KEN THAIDAY SNR: ERUB KEBE LE A SURVEY EXHIBITION FROM 1990 TO THE PRESENT
KEN THAIDAY SNR: ERUB KEBE LE A SURVEY EXHIBITION FROM 1990 TO THE PRESENT CAIRNS REGIONAL GALLERY
Ken Thaiday, 2013 Photographer: Michael Marzik
COVER IMAGE: Beizam headdress (Shark with bait fish), 1995 plywood, enamel paint, wire, feathers, shark’s teeth and string 72 x 90.5 x 67.8 cm (irreg.) Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
MAJOR EXHIBITION PARTNER
This exhibition has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland’s Backing Indigenous Arts initiative.
When I was a young fellow on Darnley Island, the first thing I did was fishing … My first experiences were of fishing and when I was a young fellow I saw my father teaching many people dancing. I didn’t know he was one of the most talented artists, one of the best on Darnley Island … Dancing is very important to me because of my father. He was a very good dancer so this is why I dance, to carry on my culture, to stand in his footsteps as my sons will do for me. Every Torres Strait Islander is like this. Ken Thaiday’s father, Tat Thaiday, Medige, Erub, c.1963–64 Photographer: Bill Ovenden
Ken Thaiday Snr, interview with Brian Robinson, then Curator of Indigenous Art, Cairns Regional Gallery, June 2000
Above: Ken Thaiday dancing, wearing a Beizam headdress, c.1995 Photographer unknown
LEFT: Ken Thaiday working on an Alag mask Photographer: Michael Marzik
FOREWORD Ken Thaiday Snr: Erub Kebe Le is the first-ever major survey exhibition of the art of Ken Thaiday Snr. A senior Torres Strait Island artist, Thaiday is recognised worldwide for the extraordinary ingenuity of his work, which celebrates and preserves cultural traditions while energetically exploring the possibilities presented by new materials and techniques. Ken Thaiday Snr: Erub Kebe Le brings together over thirty sculptural works made by Thaiday between the early 1990s and the present day. Since its establishment, in 1995, Cairns Regional Gallery has always had a strong commitment to supporting and promoting the art and artists of the Torres Strait Islands. The landmark exhibition Ilan Pasin (This Is Our Way), which was initiated by the Gallery and toured Australia in the period 1998–2000, introduced national audiences to the living artistic culture of the Torres Strait. The Gallery is now focused on presenting a series of solo exhibitions featuring the work of significant Torres Strait Island artists. The body of work in the present exhibition demonstrates the breadth of Ken Thaiday’s involvement with the culture of his birthplace, Erub (Darnley Island), and acknowledges his creative debt to his father, Tat Thaiday, a greatly respected choreographer and songwriter. Ken Thaiday is perhaps best known for his spectacular moving headdresses. Designed for use in ceremonial dance, these articulated dance machines are positioned today at the cutting edge of contemporary art practice. Over the years, Thaiday has often expressed an interest in seeing his work automated. Cairns Regional Gallery is delighted to have made this possible: in response to a commission from the Gallery, Thaiday, working with Sydney artist Jason Christopher, has just produced his first fully automated dance machine, Clamshell with hammerhead shark, 2013.
Triple hammerhead shark headdress with water display, 2010 black bamboo, plywood, nylon line, plastic, paint and feathers 110 x 116 x 150 cm (irreg.) Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
The development and presentation of this exhibition has brought together many individuals committed in their support of Ken Thaiday. Michael Kershaw, Director of the Australian Art Print Network, was an important collaborator, assisting in the early development of the exhibition and facilitating the artistic collaboration between Ken Thaiday and Jason Christopher. Private collectors, as well as collecting institutions, have made an invaluable contribution to the exhibition. Aime and Jacqueline Proost and the De Deyne family, long-time supporters of Ken Thaiday, and devoted collectors of his work, have generously lent many
early and fragile pieces, and the Queensland Art Gallery, Griffith University, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and Queensland Museum have lent key works in support of the artist. To recognise the significance of Ken Thaiday as an artist, Arts Queensland has partnered with the Gallery to present this exhibition, which is centre stage in CIAF Presents, a celebration of Queensland Indigenous culture taking place in Cairns in August 2013. We are indebted to the staff of the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art whose shared enthusiasm for this project helped bring it to fruition. In particular I would like to thank Tony Ellwood (former Director), Chris Saines (current Director), Julie Ewington, Maud Page and Diane Moon for facilitating key loans and for sharing research material. I would also like to thank our authors. Maud Page, formerly Curator, Contemporary Pacific Art, and currently Acting Deputy Director, Curatorial and Collection Development, at the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, has kindly allowed us to reprint in this catalogue her scholarly essay Ken Thaiday: To Dance Is to Remember. Imelda Miller, Assistant Curator, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Indigenous Studies, at Queensland Museum, has provided an engaging insight into life in the Torres Strait and Ken Thaiday’s strong connection with Erub. Justin Bishop, Exhibitions Manager at Cairns Regional Gallery, thoughtfully explores the genesis of Thaiday’s first fully automated work. Justin has worked closely with the artist to shape the content and themes of Ken Thaiday Snr: Erub Kebe Le, and is to be congratulated on bringing this complex exhibition together. In developing this exhibition, the staff of Cairns Regional Gallery acknowledge their deep respect for a truly remarkable artist and elder, and we thank both Ken and Elizabeth Thaiday for their generous involvement with this project. In commissioning Ken Thaiday’s first fully automated dance machine, we are proud to have played a small part as Thaiday takes his art in an exciting new direction. Andrea May Churcher Director, Cairns Regional Gallery
Stylised map of the Torres Strait Islands, from The Torres Strait Islands, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, State Library of Queensland, Queensland Museum and Queensland Performing Arts Centre, published on the occasion of The Torres Strait Islands: A Celebration, Brisbane, 2011, p. 6.
Kerry Trapnell Medige Beach, Erub (Darnley Island), 2005 photographic transparency Private collection Image courtesy of Kerry Trapnell
Kerry Trapnell Beach detail, Erub (Darnley Island), 2005 photographic transparency Private collection Image courtesy of Kerry Trapnell
Boat, c.1990 wood, paint, wire and string 35 x 100 x 76 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Peter Waddington
Erub Kebe Le Ken Thaiday Snr is Erub Kebe Le – an Erub man; his art and his dance choreography are deeply connected to the living cultural traditions of Erub (Darnley Island), his birthplace and island home. Erub is one of the some 100 islands of the Torres Strait, the body of water that lies between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, linking the Coral and Arafura Seas. The English-language name for the Strait incorporates that of the Spanish navigator Luis Váez de Torres, who sailed through it in 1606. The year 1879 saw the annexation of the Torres Strait Islands by Queensland, which was then a British colony. At Federation, in 1901, when Queensland became an Australian state, the islands became part of Australia. Torres Strait Islanders are seafaring people and have traditionally been agriculturalists. Central to Torres Strait Island culture are dance, storytelling, music, and a profound love of the sea and the creatures that inhabit it. Sea creatures that play an important role in life and culture in the Torres Strait include dugong, saltwater crocodiles, turtles and sharks. Many Torres Strait Islanders are devoutly Christian, having adopted the religion brought to their region by representatives of the London Missionary Society in 1871.
