Ai Pugaik

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Ai Pugaik is when a turtle or a dugong is being butchered. This print shows a young hunter butchering up a Dhangal(dugong). His butchering skills are guided by the elders along the right side of the print. The elders are the educators of this practice. The women also play a very important role during the butchering, as they carry the woven baskets for the shares. Beside the Zogoaw Garka (the hunter who speared the Dhangal), the women decide who the shares go to, for they are the ones who cook the food and serve their families. The Dhangal is butchered with the sharp edge of a Mai (pearl shell). On the inside of the Mai, a diagram shows how the Dhangal is butchered. The butcher reads the diagram as he cuts, the elders explain why it is cut in that manner..

  • Medium: Linocut - Hand coloured. 
  • Artist: Alick Tipoti. 
  • Image Size: 680 mm x 400 mm. 
  • Paper Size: 770 mm x 570 mm. 
  • Paper: Whatmans. 
  • Edition Size: 70

Alick Tipoti is a Torres Strait Islander who is guided by the traditional cultural practices of his people. He believes in the Zugubal who were spoken about for many years by his ancestors. He is most diligent about what he sees as his responsibility to document the stories, genealogies, songs and other aspects of his culture so that they are available for future generations to learn, understand and practise. He speaks his native language, Kala Lagaw Ya, of the Maluilgal nation of Zenadh Kes.

Alick believes that language is the vital ingredient that binds all cultures in the world today. “Without your language you become a foreigner, lost in another person’s culture. One of my favourite English words is ‘analyse’. In my language, we call it Ses Tham or Thapul. Singing and dancing are forms of art that branch out from the centrepiece called language. Everything you do, traditionally or culturally, evolves from a language. When you know the language, you know your culture.”

Alick has researched the genealogy of Zenadh Kes. He says that when you practise something about your culture, it is important to know your roots and your identity, as this will help you choose your path in life. He has been given the traditional name of Zugub, which enables him to relate to the spirits of his ancestors, the Zugubal. This provides him the insight and ability to translate the words of these ancestors into the beautifully delicate and complex imagery of his lino cuts.

“When I work late at night carving traditional designs, I can sense the presence of the spirits who I verbally acknowledge and thank in language for their guidance and help in visualising the words they have given me. I vividly remember an unusual event late one evening where I was guided to re-sketch and change the interpretation of a block I was about to carve. This was just one of the many occasions when I have connected with the Zugubal, who have instructed me on the proper ways of our cultural traditions. In my life, I have come to a level of understanding that I pray to the Zugubal of my culture.”

The artist holds an Advanced Diploma in Arts, Thursday Island TAFE College, and a Bachelor of Visual Arts, Australian National University, Canberra. Alick’s work can be seen in the collections of Australian National Gallery and state art galleries and museums, the British Museum and other important international institutions. An animated video of his work is currently screening on the eastern sails of the Sydney Opera House at sunset until the end of 2017.

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