I have Indigenous cultural heritage that stems back through many ancestral generations from two regions in Australia – one to the western islands of the Torres Strait, to Moa (Banks Island) the Maluyligal [people on the passageway], and the other to the eastern side of Cape York Peninsula(1) to a place known as Shelburne Bay [white sand country] where the Wuthathi people have resided for thousands of years. I also have Asian heritage that goes back to Malaysian Borneo to the Dayak people and also to the Philippines to the Villaflor family [Villaflor translates as ‘Village of the Flowers’].
The Torres Strait is a thin narrow strait squeezed between PNG (Papua New Guinea) and the tip of Australia. The width is about 130 by about 150 kms across, so quite a narrow little waterway. So there is a lot of water that runs through that particular area, and that water itself is not just there to carry seafood – it’s one of the main connections to all TI (Torres Strait Islander) people to everyone globally. So the waters themselves don’t just carry seafood and nutrition, but also carry a lot of cultural connections back to the islands themselves.
Being on the wharf was a big part of my growing up on Thursday Island. In the Woven Waters work there are these two figures sitting on the wharf, and while it looks as though they are fishing, they could also be contemplating life or other possibilities, so it is really up to the viewer what they see these figures actually doing.
The etching August 23 1898 looks at a lot of cultural material that was taken from the Torres Strait back to be housed in institutions in Europe. That collection of objects collected by Haddon(2) went back to Cambridge. For me, there has always been a strong interest in the history of my people – pulling apart the history of the Torres Strait and seeing how it fits nationally and internationally.
Cairns, July 2014
(1) Cape York Peninsula is located at the northern tip of of Queensland.
(2) Anthropologist and ethnologist A.C. Haddon headed an expedition from Cambridge University, UK, to the Torres Strait Islands in 1898.