View towards Medige, Ken Thaiday’s village, Erub, c.1963–65 Photographer: Bill Ovenden
Erub is the largest of the eastern Torres Strait Islands, and is located close to the Great Barrier Reef. The island was given its English-language name by the British navigator William Bligh, who sailed the Torres Strait in 1792 and named Erub after his distant relative Lord Darnley. Volcanic in origin, the hilly landmass of Erub is composed mainly of lava and ash, a combination that has produced rich soils and lush vegetation. The population of the island expanded significantly in the early nineteenth century when visiting pearlers and bêche-de-mer gatherers from the Pacific Islands, the Philippines and Malaya married local women and settled on Erub. Today, around four hundred people live on the island, served by All Saints Anglican Church, two stores, a school and a health centre. Ken Thaiday Snr is now based in Cairns, but the beautiful island on which he was born and spent his childhood remains at the centre of his practice as an artist and at the core of his identity as Erub Kebe Le.
Overleaf, Imelda Miller, Assistant Curator, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Indigenous Studies, Queensland Museum, writes about life and culture in the Torres Strait Islands and about Ken Thaiday’s lifelong connection to Erub.
Ceremony celebrating the Coming of the Light, Medige, Erub, 1965 Photographer: Bill Ovenden
Trevally Liz with Darnley Island landscape, 2009 plywood, paint, plastic and metal rod 191 x 124 x 28 cm Collection: the artist Photography: Courtesy of Australian Art Print Network
There is A Place in Queensland called the Torres Strait Between Queensland’s Cape York and the southern coastline of Papua New Guinea, there is a place where a large group of Indigenous Australians have their roots firmly connected to island soil. The place is made up of many islands. It is the meeting place of two oceans, and home to a saltwater people with their own diverse culture, rich in language, music, dance and story. This special place, with its picturesque landscapes, is the Torres Strait Islands. Torres Strait Islanders call this place home, and Islanders living here continue to practise strong Ilan Kastom (island customs) and good Ilan Pasin (island courtesy and kindness) every day. Geographically the Torres Strait separates Australia from the large island of New Guinea although, in reality, the two islands are one landmass. A good way to describe how the Torres Strait was formed is to say that rising sea levels caused the land bridge joining Australia and New Guinea to flood. The western islands of the Torres Strait are the tops of submerged hills. In the central region of the Torres Strait you will find a massive coral reef complex that supports coral cays – some so large that they have allowed human occupation. In the east, Erub (Darnley Island) and its neighbours Mer (Murray Island) and Ugar (Stephen Island) are volcanic outcrops emerging from the reef-strewn sea. These eastern islands are home to the Meriam people, who speak the traditional language Meriam Mer. Living and working in an island landscape is a contrast to the mainland life most of us are accustomed to. On Erub, there are no road maps, or traffic lights, or petrol stations around the corner. Torres Strait Islanders rely on a spiritual connection with the land, sea and sky to ensure safe passage, and continuity of resources to provide for their islands and all who live there. Ken Thaiday was born in 1950 on Erub and grew up there with family and friends speaking Meriam Mer and Kriol at home while learning English at school. He like many other Islanders grew up fishing, and cultivating and harvesting plants, including food crops, in island gardens.
Dugong, 2006 black bamboo, paint, nylon line and plywood 145 x 130 x 50 cm Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Peter Waddington
Beizam, 2001 black bamboo, plywood, nylon line, plastic, paint and feathers 101 x 116 x 65 cm (irreg.) Commissioned with funds from the Centenary of Federation Arts Project, Queensland Grant, 2001 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery
Erub is a lush, green volcanic island and its shoreline is encircled by reefs, and a circle-like arrangement of rock fish traps, surrounded by water in beautiful shades of turquoise green. Ken’s connection with Erub is strong and you can see this in his artworks. In many pieces – for example, Trevally Liz with Darnley Island landscape, 2009 (repr. p. 11) – you see the distinctive shape of Erub in the work. Ken has lived in Cairns for many years, and his art is a driving force in his continuous connection to Erub. Ken talks about the Beizam, about his hammerhead shark headdresses and about how, over many years of observation, he learned the movement of the shark by watching it in the water when he was fishing. Ken refers to the hammerhead shark as ‘Law and Order’ in the ocean. The movements of his dance machines mimic the motion of waves and the side-to-side movement of that shark as it swims through the water. Torres Strait Islanders are true seafarers, and continue to navigate the sea by the stars, with knowledge of the islands, reefs, tides and currents, and the weather. This powerful understanding of the environment is shared generation to generation, through language, storytelling, music, dance and song. Special cultural occasions, like the annual commemoration of the Coming of the Light, tombstone openings, and other community and family celebrations, are plentiful in the Torres Strait Islanders’ cultural calendar. These maintain an active connection with the spirits, ancestors, land, sea and sky, and with Christian belief. Ken’s art, like that of many other Torres Strait Islander artists, reflects, maintains, and helps to educate younger generations about, this spiritual and cultural connection to place, to the Torres Strait Islands. Imelda Miller Imelda Miller is Assistant Curator, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Indigenous Studies, at Queensland Museum.
Fish trap, c.1990 plywood, wood, paint, feathers, stones, nylon fishing line, wax and PVC plastic 64 x 105 x 96 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Michael Marzik
Ken Thaiday performing in a ceremony celebrating the Coming of the Light, Cairns, c.1999–2000 Photographer unknown
Weris, c.2000 plywood, wood, bamboo, paint, wire and aluminium 55 x 150 x 70 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Michael Marzik
Black trevally with stingray, jellyfish and sea urchin, c.1990 plywood, paint, metal rod, shell and plastic 68 x 92 x 90 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Michael Marzik
The coming of the light The year 1871 has great significance for the people of the Torres Strait. For on 1 July 1871 members of the London Missionary Society arrived at Kemus, on Erub (Darnley Island), in the vessel Surprise, and the seafaring, subsistence agrarian and warrior culture of the Torres Strait Islands engaged with missionary Christianity. Referred to by Islanders as ‘the Coming of the Light’, the advent of Christianity in the Torres Strait is celebrated every year in a festival held throughout the region and at various locations in Far North Queensland. During the 1980s and 1990s, Ken Thaiday Snr played a central role in coordinating the Coming of the Light Festival in Cairns, and as an artist he has contributed to the festival in many different ways over the years. He has developed and choreographed dances for performance by his Loza Dance Troupe; created dance headdresses and other dance artefacts for the Loza Troupe; and constructed grass huts for use in re-enactments of the events of July 1871.
