Ricardo Idagi’s contemporary vision of his traditional culture is encapsulating and innovative. He was born and raised on Mer Island (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait and currently lives and works in Melbourne. He is a talented artist, musician (under the name King Kadu) and storyteller whose vision is to revitalise Torres Strait Islander culture and art pre-missionary contact. His works are representative of his deep understanding and knowledge of Meriam Mer culture.
Idagi’sGiri Giri Le (Paradise Man)—Marou Mimi, created with the assistance of his nephew Obery Sambo, blends two types of Torres Strait ceremonial headwear, the turtle-shell mask and the white-feather dhoeri (headdress). The large turtle-shell forms the face of the work and its outer edge only is intricately carved in patterns that resemble traditional weavings. The eyes, carved out of the shell, are outlined with contrasting paler cowrie shell to highlight their shape and presence. The traditional dhoeri is carefully positioned on the turtle‑shell mask as it would be worn during a dance. It is adorned with an outer spray of white feathers, the tips of which are cut into the shapes of fishtails—representing an important local food source.
The sharp nose, like a turtle beak, points toward the opened mouth lined with rows of gritted teeth. And, below, the intricately carved pearl shell—traditionally worn on the chest by fully initiated men—completes the work to give a real sense of how a Torres Strait Islander warrior would have looked dressed and ready for ceremony or war.
This striking work will compliment the other two major masks by Idagi in the collection and is on display in the Torres Strait Islander Gallery at the National Gallery of Australia.
Tina Baum Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
in artonview, issue 69, autumn 2012