Mask exhibition to reveal cultural mysteries of the Torres Strait Islands at Museum of the Great Southern

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
The Museum of The Great Southern's Catherine Salmaggi and a piece from the exhibition.
Camera IconThe Museum of The Great Southern's Catherine Salmaggi and a piece from the exhibition. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

The travelling exhibition Evolution: Torres Strait Masks is back on show at the Museum of the Great Southern just in time for the school holidays.

Making its first visit to the region in February, the free exhibition is back on display in Menang Noongar country from September 26-November 7.

Showcasing the ancient practice of mask-making in the Torres Strait Islands, the collection of 12 masks was developed in partnership with the National Museum of Australia and Thursday Island’s Gab Titui Cultural Centre.

The exhibition will take visitors on a journey through time to when masks were used in ceremonial rituals throughout the 274 islands spreading across around 48,000sqkm between Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea.

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According to the museum, the ancient masks, known as Kuyuku Zamiyak, meaning “head piece”, are unique.

They are said to possess powers which allow one to channel and connect with another realm, and were worn only by recognised spiritual leaders of the highest rank who were seen as having the ability to communicate with the ancestors in the spirit world.

Visitors will gain special insight into what has been described as a deeply spiritual practice of mask-making revived by eight proud contemporary artists who are willing to share their culture.

Mask-making traditions are being carried on by Torres Strait artists and master craftsmen such as Andrew Passi, Eddie Nona and Yessie Mosby.

Visitors can expect to learn about the evolution of mask culture, the reaction of early maritime explorers to the practice, and the cultural protocols around creating a mask.

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