Kerry Trapnell Coming of the Light Monument, Treacherous Bay, Erub (Darnley Island), 2005 photographic transparency Private collection Image courtesy of Kerry Trapnell
Thaiday’s involvement with the festival is always guided by two objectives: to respectfully celebrate the conversion of the population of Erub to Christianity and to acknowledge his cultural heritage as a Darnley man (Erub Kebe Le). The artist’s dramatic Alag masks, 2012 (repr.), relate to a ceremony performed during the festival and refer to the Alag, a troublemaking spirit associated with the time before the Coming of the Light. An early and overt commentary on the impact of Christianity on Erub is found in Thaiday’s Coming of the Light (dance machine), 1990 (repr.). Designed in the form of a marap (hand clapper), this piece was initially intended for use in dance. When closed, the work presents a profile view of Erub as a black, volcanic landmass seen against a background of cloud-filled sky. This is a representation of what some Torres Strait Islander Christians call ‘the darkness’ (that is, the time before the Coming of the Light).
Seagull, 2009 plywood, wood, paint, plastic, nylon line, lead sinker and Corflute 85 x 81 x 98 cm (irreg.) Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
Kerry Trapnell All Saints Church, Erub (Darnley Island), 2005 photographic transparency Private collection Image courtesy of Kerry Trapnell
Coming of the Light (dance machine), 1990 plywood, nylon, paint, pvc plastic and hinges 32 x 89 x 64 cm (irreg.) Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
Darnley Island (Erub – Coming of the Light), c.1990 plywood, paint, plastic, nylon fishing line and PVC 60.5 x 120 x 128.5 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Michael Marzik
Ken Thaiday: To dance is to remember
When strings at the handle end of the piece are pulled, the dark landform of Erub against its stormy backdrop begins to fold down, and a cross comes into view; further operation of the marap causes articulated sunrays to rise up, as a new image of Erub – now in full colour – is revealed. Both landscape and sky are bathed in the redeeming light of Christ, and, with the darkness having fallen away, a pair of hands come together in prayer. For Ken Thaiday, who describes his work as ‘inspired by Him’, the redeeming light of Christ is reflected across the natural world, reconciling the artist’s ancestral past with the present and signifying a way forward for the future. In Thaiday’s artistic practice, as in his daily life, Christianity and the cultural traditions of his people together enfold into the notion of what it means to be Erub Kebe Le.
Ken Thaiday Snr is celebrated for his innovative use of materials and techniques. He is best known for his ingenious headdresses, or dance machines, which are articulated through a system of string pulleys. Manipulated to move in different directions, these performative objects take on a life of their own, allowing the dancer to evocatively perform oral histories and subsistence stories. Nowhere else in the Pacific are performance headdresses created with such a complex method of articulation as in the Torres Strait.2 The seven sculptures by Ken Thaiday in the Queensland Art Gallery’s Collection date from 1991 to 2004, and illustrate changes in his thinking and practice. They range from early shark headdresses, with a visible two-string pulley system, to more complex works with hidden mechanics, using hose fittings and plastics. Both Symbol of the Torres Strait, 2003, and Waumer (frigatebird), 2004, are performative objects that are too large to be worn on the dancer’s head, shoulders and chest, the usual place for such structures. Heavily articulated, their movements have to be choreographed through a myriad of hidden pulleys, rendering the body invisible and adding a further narrative layer to the work. These ‘mobilised artefacts’, to use Thaiday’s own term, act as open dioramas from which the frigatebird, in the latter example, flies over the Erub Island landscape (the artist’s homeland) as the sun rises over the shoreline. Thaiday has been a fisherman all his life. Even at his new home in Cairns, where fishing is no longer a necessity, he can be found at the end of jetties, line in hand. The movement of fish, tides and birds is all one cycle for Thaiday – they are a reminder of his strong ties to Erub. In his art, Thaiday’s preferred subject is the hammerhead shark; distinct to the eastern island people of the Torres Strait, the hammerhead is considered the ‘boss of the saltwater’, and is Thaiday’s family totem. The elegance and confidence of the hammerhead is beautifully represented in Thaiday’s Beizam (black bamboo triple hammerhead shark headdress), 1999–2000. Its sheer size and bloodstained jaws produce an awe-inspiring and menacing work. The composition of the headdress creates
both a sense of volume and the appearance of airlessness, as though the sculpture could gracefully swim away on a current. Thaiday uses black bamboo to evoke the camouflage of the shark, from dark to light brown, to blue and grey, as it chases bait. ‘This feather standing up on the front represents the weather … [It] looks like muddy water running from the creeks into the sea because of all the rain’.3 The white feathers lining the bottom jaw of the shark simulate the gentle foam of waves rolling across the reef. The top row of feathers refer to smaller bait fish like mullet, which Thaiday cuts into shape so they appear to be swimming in a downward direction, away from the sharks above. The hammerhead shark provides Thaiday with much inspiration for his sculptural works and accompanying choreography. The wide separation of the eyes gives these animals superior vision, and along their broad head are sense organs that detect changes in water pressure and electrical currents, to help them locate prey. The head also acts as an extended wing, allowing the shark additional manoeuvrability. In Thaiday’s headdresses, the shark’s side-to-side movements are conveyed through the dexterous manipulation of the three fishing lines attached to the back of the dancer’s neck. When I’m making the headdress I can picture certain things: the colour of the shark in the water, how they go up the reef, how they change colour. When I’m dancing, I become the shark. From my observations I’m showing how it comes up to get the live bait, simulating its jaw movements.4 Accompanied by an initial slow tempo drumming and singing, the dance machine’s monofilament pulley system is activated by the wearer at the peak of the narration and music – the jaws open and snap shut on an imaginary school of sardines, and trevally swim alongside the shark to catch and feast on leftover debris. These other fish are also manipulated by the performer to show their scooping movements, enhancing the visual energy of the dance.
Ceremony celebrating the Coming of the Light, Medige, Erub, 1965 Photographer: Bill Ovenden
Alag mask , 2012 coconut fibre, cane, twine, fabric and paint 90 x 30 x 40 cm (approx.) Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
This essay was originally published in Lynne Seear & Julie Ewington (eds), Brought to Light II: Contemporary Australian Art 1966–2006 from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2007.
