Mawan sagulal (Mawa ceremony) Billy Missi Linocut Hand Coloured 2006 1000 mm H x 1990 mm
Linocut printed in coloured ink from one block, handcoloured
Edition of 35, 2007
Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 1000mm x 1990mm
Paper size: 1225mm x 2100mm
Paper type: Hahnemühle, alpha rag, pH neutral, 350 GSM (Germany)
Ink type: Van Son (Holland)
Printed by Theo Tremblay, Editions Tremblay
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Billy Missi, 1970- 2012, was from Kubin Village, Moa Island in Zenadh-Kes (the Torres Strait). His solo exhibition Urapun Kai Buai (One Big Kin) focuses on family and cultural protocols, and the artist's contemporary life experiences growing up in Zenadh-Kes. Missi is known as one of the leading printmakers of this region, having exhibited widely and achieved both national and international acclaim. He comes from a respected family of art practitioners and choreographers, from the tribes of Wagedagam, Geomu and Panai in Malu Lilgal (Western Torres Strait). His work is based on reasons for survival. He states: "The Torres Strait has a complex history and culture, vegetation and eco systems that work with the phases of the moon, so the livelihood of people in that region is based on, and strongly connected with the natural surroundings, hunting and gathering, identifying foods. Its why our people have continued to pass on traditional stories and cultural traditions".
Story: "In the Western Torres Strait, our ontological beliefs are not only expressed orally but also through dance; in its movement and song. Mawan Thai (the Mawa Ceremony) was once performed widely throughout the Western Torres Strait. It was a celebration of the arrival of native fruits and yams, such as Ubar or Wongai (native plum), Kowai (bush apple), Mergai (bush berry), Gabau (wild yams) and others. It was our ancestors' beliefs that Mawa provided these fruits, and Mawan Thai was a celebration and thanksgiving to him for these gifts. But it was more than simple dances, it was a transcendence of the physical, a way to connect with the life forces that flow through our trees, our seas and ourselves.
The Mawan Thai was celebrated across the Western Torres Strait and extending into the Central Torres Strait, yet each island had its own unique way of expressing and performing it (see A.C. Haddon, 1904:347-349).
The man in the Mawa mask in the foreground orchestrates the movement of the dance. He is anonymous. A line of dancers in the background frame the figure of Mawa, and express their joyfulness of the riches of the crops. The basket below centre represents a good season for Gabau (wild yams).
Kaisi (the onlookers) carefully observe the strong and fit dancers as the ceremony proceeds. My uncle once told me that it was during these ceremonies that marriages were arranged. The members of the tribe that produced the biggest harvest were those most favoured.
Source Alfred Cort Haddon 1904 Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expeditions to Torres Straits: Sociology, Magic, and Religion of the Western Islanders. Vol. 5. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press."