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.
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.