About the Artwork
The sculptural practice of Ken Thaiday Snr traverses very different cultures. A senior member of the Meriam community on Erub (Darnley) Island, Thaiday is a custodian of dance traditions and the associated ceremonial paraphernalia particular to his clan. His kinetic headdresses with moveable parts and dance machines designed by the artist for ceremonial, performance and exhibition purposes, can be found in museum and gallery collections both in Australia and internationally.
In 1987 Thaiday helped establish the Darnley Island Dance Troupe in Cairns and his sculptural practice developed in tandem with the troupe from this time. The sculptures have become increasingly ornate and theatrical as he has explored new designs and modes of fabrication from non-traditional lightweight materials combined with traditional materials. His headdresses and dance machines are animated with the movement of the dancers, who open and close them theatrically during performance.
The Beizam (hammerhead shark) is a powerful symbolic figure in the maintenance of traditional law and order in the eastern islands of the Torres Strait. Ken Thaiday Snr’s sculptural practice has inspired a school of Islander sculpture in Cairns.
Quotation: Ken Thaiday Snr, quoted in Ken Thaiday Snr: The sea, the feather and the dance machine, Video documentary, Creative Cowboy Films, 71 minutes, 2011.
We have a lot of different materials. I’ve started a new way to do it … I’m a man to make things alive and moving.
Ken Thaiday Snr
– About the artist
Thaiday was born in 1950 at Erub (Darnley Island), a small island located in the eastern island group of the Torres Strait. He had a traditional upbringing and was highly influenced by his father, Tat Thaiday, who was a greatly respected community elder and composer of songs. In the early 1980s, Ken Thaiday Snr worked in the mining industry in Western Australia, where he gained experience working with different types of machinery. In 1987 he co-founded the Darnley Island Dance Troupe in Cairns, Queensland.