Gelam Ngzu Kazi - Dugong My Son, showing at the Charlotte Street Gallery, is the first exhibition of work by the indigenous people of Moa Island in the Torres Strait. These intricate linocut prints record the island's special creation stories. Gelam Ngzu Kazi is the name the elders have given this exhibition which marks the first time that traditional Moa Island stories have been recoreded in a visual medium. 'Gelam' refers to the Dugong, the primary totem of the people of Moa.
'I am from the tribe of Wug on Moa Island and grew up in a very sensitive culture environment. From the age of four I practised traditional dancing and singing and I first became interested in art in grade six after participating in an art class at school.
I attended school at Thursday Island Secondary School and later moved to All Saints and St Gabriels Anglican College in Queensland. During High School I was always in trouble for drawing in class instead of doing my work. Dennis Nona was one of my classmates and our competitions to see who could do the best drawing during classes resulted in a lot of detentions.
From 1993 to 1995 I studied for an Associate Diploma in Communications at James Cook University. Although I never stopped drawing I was never serious about it as my studies took up most of my time. Later a cultural studies component of my course inspired me to take up art again.
In 1996 I did a Visual Arts course at the Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE. When I returned to Moa Island in 1997 I met up with my childhood friend Dennis Nona and realized that the career I had been looking for was in fact what had always got me into trouble at school.
I believe that the future generations in the Torres Strait as well as throughout the world need to be educated about the rich cultural heritage and distinctiveness of the Torres Strait culture. I am striving to record and illustrate my ancestral beliefs and traditions through the visual and performing arts.'
'I first became interested in art when I saw a display of paintings done by local Torres Strait Islander artists in 1992. I was so inspired that I wanted to do the same, but, having a fmaily to support, I had to continue with crayfishing as I needed a regular income. So making art had to wait. Deeply inside of me I really wanted to express my traditional culture through art. Dancing and singing are part of our culture, and later when I met Dennis Nona and saw his beautiful prints, I was encouraged to give up diving full time and study under him in our local TAFE programme. We established a printmaking workshop, called the Mualgau Minnaral Art Centre together through the Kubin Community Council on my island, Moa.'
Billy Missi's prints 'Dhangal Um Araik' was highly commended in the Lin Onus Youth Award 2000, part of Australia's premier Indigenous Heritage Art Award.
'I am a member of hte Wagadagam tribe and grew up in Bamaga. Most of my schooling was done in Bamaga, where one of my favourite subjects was art. This also became my hobby. After leaving school I stayed in Bamaga to gain experience in arts and crafts, specializing in painting, woodcarving and weaving.
After leaving school I had a job as a cray fisherman, trocus driver and carpenter. I teamed up with Dennis Nona and joined the newly formed Mualgau Minnaral Artist group on Moa Island, where I learned to express my traditional culture through linocuts and limited edition prints. My culture and day-to-day living was passed down to me from generation to generation and I am proud to display some of this culture in my arts and crafts.'