The dance machines depend on human action for their mobility; whether physically worn as a headdress, or simply held, corporality is an intrinsic and inseparable part of the work. Equally, the sounds of performance – the singing, the music, and the rattles worn by the dancers – contribute to the aesthetic power and meaning of the work. Though these works are inexorably tied to performance, music and movement, the sculptures are most often seen in collecting institutions in a static state. In this context, it is the narrative power that drives the reading of each work, and allows these sculptures to be successfully exhibited in both a natural history museum and an art gallery.
wrote of harvest festival dances performed for Queen Victoria’s birthday and mourning ceremonies adapted to become greeting platforms for missionaries.7 Haddon grieved the passing of this culture – a culture simultaneously forced and choosing to change with the influx of Europeans. The ethnographer collected examples of early turtle shell masks, apparent (static) predecessors of the later dance machines. These beautifully carved, elongated ‘portrait’ objects have led observers to speculate that the animation of headdresses occurred later, through the Islanders’ creative adaptation of European navigational concepts.8
To interpret the behaviour of sea and sky creatures inhabiting his homeland of Erub Island, Thaiday experiments with new methods of articulation and performance. Before becoming a professional artist, Thaiday worked on construction sites, and much of his mastery of new materials is derived from this time. In earlier works, real shark teeth were used to line the jaws of the sculptures, but now Thaiday shapes teeth from builders’ plastic: ‘I looked at the material and thought, “This beautiful plastic has got to be good to do something with”, and it is easy to cut the shape of the teeth too’.5 Experimenting with traditional techniques and materials to produce innovative artworks is not solely Thaiday’s domain – the Saibai Island artist Edrick Tabuai has been known to choreograph flashing lights and shooting paper stars from his dance machines; similarly, James Eseli, from Badu Island, engages with the most recent warring history of the Torres Strait, by sculpting headdresses featuring World War Two fighter planes complete with battery-operated lights.
Lindsay Wilson traces the emergence of the first articulated objects during the segregation period, when Islanders’ movements were restricted by the Queensland Government’s Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897; first applied in 1904, the Act was enforced in 1912.9 During this period – when colonial administrators intervened in most aspects of Islanders’ daily life, and colonial interests controlled the lucrative pearl shell and fishing industries – Islanders’ standard of living declined, as did the performance of customary practices. Yet the development of their culture persisted, mainly through the exploration of new materials and technologies. Most of the art made during this period was linked to subsistence in some way, as the government attempted to enforce ideals of self-sufficiency on communities. This was the time when some of the first articulated objects were created. Among these was a kukuam, an early 1920s dance instrument based on the hibiscus flower; using elastic bands, it opened and closed when the piston rod was pushed or pulled.10
In 1888, British anthropologist Alfred Haddon recorded how Torres Strait Islanders were incorporating new materials introduced by the Europeans into their object-making – tin, boxwood, paints and iron – and replacing traditional materials previously used for turtle shell masks.6 In a similar way to Thaiday’s present-day engagement with the art market, his forebears re-contextualised their ceremonies for political advantage and necessity in the late 1800s; Haddon
Segregation policies were enforced until the 1960s, and this, combined with the collapse of the pearling industry, resulted in an exodus from the islands to the mainland. This migration was of such magnitude that 75 per cent of the population lived outside the Torres Strait by 1992.11 Thaiday’s personal history follows a similar pattern to that of many Islanders of this generation.
Beizam headdress (Shark with bait fish), 1995 plywood, enamel paint, wire, feathers, shark’s teeth and string 72 x 90.5 x 67.8 cm (irreg.) Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
His family initially moved to Thursday Island to ensure his attendance at the only high school in the region. A stint as a mechanic’s apprentice followed but was cut short by a move to Cairns. Then, at fifteen, he and a cousin worked on the railway: ‘Hours were extremely long and tiring, from 5am till 10pm. Those days I had thirty island men working in my crew’.12 Islanders were so renowned for their hard work and skill they were also recruited for other labour-intensive industries such as mining. Thaiday moved to the Western Australian Pilbara region and worked as a plant operator at the Wittenoom asbestos mine. After operating many different kinds of machinery at the mine, which undoubtedly contributed to his innate curiosity for methods of activation, Thaiday then returned to Townsville where he met his wife, Elizabeth. In interviews Thaiday emphasises the influence of his father on the production and the performance of his work: My father was a well-known artist, performing artist, one of the best in Darnley … Well I think most of the people from Darnley he teach how to dance … Every time I sing, I don’t have to tell them what to do; they know the movements, they do it from my father.13 In the late 1980s, when he initiated his own dance troupe in Cairns, Thaiday began creating objects to ensure ceremonial events, such as tombstone unveilings, would continue on the mainland. He energised these dance machines with choreography learned from his father, which, from the artist’s own accounts, was particularly vigorous: ‘My father knew a lot of different dancing, the dancing where you jump on people, climb on top of people, stand on your hands’.14 The continued impetus to make his dance machines more and more articulated – ‘Today I am looking at motorising them so all I have to do is flick a switch’ – correlates with the energy and movement of his father’s unique choreography.15 Many have noted the unity of Torres Strait culture, attributing its cohesiveness to the historical contact with external influences – specifically southern New Guinea, western Polynesia and eastern Indonesia – which ensured its constant and confident renewal.16
Beizam headdress (Shark with shark jaw), 1991 plywood, enamel paint, plastic foam, PVC plastic and cockatoo feathers 46 x 26 x 60 cm Purchased 1992 Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Hammerhead shark headdress with bait fish, 1995 plywood, paint, feathers, string and plastic 71.5 x 85 x 52 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Government Department for Housing and Public Works Photography: Michael Marzik
Triple hammerhead shark headdress, 1995 plywood, paint, feathers, string and plastic 69 x 94 x 52 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Government Department for Housing and Public Works Photography: Michael Marzik
Dance machine – Waumer, 1989 plywood, paint and fishing line 18 x 30 x 55 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Museum Photography: Michael Marzik
