Laurie Nona, Badhu Habaka, 2016, linocut print on paper, 200.4x118.4 cm (image size), edition of 6 (Photographer: Jon Linkins) $4,000
"Badhu Harbourka (2016) tells the story of the pearling industry on Badu Island. The work is dedicated to my father Philip Nona Senior – a respected elder of the industry. Intertwined within the print is a story of my father’s, which was composed into song and dance. The story tells of how two brothers – my father and my uncle (my father’s younger brother), were heading out at 4am on their pearl luggers. My uncle’s boat broke down, yet my father still went out to work in order to feed his family. He did not return until dark at which point he towed his brother back to Badu Harbour. My uncle was annoyed at being left all day on the boat. The song expresses this frustration between the brothers. In the center of the print you can see my father’s boat towing my uncle back to Badu Harbour.
At the top of the work is a pearl diver’s helmet – the crown of men from the pearl diving era. The imagery in the helmet shows how the industry changed over the years: from divers being lowered down on a rope to walk across the ocean bed; to using flippers and swimming as I did when I was a pearl diver – the last generation of the industry. The turtles within the helmet indicate that it is during Sageraw Thonar, the period when the turtles mate. The dancer connects the helmet to my father’s story. To the left of this an elder sits beating the drum to the song and singing as an accompanist for the dancer. The patterning resonating from this elder indicates the song travelling through the print. Diving seabirds follow this song into the water chasing the trevally that swim under the surface.
Below the luggers is a mat pattern, which is highly significant in the Torres Strait, representing your life journey. When a child is born, they are placed on a mat to sleep. We grow, eat and sleep on the mat throughout our lives and watch our children do the same. When we pass, the mat is the first thing to touch the ground before the coffin is laid to rest. From beginning to end the mat is there. The weave of the mat is not tight, commenting on how culture is lost when traditional protocol is not followed.
Under the mat, pearl shells depict creatures and items from my experience as a pearl diver. There were many things you would encounter in the ocean – turtle, shark, dugong, octopus, crayfish, sea snake and fish. We would snack on coconuts to keep our energy up in between dives.
In the bottom of the work the sun is simultaneously rising and setting. In the middle of this is the wooden boat rowing to collect and return the pearl divers. The pattern of the song at the top of the print is continued in the paddles. To the right my father stands in the middle of his crew waiting to be collected at dawn. To the left the families wait the arrival of the men home after a days work. Death or serious injuries were not uncommon in the industry, so families greeted the safe arrival of their men. Additional sea creatures indicative of Sageraw Thonar surround the scene. The thorny stingrays swim in shallow waters on the right hand side of the boat, whilst the shovelnose shark swims on the left. Inside the wooden boat a dugong gives birth and a fish swims. The work travels upon a canoe indicated by the woven mat at the bottom. Mats were also used as sails for the canoes. From beginning to end our culture is a gift passed down from generation to generation through song, dance and language. The journey continues."
Please note: due to the size of this work, editions are printed on demand. Edition limited to 12 prints. Please allow time for printing, signing by the artist and dispatch to your destination.
Kala Lagaw Ya translation: Alick Tipoti