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Torres Strait Mask Exhibition continues to Inspire

Since launching on Thursday Island in 2015, the Evolution: Torres Strait Mask exhibition has been held before national and international audiences, offering a unique glimpse into the traditional art forms and culture of the Torres Strait.

Its next stop is the Museum of the Great Southern in Albany, Western Australia where it will open to the public from Saturday, February 15, as the exhibition continues to travel our vast continent.

Arriving this week in the lands of the Minang Noongar people, this exquisite selection of 12 striking masks and related cultural material celebrates the rich and continuing tradition of mask making in the Torres Strait.

Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, said the exhibition was developed by the Gab Titui Cultural Centre, in partnership with the National Museum of Australia and curated with the support of renowned artist, Alick Tipoti, from Badu Island.

“The project is supported by the TSRA Culture, Art and Heritage Programme and has established a very successful partnership between the Gab Titui Cultural Centre and the National Museum of Australia as a touring exhibition,” Mr Stephen said.

“Alick was engaged as guest curator specifically for his expertise in the area of ceremonial masks, and in co-curating his own personal exhibitions.

“As an established Torres Strait Islander artist his scope of work is extensive including masks, prints, sculpture, headdress and a wide range of other culturally significant art pieces.”

Created in 2014 and 2015 as part of the TSRA and Gab Titui Cultural Centre’s cultural maintenance programme Evolution: Torres Strait Masksexplores the longstanding importance of masks in Torres Strait culture and how they influence contemporary art forms.

The cultural maintenance exhibition programme supports the TSRA’s and Gab Titui Cultural Centre’s vision to research, conserve, interpret, exhibit and promote the cultural and heritage of the Torres Strait people.

The programme’s main aim is to showcase new cultural maintenance exhibitions annually.

Evolution, which first opened in 2015 at Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Waiben (Thursday Island), has since been supported as a touring exhibition travelling throughout Australia and overseas.

Leitha Assan, Gab Titui Operations and Exhibitions Manager said the exhibition aims to highlight the continued importance of Torres Strait masks, their evolution from the past, and influence on present day contemporary art forms.

“As its name suggests, the exhibition explores the evolution of masks in the Torres Strait and their significance in Torres Strait Islander cultural practices,” Ms Assan said.

“This is achieved through a display developed on historical images from the British Museum and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

“It also includes contemporary masks by six Torres Strait Islander artists, utilising traditional and modern skills and techniques.

“The masks are representational of ancestral, supernatural and totemic beings that form an important component in the traditional beliefs of Torres Strait Islanders.”

The TSRA’s Culture, Art and Heritage programme supports local artists to build networks among traditional practitioners and across the arts and culture sector, whilst maintaining and revitalising art through contemporary and traditional methods and showcasing the evolution of a unique and sacred Torres Strait art form.

The benefits to the Torres Strait region include increased skills and capacity of cultural and art practitioners, economic growth and partnerships with institutions.

Pictured: Artist Milton Savage with his mask Waiitatu.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.