Wadth, Zigin Ar Kusikus
- Artist: Alick Tipoti.
- Edition Size: 50.
- Medium: Linocut.
- Image Size: 1020 mm x 2010 mm.
- Paper Size; 1240mm x 2200 mm.
- Paper: Saunders Waterford CP 300gsm
DTHUWAL AND HIS SONS Long ago a man named Dthuwal lived on a small beach north of Mainab1, which came to be called Dthuwal Buthu. Dthuwal was a very skilled hunter. He had a great knowledge and understanding of the weather patterns, tides and gardening. He had three sons. Wadth was the eldest, who grew up to be an expert hunter out at sea. Zigin turned out to be a song composer and mastered the art of tuning the warup. Kusikus, who was later to be called Pasuwa, was the youngest brother and grew up to be a craftsman.
INITIATION PREPARATION When the three brothers reached manhood, their father had decided that the time had come for them to be initiated as men. He invited a man called Meseku2 the witchdoctor who lived at Dthugngur3, a place near Sarupau Pad4 on the north side of the island. Three days before their initiation ceremony, Wadth Zigin and Kusikus were told to rub sai (mud) from the nearby mangroves all over their bodies and were not to wash it off until their appointment with Meseku. All three of them were to eat and sleep in small zarazar (grass huts) specifically built for this occasion.
KUSIKUS ESCAPES It was during this time when Kusikus decided to escape from this time of preparation. He disobeyed his father's orders and on the very first night he ran away in the middle of the night, washed himself in the sea and set off along the beach towards Upai Wak5.
KUSIKUS'S JOURNEY Kusikus walked till he came to a place called Waru Wak. By this time it was daybreak. At Waru Wak he walked on the edge of the reef and saw a trail of Kabar (trochus shell). He jumped in the sea and collected enough to carry in his hands. As he was surfacing, he was grabbed from behind by a dthubur6 (male turtle) trying to mate with him. He struggled to escape, dropping all of the trochus holding onto only two.
In desperation to survive he used the sharp ends of the shells to stab the dthubur in the eyes and killed it. He pulled the dead dthubur ashore, cut it and cooked some pagasiew madthu (shoulder meat) and some thupai (fat). After he ate he called some spirits to help him to create a mask from the carapace of the turtle. He cut the sharp ends of the trochus shells and used them for the eyes, molding it with some wam (bees wax).
He continued his journey carrying his mask till he came to a place called Goeragu Wak, a spot not far from Mekayna Kosar. When he walked along the beach, he saw a kaigas (shovel-nose shark). He caught it and removed the intestines and added the whole shark to his mask. He then hung his mask on a tree not far from the beach. By now it was late in the afternoon and the tide was very low when he arrived at Moerarai Koesa. So he walked out to the edge of the reef and there he saw a warukazi (small turtle). He jumped in head first into the sea after the warukazi. When he grabbed the warukazi, he found himself wrapped with large tentacles of a markai sugu (devil octopus). At this very moment Kusikus thought he would never see the sunset again. As he was taken to the bottom of the sea, he called for some spirits to help him escape. He reached for a mazaupat (sharp stag coral), broke off a small branch and stabbed the sugu in the head that created a large gash. The sugu spat Kusikus to the surface of the water.
Despite the wrestling with the sugu, Kusikus never let go of his warukazi. As the sugu swam away it spoke to Kusikus in these words; 'Boo boo Sesew malu sugu - bu bu markai sugu'. Kusikus continued his journey till he came to a place called Yaza. From the beach he saw a Maidthalaig (witchdoctor/ sorcerer) on the hillside of Yazau Pad practicing his magic and mixing some bush medicine. Kusikus tried to disguise himself in the bushes thinking that he was not seen, but the Maidthalaig knew he was being watched and pretended not to notice the presence of a stranger. The Maidthalaig could not concentrate on practicing his spell and was furious at Kusikus watching him from the bushes so he decided to use the spell against Kusikus.