notes In fact, Thaiday’s heritage reflects that of a large number of Torres Strait Islanders, and his grandfather was from Lifu of the Loyalty Islands off New Caledonia.17 Although a treacherous body of water, the Torres Strait had been a passageway for trading and warring Indigenous people long before colonial interests appeared. Islanders navigated Cape York Peninsula and the Strait to Papua New Guinea in double outrigger canoes, their seafaring voyages spurred and regulated by their own Malo-Bomai law. The Malo-Bomai story details the coming of Bomai, the most sacred of gods, from Tuger in West Irian to the Torres Strait. The god Bomai initially took on the form of a whale and journeyed through the Strait escaping the traps set by Islanders when they realised his power. Sometimes transforming himself into inanimate objects like canoes, he most often disguised himself as different sea creatures, including the turtle, before finally arriving in the shape of an octopus at Mer. There he became the god of the eight Meriam clans. Too sacred to be uttered, Bomai’s name and law was embodied in his nephew Malo. This second god was a man with a shark’s head.18 It is believed the early turtle shell and wooden masks, which at times incorporated sea creatures in their motifs, were created for ceremonies honouring these two gods. This story, and its physical manifestation, is found in the works of Thaiday and other makers of dance machines. Desperate to witness and record these Christian-influenced customs, anthropologist Haddon asked the Islanders to recreate the masks used in the dance ceremonies relating to the Malo-Bomai beliefs from cardboard and other readily available materials: ‘Now no masks remain, and we had to be content with an exceedingly poor counterfeit of what must have been a very awe-inspiring ceremony’.19 Tom Mosby, a curator and writer from the Torres Strait, affirms that by the time the missionaries arrived in 1871 ‘the emotional content that fuelled production [of these art practices] was ebbing’.20 The Meriam people recognised
the need for further unification, realising the old cosmology was not able to contain the spread of diseases and other calamities brought about by European contact. By the mid 1880s most of the Torres Strait Islands were converted to Christianity primarily through an influx of Pacific Island missionaries from Lifu, Uvea and Mare, and later from more distant Pacific Islands like Samoa. These missionaries further suppressed customary practices by banning secular dances, and ‘[in] many instances, the same Pacific Islander pastors and teachers filled the cultural void with song and dance styles from their own background’.21 The exchange between Pacific and Torres Strait cultural and political life continues today. ‘Ailan dance’ (Torres Strait Kriol for ‘Island dance’) incorporates many elements of Pacific dancing: choir-like singing, instruments including the slit drum and ukulele, and the ubiquitous lavalava, known as kaliko, worn by performers. All these elements can be witnessed when Thaiday performs with his dance machines, together with the rhythmic beat of the drums and the singing in time with the dancer’s stomping feet. The uniqueness of Thaiday’s and other Torres Strait artists’ articulated sculptures is all the more exceptional when this colonial history is revisited. Early contact with culturally strong neighbours – including Indigenous Australians, Papua New Guineans and Indonesians, and later Europeans and Pacific Islanders – has meant that artists from the Torres Strait have appropriated, rejected and innovated their cultural practices to create a unique art form. Their dance machines are now recognised around the world and, as one of the key creators of articulated sculptures in the Torres Strait, Ken Thaiday is justifiably acclaimed. Maud Page Maud Page was formerly Curator, Contemporary Pacific Art, and is currently Acting Deputy Director, Curatorial and Collection Development, at the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art.
1 The subtitle of this essay is taken from Nonie Sharp’s Saltwater People: The Waves of Memory, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2002, p. 52. 2 New Zealander–Samoan–Rarotongan–Tahitian Michel Tuffery is to my knowledge the only Pacific artist who approximates the level of mechanical sophistication that is evident in the articulated headdresses of the Torres Strait Islands. 3 Ken Thaiday, interview with Diane Moon, Cairns, July 1997. 4 Ken Thaiday, interview with Diane Moon. 5 Ken Thaiday, interview with Diane Moon. 6 Anita Herle & Jude Philp, Torres Strait Islanders: An Exhibition Marking the Centenary of the 1898 Cambridge Anthropological Expedition, University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, 1998, p. 42. 7 ibid. 8 Lindsay Wilson, Kerkar Lu: Contemporary Artefacts of the Torres Strait Islanders, Department of Education, Queensland, Brisbane, 1993, p. 20. 9 ibid., p. 16. 10 ibid., p. 165. Anthropologist and curator at the Queensland Museum, Michael Quinnell, has also brought to my attention that there is some rarely cited research suggesting that the Gogodala and Kiwai people (with which the Torres Strait Islanders share ancestry and some customs and motifs) had rudimentary dances that used luggers to raise and lower sails. Quinnell also pointed to the Kiwais’ use of richly painted umbrellas as part of their ceremonies that open and shut in a similar pump action to that used by the later Islander dance machines. The question of who influenced the other is still being debated across broader subjects.
11 Wilson, p. ix. 12 Ken Thaiday, interview with Brian Robinson, June 2000, QLD Visual Arts Online, at http://www.visualarts.qld.gov.au/content/thaiday_standard. asp?name=Thaiday_Artist (viewed March 2006). 13 Michele Helmrich, ‘Ken Thaiday in Conversation with Michele Helmrich’, Eyeline, no. 54, Winter 2004, p. 29. 14 Ken Thaiday, interview with Brian Robinson. 15 Ken Thaiday, interview with Brian Robinson. 16 Adrienne L. Kaeppler, Christian Kaufmann & Douglas Newton (eds), Oceanic Art, Abrams, New York, 1997, p. 602. 17 Thaiday is also likely to have Polynesian heritage as Loyalty Islanders sailed widely in the Pacific from the 1830s and intermarried with Polynesians. Intermarriages between descendants of the South Sea Islander bêche-de-mer fishermen and the missionaries also resulted in further Polynesian influences. 18 Nonie Sharp, Saltwater People, pp. 86–9; and Nonie Sharp, Stars of Tagai: The Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1993, pp. 28–30. 19 A. C. Haddon, Head-Hunters: Black, White and Brown, Watts, London, 1932, pp. 35–6. 20 Tom Mosby, ‘Art Is an Act of Bringing Truth into Being’, in Ilan Pasin (This Is Our Way): Torres Strait Art, Cairns Regional Gallery, Cairns, 1998, p. 74. 21 Tom Mosby, ‘To Civilise the Kind Natives – the Time After’, in Ilan Pasin (This Is Our Way), p. 42.
Dance headdress (Waumere), 1990 plywood, paint, plastic, string and wire 56 x 45 x 19 cm Collection: Queensland Museum Photography: Michael Marzik
Waumer headdress, 2006 plywood, paint, nylon line and beads 80 x 115 x 56 cm Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
DHARI HEADDRESSES The Dhari, a headdress worn by male Torres Strait Islander dancers, is a visually spectacular feature of traditional culture in the Torres Strait, and a potent symbol of cultural identity for Torres Strait Islanders. A traditional Dhari (the people of the eastern islands of the Torres Strait use this term, while the people of the central and western islands speak of the Dhoeri) consists of a cane structure surrounded by a corona of white feathers; these are trimmed in such a way as to evoke the bones of the tup (sardines) that live in the waters of the Torres Strait. When worn in dance, the Dhari, whose scale relative to the wearer’s head is colossal, heightens and amplifies the visual impact of the dancer’s head movements. Ken Thaiday Snr has made many Dhari, working in a traditional format but at the same time drawing upon his artistic inventiveness to produce pieces that are breathtaking in their complexity and imaginative range. What is perhaps most astonishing about Thaiday’s interpretation of the Dhari, however, is his re-envisioning of it as a moving structure – many of his Dhari feature components that can be set in motion by the operation of a complex stringand-pulley system. Thaiday’s Dhari are not intended as functional objects. These elaborate, inventive pieces – rich in traditional symbolic reference while also incorporating new materials and reflecting new ways of working – are sculptures that reference the Dhari form. These pieces form part of an extraordinary body of work that shows Thaiday to be not only a custodian of culture but also one of the most dynamic and original contemporary art practitioners in Australia today.
