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Kala Lagaw Ya people

Waiben (Thursday Island), Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, Australia born 1975


Cambridge, United States of America born 1952


  • Australia from 1977


commenced 1984

print workshop (organisation)

Apu Kaz (Dugong mother and calf)

2008 Place made: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper linocut, printed in black ink, from one block; hand-coloured in watercolour
Impression: 5/35
Edition: edition of 35
Primary Insc: Signed and dated lower right below printed image in black pencil, 'A Tipoti 08'. Titled lower centre below printed image in black pencil, ''APU KAZ''. Inscribed lower left below printed image in black pencil, 'TRIAL PROOF 5'.
Dimensions: printed image 220.0 h x 114.0 w cm sheet 240.0 h x 120.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of The Silk Cut Foundation, 2010
Accession No: NGA 2010.165

More detail

Alick Tipoti's 2008 linocut print Apu Kaz (Dugong mother and calf) is stunning in its scale and visual richness. It resonates with the special relationship between the hunters of Zenadh Kes (Western Torres Strait) and the sea’s creatures and expresses some of the respected cultural knowledge and laws that govern those relationships.

Tipoti demonstrates a masterful use of intricate patterning, derived from his childhood woodcarving experiences on Badu Island, to represent the strong currents that flow through the Western Torres Strait. In the Kala Lagaw Ya language of this region, there are over 80 words to describe the ebb and flow of different tides. Such detailed knowledge is crucial for people whose livelihood depends on the sea. The tidal currents reflect the changing seasons and dictate the times and durations of the dugongs’ visits to sea-grass feeding areas, which in turn affect hunting patterns.

Contrasted against these sinuous rippling lines are the bold forms of the dugong mother teaching her calf how to dive, preparing it to feed and fend for itself. Tipoti endows these gentle, grazing mammals with exquisite grace as they carve a powerful arc down through the water. In the irregular top edge of the print, he highlights the dugong’s fluked tail. Tipoti brushed acid onto the linoleum block, which allows the ink to pool in organic hollows, creating the mottled effect of the dugongs’ skin when seen underwater. The soft watercolour wash over the top of the print depicts the golden sunlight shimmering down through layers of blue water.

Apu Kaz was the 2008 grand-prizewinner of the Silk Cut Award, which fosters appreciation of linocut prints and encourages creativity in the medium. It was generously gifted to the Gallery by the Silk Cut Foundation and is now on display in the new Torres Strait Islander gallery, Apu Kaz is complemented by sculptures, headdresses and other newly acquired prints from the region, such as Dennis Nona’s Mutuk 2010 and Billy Missi’s Kulba Yadail (Old lyrics) 2006. Together, these works of art show the depth and vibrancy of Torres Strait culture, its intimate connections with the pristine island environment and the way profound cultural knowledge is being conveyed through innovative aesthetic practices.

Elizabeth Howell Gordon Darling Graduate Intern
in artonview, issue 64,  summer 2010

in artonview, issue 64, summer 2010