Arnhem Land.  Another buffalo Pukumani pole attributed to Albert Croker is also in the Darwin museum’s collection is illustrated in Isaacs 2012:71.  The National Museum of Australia, Canberra, holds a water buffalo sculpture that Croker made in 1964 (Isaacs 2012:2). 

Croker was the son of an Iwaidja man from western Arnhem Land and a Tiwi mother.  Having been raised on the Tiwi Islands, he was taken to Croker Island at the age of fourteen – hence his name – and worked in various jobs, including hunting feral buffalo on the mainland.  During World War II, Croker was a member of the Snake Bay Patrol of coastwatchers.  He married Cardo Kerinauia’s daughter Nancy Pirarutiiu and returned to Melville Island in 1955 where he helped establish the community at Paru (Isaacs 2012:137). Wally Caruana

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