Frigatebird, 2001 plywood, resin, nylon line, paint, wood and elastic 110 x 65 x 90 cm Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Michael Marzik
Dhari on a barramundi stand, 2012 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint, nylon line, seedpods and beads 89 x 30 x 60 cm Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
Dhari on a but fish (butterfish) stand, 2012 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint, nylon line, seedpods and beads 82 x 29 x 57 cm Purchased 2013 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery Photography: Michael Marzik
Dhari, c.1990 plywood, feathers, paint and PVC plastic 150 x 110 x 35 cm Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Peter Waddington
Dance headdress – Dhari, date unknown feathers, seed, wool and cane 58 x 5 x 34 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Museum Photography: Michael Marzik
Eastern Island Dhari with hammerhead shark headdress, 2012 plywood, feathers, paint and plastic 114 x 27 x 83 cm Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
Marap (hand clappers) Music is a crucial part of the dance culture of the Torres Strait Islands. Dance routines in the Torres Strait are accompanied by singing and by music played on traditional instruments, such as the warup (timber drum), the kulap (dance rattle made from matchbox bean pods) and the marap (hand clapper). Throughout his career as an artist, dancer, choreographer and composer Ken Thaiday Snr has been creating marap. For Thaiday, these intricate pieces, which embody complex cultural and personal narratives, range from functional objects, designed for use in dance, to objects purposely made as sculptural artworks. The construction of a marap begins with the lateral splitting of a short piece of bamboo. Two corresponding sections of cane are then removed from the (bisected) bamboo ‘tube’; it is these holes that will cause the marap to make a clapping sound when moved up and down. Most of Thaiday’s marap are painted with imagery relating to particular dance narratives; the addition of a decorative ‘pommel’, positioned between the clapper end of the instrument and its handle, allows the artist to amplify this imagery and to develop it in three dimensions. Thaiday’s Dance clapper (marap), 1990 (repr.), demonstrates the elegant simplicity of construction and decorative design that characterised his early ‘clap machines’. However, by 1990 Thaiday was beginning to explore new, and more complex, approaches to the design of his marap, and was building articulated decorative elements into their pommels. Three marap from the early 1990s that feature
articulated components are Crown of thorns, Serri and Bali lady, all of 1992 (repr.). In performance, a dancer operating one of these instruments would, at the appropriate moment, have manipulated the handle of his clapper so as to open out the object. A sculptural display – such as the Serri clapper’s stunning array of pink-and-white feathers suggestive of starlight – would then be revealed, adding to the dynamism, colour and spectacle of the dance. By the early 1990s, Thaiday was not only making articulated marap, for use in dance. He had also begun to create large-scale marap that, while referencing functional hand clappers, were intended as artworks rather than as dance artefacts. One such piece is Fish trap, c.1990 (repr. p. 14), whose cylinder is made from PVC piping and whose pommel decoration, complete with multiple articulations, becomes the central focus of the sculpture. Fish trap presents a richly symbolic narrative. Typically, in incorporating this narrative into his work, Thaiday has layered a number of culturally significant motifs (notable is the inclusion of the articulated warup); together these motifs speak about the stone fish traps (sai) used by the people of Erub. While works such as Fish trap are not functional marap, they are inspired by the marap form and they embody Thaiday’s desire to unify various cultural references in sculptural objects whose meanings are filtered through the lens of performance.
Dance clapper (marap), 1990 bamboo, plywood and paint 21 x 40.5 x 26 cm Collection: Queensland Museum Photography: Michael Marzik
Bali lady (clap machine), 1992 plywood, enamel paint, nylon line, tie wire, rubber bands, metal rods, metal hinges and glue 24 x 39 x 42 cm (open, irreg.) Collection: Griffith University Art Collection Photography: Carl Warner
Serri (clapper and Darnley Island landscape), 2010 bamboo, eagle feathers, enamel paint, nylon line, beads and wire 50 x 58 x 60 cm (irreg.) Commissioned 2010 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery Photography: Michael Marzik
Serri (clap machine), 1992 plywood, enamel paint, cotton string, metal hooks, plastic eyelets, metal rods, plastic tubing, dyed feathers and glue 37 x 75 x 41 cm (open, irreg.) Collection: Griffith University Art Collection Photography: Carl Warner
Darnley Island clapper with Serri, c.2000 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint and nylon line 60 x 84 x 55 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland Photography: Michael Marzik
Marap with hammerhead shark, butterfly and water display, 2009 plywood, wood, bamboo, paint, feathers, nylon line, beads and plastic 35 x 75 x 56 cm Collection: the artist Photography: Michael Marzik
Crown of thorns (clap machine), 1992 plywood, enamel paint, cotton string, plastic coloured beads, metal rings, steel wire, plastic tubing and glue 23 x 58 x 54 cm (open, irreg.) Collection: Griffith University Art Collection Photography: Carl Warner
Transition to automation Ken Thaiday Snr has long held an ambition to create a fully automated sculptural piece,1 and his efforts to realise this ambition have seen him exploring various artistic avenues and experimenting with aluminium and other industrial materials that lend themselves to the automation process.2
The sun rising over Erub is another motif that has a central role in Thaiday’s artistic practice. The sun represents the light of the Gospel; the presence of the Divine in the natural world; and the introduction of Christianity to Erub (‘the Coming of the Light’).
Thaiday’s dream of making an automated dance artefact is now a reality: in response to a commission from Cairns Regional Gallery, and in collaboration with Sydney-based artist Jason Christopher, Thaiday recently produced his first-ever automated work – the groundbreaking Clamshell with hammerhead shark, 2013 (repr.).
Whenever Thaiday includes a representation of Erub in a sculptural piece, he shows the island in profile view, with the profile form painted to reference either Erub as a whole (often with its contours folding into the waters of the sea) or, more specifically, Kemus beach, the site of the arrival of Christian missionaries in 1871. Occasionally, the artist will reference All Saints Church, and village housing. He does this in Clamshell with hammerhead shark, where his portrayal of Erub and the sea includes the church, close to the water, and several houses. The scene is presented within a lozenge-shaped ‘frame’, whose two halves, each the mirror image of the other, are themselves schematic renderings of the distinctive outline of Erub in profile.
