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(Barter of skulls for things) This artwork is my first larger print since starting at the art centre on Badu. I wanted to tell a story about things I heard from my Athe (grandfather) . Human skulls were highly valued. Our forefathers were celebrated as strong and fierce warriors and feared throughout the Torres Straits, but their survival was dependent on barter with surrounding islands and Melanesians from Papua.
This artwork shows 3 Papuans who have traveled to Badu in an open canoe - this trip took many days and the seas were often treacherous. They have come to the main trading ground on Badu known as Wakaid.
The trip for the Papuans was always at high risk, as they padelled the long journey was very high risk. It was a long way and they battled changing weather an d tide and kept a close watch on warriors doing raids. To endure such a long journey in dugout canoe shows the high value payed by the Papuans on the skulls they came to barter for - which were a source of real magic, and real power. Power came to the witchdoctors and rituals where the skulls were used, to ward off evil spirits. The 2 warriors from Badu Island on either side hold the weapon in their hands. This put great fear into their enemies. It is called the gabugab. Their baskets are full of things traded. The central image contains warriors from Papua engaged in the barter - carrying the traditional weapons and the skulls. The image is wrapped in my totem - the Thubu (snake). There are many references in the patterning (augad tamai) such as anumals, footprints the weather and the ocean. After a successful trade, the tribe would gather for feasting after the skull-giving ceremony known as aisgul. These days the Badu community township is located on the island at Wakaid, which is a harbour located on the island between Badu and the neighboring Island, Moa. This is the place I now live and is where our forefathers kept watch and engaged in those visitors give permission to cross our seas and walk our land in search of the most prized item in the Torres Strait and South Pacific.