From Sharne Wolff
A joint project between Carriageworks and Performance Space brings the largest ever installation by Ken Thaiday Snr into town this month. Although he lived and worked in Cairns during his early career, Thaiday is a member of the Meriam Mír clan of Erub (Darley Island) in the eastern Torres Strait group. In 1987, Thaiday formed a dance group in Cairns and began making objects and instruments for the group’s performances. It was from these simple beginnings that his artistic career developed. It’s a practice that is both connected and inseparable from the cultural traditions of the Meriam people.
Best known for his spectacular Dhari (or headdresses), a symbol of Torres Strait Island unity, this latest display brings together new pieces – a rustic scorpion and brightly coloured crayfish – alongside others loaned from public galleries and Artbank. Most notable is Thaiday’s stunning Hammerhead Shark (Beizam) Headdress or ‘dance machine’ a kinetic sculpture constructed from plywood, feathers and shark’s teeth that operates via a complex system of nylon threads and pulleys. When the headdress is worn, the dancer takes on the persona of the shark, Thaiday’s family totem. While the shark swims through the Strait’s clear waters it opens and shuts its mouth as sardines attempt to dart away from its grasp. Regarded as a symbol of law and order, or “boss of the saltwater” the shark represents a powerful force in the everyday lives of the Island people.
Until November 23
Pic: Ken Thaiday Snr. Beizam headdress (Shark with bait fish)1995, plywood, enamel paint, wire, feathers, shark’s teeth, string, 72 x 90.5 x 67.8cm (irreg.). Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. [Installation photograph at Carriageworks].