Billy Missi, Gabau ahgai thonar (yam dig up time)
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 ecosystems 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. It's why our people have continued to pass on traditional stories and cultural traditions."
"There is a certain time to dig up wild bush yams. This is identified by observing vegetation, along with other natural changes such as the position of the Zugubal (constellations).
These signify to our people the timeframe of seasonal changes, the rhythm of our region's ecosystem, and the agricultural work based around the phases of the moon.
Throughout the monsoon the yam vine grows wild and green. Then comes a time around August, when the grass and bush land begin to dry up and the leaves and vines of the yam start to turn brown.
This sight indicates to our people that it is Gabau ahgai thonar (yam dig up time).