$1,500 (tax inc.)
This hand coloured linocut print “Zug Ngurrpai” depicts the Torres Strait islander culture of a young man hunting his first dugong. The young man involved is Josh – the artist’s sister’s son.
Zug means arm.
Ngurrpai means learning.
Before the journey to find the dugong, the young initiate, his father and his uncle meet up on the beach and acknowledge the presence of the ancestral spirits of the totems depicted across the top of the print to ensure that they are happy for passing on this cultural practice.
Sarra – seagull
Tupmul – brown stingray
Kodal – crocodile
Taab – snake
Saulal – turtle
The group feel the presence of these 5 totems and thank them for guidance. Before the journey starts, the uncle delivers the message from the beach, talking to the gods, and then they head out to the ocean.
The boat is represented by the image of a dugong, with the father (James) driving it and shown as a Bu (trumpet shell) at the tail end. The uncle is responsible to guide and advise his nephew how to spear his first dugong using the whop (dugong spear). The uncle, known as Awade, is depicted as the green leaf of a tree that grows along the coast which is call urrkarr.
The group return to the beach and are met by the young man’s mother who tries to suckle the dugong with her breasts.
The father and mother are beaten by the dugong totem law man using eucalyptus branches until blood is drawn on their backs. Then there is a feast – but the boy and his parents are not allowed to eat that first dugong.
The guests finally make off with any of the parents belongings that they feel like taking!
The hand colouring of this print is unique in that the artist has mined some local coloured clay and mixed it with binders before application. The trumpet shell and the boy are coloured with a rich brown ochre that comes from a local quarry. The green is acrylic paint mixed with the clay.