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Striking Torres Strait islander masks on display at National Museum Australia
Zei Sagulaw Mawa by Vincent Babia - Saibai/Seisia, Kalaw Kawaw Ya language group - Gab Titui Cultural Centre. Photo: George Serras, National Museum of Australia.

CANBERRA.- An exhibition of 12 striking masks and related cultural materials celebrating the rich and continuing tradition in the Torres Strait opened this weekend at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Created by the Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Waiben (Thursday Island) in 2016, Evolution: Torres Strait Masks explores the artistic and spiritual tradition of mask making that still resonates with communities today.

National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said he was thrilled that the Museum is the first venue to host the exhibition, which will tour until 2019. ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase these striking objects, which explore key cultural practices in the Torres Strait from both historical and contemporary perspectives,’ he said.

‘The Museum has had a longstanding relationship with Gab Titui since it opened in 2004 and the centre has provided us with valuable assistance and advice, and enriched our holdings of art and cultural materials from the Torres Strait,’ Dr Trinca said.

Lead curator Leitha Assan, one of the first participants in the Encounters Indigenous Cultural Workers Scholarships in 2016, said the masks created by contemporary Torres Strait artists – Andrew Passi, Eddie Nona, Vincent Babia, Kapua Gutchen Senior, Yessie Mosby and Alick Tipoti – are displayed alongside historical examples of this ancient practice.

‘The exhibition takes you on a journey from time immemorial when masks were used in ceremonial rituals involving art, theatre and dance by our ancestors, and we show how these historic artefacts have inspired new works that are constantly developing and changing,’ Ms Assan said.

Evolution: Torres Strait Masks is on display at the National Museum of Australia from 19 May to 23 July 2017.

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