Blog Archives

“Evolution: Torres Strait Masks”- MDOs working with Gab Titui

Apart from the disaster recovery work in Winton, the MDOs have been working on numerous other projects.  One of these, “Evolution: Torres Strait Masks”,  has been with staff from Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Thursday Island.

At the end of last year, Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee traveled up to Torres Strait to train and work with the staff to develop a new exhibition for their cultural maintenance gallery. The theme was chosen to recognise the cultural significance of masks in Torres Strait culture, their influence on contemporary art forms, and to revive the art form itself.

The special challenge for this project was the procurement of objects – so many of these items are held in international institutions and other Australian museums. To address this, the exhibition concept was planned around a contemporary arts component which involved commissioning local artists to create masks for the exhibition.

After undertaking applied training with the MDOs, Gab Titui staff got down to the task of researching and curating the exhibition. Working with renowned artist Alick Tipoti as co-curator, Leitha Assan and Aven Noah developed the overall look and feel for the exhibition and prepared all exhibition text and content. They identified eight different artists, based on islands where masks were traditionally made, to design masks for the exhibition: Andrew Passi, Eddie Nona, Vincent Babia, Kapua Gutchen Snr, Alick Tipoti, Torrens Gizu and Yessie Mosby.

Jo and Ewen returned to Gab Titui to help install the exhibition. Cultural protocols dictate the way masks can be handled – only men are able to touch the masks. For installation, this meant Ewen worked with Aven and Kailu to hang the masks, while Jo worked with Leitha and Elsie to hang panels, create object mounts for other items, line the cases and prepare the labels.

The end result is stunning, and a testament to their hard work. The masks are extraordinary and powerful objects in their own right, and together represent a significant body of work. The black lined cases create a sense of mystery and dark magic to echo the spirituality of the objects. The labels tell the artists stories, while the text panels provide an insight into the background of the mask in TI culture.

“Evolution” opened in conjunction with the 2015 Gab Titui Arts Awards and will be on display for a year. Jo traveled back to Thursday Island to attend the opening, see the final exhibition, and was lucky enough to see performances by the Aibai Sagulau Buai Dance Team from Badu Island.

Thank you to George Serras from the National Museum of Australia for allowing me to use some images from the opening in this post.

Advertisements

Defending the Pacific – North Queensland and the First World War

First troops leaving Townsville in August 1914. State Library of Queensland, Negative No: 25536

First troops leaving Townsville in August 1914. State Library of Queensland, Negative No: 25536

MDOs from North Queensland, Ewen McPhee, and Far North Queensland, Dr Jo Wills, have curated Defending the Pacific, an exhibition that commemorates Australia’s (and North Queensland’s) first action in the First World War.

Using material drawn from collections from the Cairns Historical Society, Zara Clark Museum, Army Museum of North Queensland, Hinchinbrook Library, Townsville City Library, State Library of Queensland and the Australian War Memorial, the exhibition explores the special nature of North Queenslanders involvement in the First World War: of the rifle clubs, the Kennedy Regiment, their journey to Thursday Island and to New Guinea, and their subsequent early return to Australia without having seen active service.

Ewen McPhee and Michael Castrisos, Manager, Horn Island Airport.

Ewen McPhee and Michael Castrisos, Manager, Horn Island Airport.

Jo Wills installing the exhibition in Seisa Holiday Park.

Jo Wills installing the exhibition in Seisa Holiday Park.

Ewen McPhee and Vanessa Seekee from the Torres Strait Heritage Museum on Horn Island.

Ewen McPhee and Vanessa Seekee from the Torres Strait Heritage Museum on Horn Island.

Ewen McPhee at Poruma Cultural Centre.

Ewen McPhee at Poruma Cultural Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by the Queensland Anzac Centenary Committee, the MDOs worked with communities throughout north and far north Queensland, and on Cape York and Torres Strait, to secure venues and participation. The exhibition banners are on display at Bowen Museum, Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook Library in Ingham, Atherton Library, Cairns Library, Mareeba Library, Seisa Holiday Park, Torres Strait Heritage Museum on Horn Island, Horn Island Airport, Peddell’s Ferry on Thursday Island and at the Indigenous Knowledge Centre on Poruma. A special photographic exhibition that explores the rifle clubs of North Queensland accompanies the banners at the Army Museum of North Queensland  in Townsville, and there is a photographic display at Green Hill Fort, Thursday Island. Ewen and Jo have recently traveled to the Torres Strait to install the exhibitions in different venues and liaise with communities.

Photographic exhibition at Army Museum of North Queensland, Townsville.

Photographic exhibition at Army Museum of North Queensland, Townsville.

Given the strength of the visual material and story, Jo Wills also worked with ABC Open Far North Producer, Gemma Deavin, to create a digital story which is now available online.

Particular thanks to the Army Museum of North Queensland, Hinchinbrook Library, Cairns Historical Society and Tyler Wellenseik from the State Library of Queensland for their assistance in pulling together this exhibition.

 

Torres Strait views