DTHUWAL SEARCHES FOR KUSIKUS Back at Dthuwal Buthu, Dthuwal had learnt of his youngest son's disloyal act. He was furious and decided to search for his son. He asked his forefathers' spirits to guide him to track down his son. He discovered his son's muykup (fireplace) at Waru Wak and was notified of what happened by the spirits. His next clue was the mask he saw hanging on a tree at Goergu Wak. He spoke in these words to the spirits. 'Kusikus ngau kazi -Kusikus kuthinal kazi' KUSIKUS'S DEATH
Early in the evening Kusikus rested at Bubul Nguki. He made him a dagul (fish spear) and was planning on eating fish the next day. That same night the Maidthalaig placed thorns from a thupmul (file ray) tail rubbed with poisonous paste along a row of dthamu (sea grass) on a small patch of surum (grassy sand cay). He then used his powers to guide Kusikus towards his trap. Before daybreak Kusikus woke up and set out to the reef. He came to this gangar (rock coral) where he saw Sesew the markai sugu. He stretched out his dagul and threw it straight at Sesew. Before the dagul could reach Sesew, a large fish jumped out of the sea and snapped the dagul in half. At this very moment Kusikus stood on the thorns placed by the maidthalaig who was watching from the bushes in the hills. By now Dthuwal had reached Bubul Nguki and could see his son falling backwards over the edge of the reef. He ran towards Kusikus. On arrival, he discovered that his son had fallen into a giant pasuwa (clam shell). Dthuwal called out; 'Kusikus ngau kazi - mika ngi kedtha pudthi - ai ai ai ai pasuwa' The Pasuwa swallowed Kusikus cutting his head off and spitting it back on to the dry bed of the reef. Dthuwal grabbed Kusikus head and held it next to his chest. From that moment on he referred to his son as Pasuwa7. Pa-su-wa:- Pa: Pasuwa, Su: Sugu, Wa: Waru These were the three creatures that tried to take his son away from the spirit of the earth. Dthuwal discovered that each time these three spirited creatures fought with Kusikus, they weakened Kusikus's spirits causing him to be weak. When Dthuwal returned home, he placed his son's head on a small sara and smoked it sending his spirits to be with his ancestors in the sky. Later he took the head and buried it near his zarazar.
THABUTHIR Zigin had a pet snake that he called Thabuthir8. Every day he would feed thabuthir with birds and lizards. Thabuthir had a shape of a leaf on his head. INITIATION At Dthuwal Buthu, it was nearly time for the initiation ceremony to take place. Meseku had collected some itip (a plant with long leaves with a thorn on the end). He prepared a muykup (fireplace) using goeragarr watharr to make the fire. Dthuwal called on Wadth and Zigin to go to Meseku. They crawled towards the burning fire9. Meseku held itipal in the midst of the thick smoke and whipped the young men's back creating scars of manhood. This action went on till midnight. Meseku sang a chant10, appointing three spirits for each of them to guide and help these two brothers for the rest of their lives. The scars11 would heal in time and would show other people of other villages that they have special powers and spirits as guards. WADTH AND ZIGIN Many years passed and Dthuwal died of old age. This was when Dthuwal's place was soon to be called Dthuwal Buthu. Wadth and Zigin continued to live a little to the north of Dthuwal Buthu. Often they would go out in their canoe and catch turtles. Years later after many trips, Zigin became tired of going out to sea with his older brother. He would complain about getting wet and having sore eyes from the salt from the splashes of the sea. ZIGIN AND THE SPIRITS Zigin refused to go out anymore with his brother, instead he would sit up all night beating his warup (drum) composing chants and singing with many spirits. He became so obsessed with spirits when the moon was full he would make the spirits dance all night. Every night Wadth would notice flying foxes circling atop of his brother's house and could hear the different voices singing ancient chants. Wadth moved further north of Zigin's zarazar because all the chanting and the beating of the drum kept him awake all night 'til morning. SOLAL During the solal (mating turtle) season (towards the month of November) Wadth would continue to hunt turtles and would catch many fat turtles. There was always a row of turtles lying on their back in front of Wadth's house. Wadth became a great champion12 at spearing and catching turtles. Whenever he would feel like eating turtle, he would cut one up and cook it in an earth oven or just roast it on an open fire. He would also share with