Clamshell with hammerhead shark is a three-dimensional representation of a giant clamshell encasing a shark. When the work’s automation is activated, the clamshell opens out and the hammerhead separates in the middle. As the head of the shark moves forward, along a set of rails, a golden disc radiating rays of light comes into view and we see the sun rising over Erub (Darnley Island), the artist’s birthplace and spiritual home. The narrative imagery in this singular piece, first employed by Thaiday some thirteen years ago in his Hammerhead shark with clamshell, c.2000, incorporates a number of the artist’s key motifs. The motif of a shark caught in a clamshell has its origins in an incident witnessed by Thaiday himself. One day, while fishing, he saw a reef shark struggling to free itself from a large clamshell. He went to the assistance of the shark, releasing it by prising open the shell with a knife. Thaiday carried this unique experience in memory until another significant event, of a very different kind, gave him the inspiration he needed in order to create an articulated sculptural representation of a shark caught by a clamshell – but able to escape from it. The event that inspired him was Cathy Freeman’s lighting of the Olympic Cauldron at the opening of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The separation of the cauldron from its bed would give rise to Thaiday’s striking image of a shark separating into two halves. When making Hammerhead shark with clamshell, the artist replaced the reef shark – the shark that had figured in the incident he had witnessed years earlier – with the hammerhead (Beizam),3 which is his family totem. It is the Beizam that we see also in Clamshell with hammerhead shark.
The automation of the clamshell in Clamshell with hammerhead shark can be read as religiously symbolic, for the movement of the two halves of the shell towards each other is reminiscent of the coming together of hands in prayer (in other pieces by Thaiday, such as his Coming of the Light (dance machine), 1990 (repr. p. 20), actual hands are brought together in prayer). A reference to the Christian doctrine of free will can be identified in Thaiday’s representation of the shark, which is held/protected by Divine purpose, and yet also accorded freedom. The genesis of Clamshell with hammerhead shark as an automated piece is in some respects comparable to a transition from analogue to digital technology. And, in order to transition to automation, Thaiday’s art required a conversation with the digital sphere … Enter Sydney artist Jason Christopher. Christopher’s practice is at the cutting edge of contemporary sculpture and involves the use of new technologies as well as industrial materials and processes. After seeing numerous works by Ken Thaiday, and having gained an insight into Thaiday’s approach to designing his pieces, Christopher believed that Thaiday’s art was ideally suited to automation. As plans for an artistic collaboration between Thaiday and Christopher unfolded, the two artists came to the view that the best way forward would be to create an automated version of one of Thaiday’s existing works.
Thaiday and Christopher explored the possibility of automating a Beizam dance headdress, but ultimately decided to collaborate on a new version of the remarkable Hammerhead shark with clamshell – a piece that not only held great personal significance for Thaiday but also featured articulations, and was capable of movements, that were particularly compatible with automation. It was also decided that the new work would be made using aluminium. The first stage of the project was the construction of the compositional elements of the piece – the Beizam, the clamshell, the sun, and the image of Erub and the sea – together with the underlying structure uniting them. Working in close consultation with Thaiday, Christopher made and assembled these elements, modelling their aluminium surfaces using 3D printing technology. This technology has been used to extraordinary effect in Clamshell with hammerhead shark. The sculptural ridges that pattern and define each section of the shell give it, when closed, a tight, sinewy energy; as the shell opens out, its striations acquire a different quality, coming to resemble the vein patterns on the fronds of a sea plant. By contrast with the highly patterned shell, the form of the Beizam – an inventive reimagining of the bamboo shark in Hammerhead
shark with clamshell – is sleek and streamlined. The relative simplicity of the form seems to assist in the shark’s propulsion as it moves free of the shell’s complex caging. In keeping with the digital-age aesthetic of Clamshell with hammerhead shark, the detailing in the work has been achieved predominantly with 3D printing. However, Thaiday has chosen to use both 3D printing and paint in one particular area of his composition: his relief-like image of Erub and the sea, together with the illuminating sun behind it, is given visual prominence by means of his purposeful use of colour. The sun is golden, as is the beach; the artist’s signature greens evoke the colours of Erub’s hills, while the water is painted in rich blues. The sequence of movements that Thaiday achieved with Hammerhead shark with clamshell is closely replicated in the automation cycle devised for Clamshell with hammerhead shark. The various discrete movements built into the automation cycle, which Christopher mapped out using a computer-aided design (CAD) program, are powered by small electric engines called actuators.
Ken Thaiday and Jason Christopher discussing the sculpture commission, 2013 Photographer: Jason Christopher
Clamshell with hammerhead shark , 2013 aluminium and mechanical gearing 80 x 120 x 120 cm (approx.) Commissioned 2013 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery Render: Jason Christopher
Works in the exhibition All measurements are in centimetres, height x length x width. Asterisks indicate works reproduced (repr.) in this catalogue. *Dance headdress – Dhari, date unknown feathers, seed, wool and cane 58 x 5 x 34 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Museum *Dance machine – Waumer, 1989 plywood, paint and fishing line 18 x 30 x 55 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Museum *Black trevally with stingray, jellyfish and sea urchin, c.1990 plywood, paint, metal rod, shell and plastic 68 x 92 x 90 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland While the nylon strings used to operate Hammerhead shark with clamshell are largely hidden from view, the actuators and other mechanisms that control the operation of Clamshell with hammerhead shark retain a visible presence in the piece. The artistic collaboration between Ken Thaiday and Jason Christopher – two very different artists – has resulted in the creation of a truly unprecedented work. Clamshell with hammerhead shark is, at its heart, a celebration of the vibrant, living culture of the Torres Strait Islands. Yet this mesmerising work, with its high-tech finish and electronic componentry, is also squarely located at the frontiers of contemporary art practice. Thaiday and Christopher’s collaboration began auspiciously, with the two artists discovering a shared love of the sea, and a shared passion for fishing. In working with Jason Christopher, Ken Thaiday has been able to realise a long-cherished ambition for his art, and has added to his practice a new dimension with untold possibilities for the future.
Notes 1 See Michele Helmrich, ‘Ken Thaiday in Conversation with Michele Helmrich’, Eyeline, no. 54, Winter 2004, p. 31. 2 ibid., p. 30. 3 For a comment by Thaiday regarding the use of the name Beizam for more than one kind of shark, see Helmrich, p. 31. Justin Bishop is Exhibitions Manager at Cairns Regional Gallery.
