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This linocut served as the template for the monumental 37 metre x 18 metre vinyl installation that is adhered to the rooftop floor of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco for the 2016 exhibition, Australia: Defending the Oceans, in which the artist is a major participant. Throughout 2016 the main theme of the Oceanographic Museum is the preservation of sea turtles. Tipots linocut and massive rooftop installation pay homage to this theme. The lifestyle of turtles their courtship, mating and nesting. In the Western Torres Strait language, Kala Lagaw Ya, the turtle mating season is called Solalaw Thonar. This occurs in November and is heralded by the migration of Goeynaw (Torres Strait Pigeon) and Birubiru (Swallow) from Papua New Guinea to the Australian mainland. The large turtle dominating the lino is a female Greenback (Waaru). The circular patterns represent the lifecycle of the turtle and their fight for survival. Their perils start after hatching where they run the gauntlet of predators such as feral pigs, goannas and birds as they head down the sand to the open sea. Baby turtles must then evade crocodiles and large fish and as they mature they are subject to pollution, being trapped in ghost nets and bycatch, injury from boating, the ingestion of plastics and hunters. The patterns running across the print evoke the sea current flowing against the wind called Guthath. Interconnecting forms and optical illusion are a significant aspect of Tipotis artistic strategy. This is demonstrated in the print where decorative patterning or Minaral merges into an almost hidden profusion of marine creatures.

Within the large turtle can be seen Front left flipper Kazilayg (pregnant dugong) Front right flipper Barakuthaw Garka (male dugong ready to mate) Centre of turtle back Koey Bidhay (large squid), Moei Bidhay (small squid) Left of turtle back Gaapu (remora or sucker fish), Dhubur (male turtle), Baydham (shark) Right of turtle back Kayar (crayfish), Taadu (sand crab), Moeyen (night fish) Around the edge of print clockwise from bottom left can be seen Sugu (octopus), Poeka (young female dugong), Wap (fish), Kayar (crayfish), Boengadh (species of jellyfish), Thupmul (file ray), Bidhay (squid), Gurba (crab)

  • Artist: Alick Tipoti.
  • Medium: Linocut.
  • Image Size: 640mm x 1505mm.
  • Paper Size: 940mm x 1800mm.
  • Paper: Hahnemuehle 350gsm White

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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