This print is about a person who is sent out to the reef at low tide to collect meat from the Maiwa (clam shell). He carries with him a upi (bamboo knife) to slice the muscles inside the shells. After extracting the meat from its shell, he must turn over the empty shell making sure the sharp edges are facing down for the safety of other people walking on the reef. This also creates shelter for small fish on the reef at high tide. The exposed meat he is holding can also attract hungry birds. Shapes of the bird's heads are hidden in the upper part of the print..
- Medium: Linocut.
- Artist: Alick Tipoti.
- Image Size: 510 mm x 310 mm.
- Paper Size: 570 mm x 380 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.