*Boat, c.1990 wood, paint, wire and string 35 x 100 x 76 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland *Darnley Island (Erub – Coming of the Light), c.1990 plywood, paint, plastic, nylon fishing line and PVC 60.5 x 120 x 128.5 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland *Dhari, c.1990 plywood, feathers, paint and PVC plastic 150 x 110 x 35 cm Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland
*Fish trap, c.1990 plywood, wood, paint, feathers, stones, nylon fishing line, wax and PVC plastic 64 x 105 x 96 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland *Coming of the Light (dance machine), 1990 plywood, nylon, paint, PVC plastic and hinges 32 x 89 x 64 cm (irreg.) Collection: the artist *Dance clapper (marap), 1990 bamboo, plywood and paint 21 x 40.5 x 26 cm Collection: Queensland Museum *Dance headdress (Waumere), 1990 plywood, paint, plastic, string and wire 56 x 45 x 19 cm Collection: Queensland Museum
Beizam headdress (black bamboo triple hammerhead shark), 1991 plywood, paint, black bamboo, plastic and nylon line 236 x 241 x 217 cm (irreg.) Collection: University of the Sunshine Coast Donated through the Australian Valuation Office’s Philanthropy Program by the Proost De Deyne Family, 2012 *Beizam headdress (Shark with shark jaw), 1991 plywood, enamel paint, plastic foam, PVC plastic and cockatoo feathers 46 x 26 x 60 cm Purchased 1992 Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Ken Thaiday working on the sculpture commission, 2013 Photographer: Jason Christopher
*Bali lady (clap machine), 1992 plywood, enamel paint, nylon line, tie wire, rubber bands, metal rods, metal hinges and glue 24 x 39 x 42 cm (open, irreg.) Collection: Griffith University Art Collection *Crown of thorns (clap machine), 1992 plywood, enamel paint, cotton string, plastic coloured beads, metal rings, steel wire, plastic tubing and glue 23 x 58 x 54 cm (open, irreg.) Collection: Griffith University Art Collection *Serri (clap machine), 1992 plywood, enamel paint, cotton string, metal hooks, plastic eyelets, metal rods, plastic tubing, dyed feathers and glue 37 x 75 x 41 cm (open, irreg.) Collection: Griffith University Art Collection *Beizam headdress (Shark with bait fish), 1995 plywood, enamel paint, wire, feathers, shark’s teeth and string 72 x 90.5 x 67.8 cm (irreg.) Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Collection: Queensland Art Gallery *Hammerhead shark headdress with bait fish, 1995 plywood, paint, feathers, string and plastic 71.5 x 85 x 52 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Government Department for Housing and Public Works
* Triple hammerhead shark headdress, 1995 plywood, paint, feathers, string and plastic 69 x 94 x 52 cm (irreg.) Collection: Queensland Government Department for Housing and Public Works
*Darnley Island clapper with Serri, c.2000 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint and nylon line 60 x 84 x 55 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland
*Seagull, 2009 plywood, wood, paint, plastic, nylon line, lead sinker and Corflute 85 x 81 x 98 cm (irreg.) Collection: the artist
*Weris, c.2000 plywood, wood, bamboo, paint, wire and aluminium 55 x 150 x 70 cm (irreg.) Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland
*Trevally Liz with Darnley Island landscape, 2009 plywood, paint, plastic and metal rod 191 x 124 x 28 cm Collection: the artist
*Beizam, 2001 black bamboo, plywood, nylon line, plastic, paint and feathers 101 x 116 x 65 cm (irreg.) Commissioned with funds from the Centenary of Federation Arts Project, Queensland Grant, 2001 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery
*Serri (clapper and Darnley Island landscape), 2010 bamboo, eagle feathers, enamel paint, nylon line, beads and wire 50 x 58 x 60 cm (irreg.) Commissioned 2010 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery
*Frigatebird, 2001 plywood, resin, nylon line, paint, wood and elastic 110 x 65 x 90 cm Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland *Dugong, 2006 black bamboo, paint, nylon line and plywood 145 x 130 x 50 cm Collection: Proost De Deyne, Queensland *Waumer headdress, 2006 plywood, paint, nylon line and beads 80 x 115 x 56 cm Collection: the artist *Marap with hammerhead shark, butterfly and water display, 2009 plywood, wood, bamboo, paint, feathers, nylon line, beads and plastic 35 x 75 x 56 cm Collection: the artist
*Triple hammerhead shark headdress with water display, 2010 black bamboo, plywood, nylon line, plastic, paint and feathers 110 x 116 x 150 cm (irreg.) Collection: the artist
Dhari on a coral trout stand, 2012 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint, nylon line, seedpods and beads 84 x 30 x 62 cm Purchased 2013 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery Dhari on a trevally stand, 2012 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint, nylon line, seedpods and beads 95 x 31 x 72 cm Collection: the artist *Eastern Island Dhari with hammerhead shark headdress, 2012 plywood, feathers, paint and plastic 114 x 27 x 83 cm Collection: the artist *Clamshell with hammerhead shark, 2013 aluminium and mechanical gearing 80 x 120 x 120 cm (approx.) Commissioned 2013 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery
*Alag masks, 2012 coconut fibre, cane, twine, fabric and paint 5 pieces, each approx. 90 x 30 x 40 cm Collection: the artist *Dhari on a barramundi stand, 2012 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint, nylon line, seedpods and beads 89 x 30 x 60 cm Collection: the artist *Dhari on a but fish (butterfish) stand, 2012 plywood, bamboo, feathers, paint, nylon line, seedpods and beads 82 x 29 x 57 cm Purchased 2013 Collection: Cairns Regional Gallery
Exhibition dates 16 August – 20 October 2013 © Cairns Regional Gallery, 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical (including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system), without permission from the publisher. Every effort has been made to contact copyright owners in respect of the photographs reproduced in this publication. Omissions brought to the attention of the publisher will be rectified in any subsequent printings. Catalogue design Suzanne Ashmore-Kelleher, Lillyrock Creative Catalogue printing Printcraft
Acknowledgements This exhibition has been made possible through the generosity and cooperation of many people. We would particularly like to thank the following lenders, colleagues and individuals: Aime and Jacqueline Proost Ferre and Mieke De Deyne Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art (Tony Ellwood, Chris Saines, Julie Ewington, Maud Page, Diane Moon, Caitlin Pijpers, Desley Bischoff, Judy Gunning and Stephanie Kennard) Queensland Museum (Imelda Miller, Peter Volk and Nick Hadnutt) University of the Sunshine Coast (Dawn Oelrich) Griffith University (Jo Duke) Australian Art Print Network (Michael and Di Kershaw) Cairns Convention Centre
Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works (Timothy Mander MP)
Photographic credits Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Jason Christopher Michael Marzik Bill Ovenden Kerry Trapnell Peter Waddington Carl Warner
Arts Queensland (Jenny Galligan, Vera Ding, John Stafford, Sam Creyton and Sandra McLean) Dana Rowan The Torres Strait Regional Authority (Kenny Bedford) Torres Strait Island Regional Council – Erub Island Stéphane Jacob Tom Mosby Avril Quaill Ali Copley Janelle Williams Theresa Felter Segue Art (Ross Brookes and Kerrie-Ann Roberts) International Art Services (Ross Hall)
P.O.D. NSW (Mark Gumley)
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Ken Thaiday Snr: Erub Kebe Le is the first-ever major survey exhibition of the art of Ken Thaiday Snr. A senior Torres Strait Island artist,...
Published on Jun 30, 2021
Ken Thaiday Snr: Erub Kebe Le is the first-ever major survey exhibition of the art of Ken Thaiday Snr. A senior Torres Strait Island artist,...