Ken Thaiday Senior, respected artist from the Torres Strait Island, presents his visions and art with grace and eloquence. With his wife Liz by his side, they have been transported from one world to another to be honored in Washington, D.C. during NAIDOC Week, which celebrates the achievements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Mr. Thaiday reveals a perspective into a world of dreams, faith, nature, fishing, dancing and art all the while connecting ancient spiritual traditions to contemporary Christian times.
Raising his finger to the sky, Mr. Thaiday gives praise to him above. He shared that it is because of God that he is an artist and where he is today. Mr. Thaiday explained his Beizam – hammerhead shark headpiece as a symbol of law and order. For in the water, he said, “the shark is king. What would happen if the boat turned over, have my life jacket but what would happen in the water? The shark may be there, come by to nip. Come around and nip again. Nothing you can do except pray.”
Mr. Thaiday explains the delicate balance in nature of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and faith being the carrier to safety. Symbolic of this delicate relationship is his hammerhead shark headpiece, which has been donated to the permanent collection at the Australian Embassy. The piece is approximately two feet high made of bamboo in three shades of colors reflecting the colors of the shark in the water from brown to grey to blue. Mr. Thaiday has white feathers by the jaws to represent the white foam of water as the shark feasts on unsuspecting prey. Working with the bamboo is a delicate process as the splinters are plenty and painful.
Mr. Thaiday, originally from the island of Erub (Darnley Island), is from a family rich in indigenous traditions. He is well respected throughout his community and beyond for bridging the indigenous world to the contemporary world. With a small group of dedicated collectors, he continues to develop his art and share the indigenous tradition of dance.
Knowing the challenges in life, Mr. Thaiday insists, “You must have faith and trust in the Lord.”
By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, D.C.