Alick Tipoti is a Torres Strait Islander who is guided by the traditional cultural practices of his people. He believes in the Zugubal who were spoken about for many years by his ancestors. He is most diligent about what he sees as his responsibility to document the stories, genealogies, songs and other aspects of his culture so that it is available for future generations to learn, understand and practice.
He speaks his native language, Kala Lagaw Ya of the Maluilgal nation of Zenadh Kes. Alick believes that language is the vital ingredient that binds all cultures in the world today. ‘Without your language you become a foreigner, lost in another persons culture. One of my favourite English word is analyse. In my language we call it Ses Tham or Thapul. Singing and dancing are forms of art that branch out from the centrepiece called language. Everything you do, traditionally or culturally, evolves from a language. When you know the language, you know your culture.’
Alick has researched the genealogy of Zenadh Kes. He says that when you practice something about your culture, it is important to know your roots and your identity as this will help you choose your path in life.
He has been given the traditional name of ZUGUB which enables him to relate to the spirits of his ancestors, the ZUGUBAL. This provides him the insight and ability to translate the words of these ancestors into the beautifully delicate and complex imagery of his linocuts. ‘When I work late at night carving traditional designs, I can sense the presence of the spirits who I verbally acknowledge and thank in language for their guidance and help in visualising the words they have given me. I vividly remember an unusual event late one evening where I was guided to resketch and change the interperation of a block I was about to carve. This was just one of the many occasions when I have connected with the Zugubal who have instructed me on the proper ways of our cultural traditions.’
“In my life I have come to a level of understanding that I pray to the Zugubal of my culture”
The artist holds an Advance Diplomain Arts, Thursday Island TAFE College and a Batchelor of Visual Arts, Australian National University, Canberra.
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