his younger brother whom by now had started to depend on Wadth for food from the sea. The sharing continued for a long time until it came to a point when Wadth started to find it difficult and frustrating doing all the hard work by himself for the both of them. Whenever Wadth would ask Zigin to accompany him out at sea, he would always refuse, saying that he was tired from beating his drum all night. Wadth decided that he would no longer provide the best parts of the turtle for his brother. So when he decided to butcher another one of his catch, he only gave his brother some mukuy madthu (pelvis meat) and katal madthu (neck meat). Zigin received no thupai (fat) from his brother. ZIGIN'S JEALOUSY On receiving his share of turtle, Zigin asked himself, 'Ina mika kedtha ngau tukuyapan ngaika kedtha ngapa watti madthul kusumnu'? (Why did my brother bring me bad meat?) Zigin was very furious. He decided do use his special powers with the help of his spirits to prevent all the solal from reaching his brother, Wadth. I will turn usalai13 away from him. "Ngath nungungu usalai adthaka thaiyaik " I will make hunting even more difficult for Wadath. He will catch nothing. The following day he gathered branches from a special tree called ‰Û_‰Û_and set foot out to the reef. He stood at Kabar Gizu pretending to feed the fish but at the same time throwing magic powers into the sea trying to guide passing solal away from his brother who was in sight just a little to the north. He would also jump into the sea and make splashes to chase away the nearing solal. Wadth wondered what his brother was doing as he was preparing himself for a pair of solal nearing towards him. "Tukuyap ngau midthmika - ina ngai kedtha anapin" Soon Wadth speared a solal and was pulling it up the beach where he lived. Seeing this, Zigin immediately took hold of his wap and amu with some kuyur14 and prepared himself, hoping for the next pair of solal to pass by. He stood out on the reef, facing west singing. He sang all day trying to use his magical powers but had no luck. Zigin returned home at dark empty handed. The moon sat high and shone brightly displaying the row of turtles on their back in front of Wadth's house. Every night when singing, Zigin would ask the Kisai Maril (spirits of the moon) to draw down the thupai and kill his brother's catch15. The very next day Wadth woke up to find all his solal weak and on the verge of dying. His spirits told him of Zigin's jealous act to make the Kisai maril take away the thupai from his turtles. From that moment onwards, Wadth covered the solal he caught with mats. He continued to hunt and speared turtles for many years. One day when he cut a solal on the beach, he allowed the waves to wash the eggs ashore and they turned to stones. "Wadthan lag - ina Wadthan wÌ¦eybadth" (This is Wadth's place - Wadth's turtle eggs) Zigin on the other hand stood out on the reef out from Kabar Gizu many times with no success. He would fall asleep at times standing on the edge of the reef. Zigin died of starvation one day. He turned to stone waiting for a pair of solal. The rock marks the spot where Zigin stood for days. Wadth lived to be an old man providing his catch to many villages on Badu. Many years later he was introduced to the use of Nath through one of the villages on the North side of the island. Acknowledgment and respect to my late father Leniaso Tipoti (ArganBesai) who had taken time to retell and record these ADTHIL of our ancestors. 1. Mainab is on the south-east side of Badu 2. Meseku was a Zugub from Mabuiag 3. Dthug Ngur is on the north side of Badu 4. Sarupau Pad is right next to Dgthug Ngur 5. Upai Wak is to the west of Dthuwal Buthu 6. Male Turtle are known to attack and engage with people when diving to catch solal 7. The word Pasuwa was broken down to three different abbreviations: Pa-Su-Wa; Pa:Pasuwa, Su:Sugu, Wa:Waru. 8. Thabuthir was said to have come from Sabai Island 9. Men being initiated were not to look into their initiators eyes 10. Dad could not remember the words of this chant sang to him in ancient language by Athe Au 11. These scars are called - 'koey walaizi wam'. 12. Wadth was always referred to as 'malu mina geth mabaig' 13. Usalai - current flowing from east to west 14. Wap - harpoon, amu - rope, kuyur - darts to fit on the end of the wap. 15. As a result from Zigin actions and belief, Torres Strait Islanders never expose their turtles to the moon Retold by Athe Yound Namoa to Leniaso Tipoti in the 1970s Retold and recorded by Leniaso Tipoti 1994 Translated by Alick Tipoti 1999
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.