Kuik or skulls were a very important part of Torres Strait Islander culture. They were used as the main currency for trading and played an important role in ceremonial life.
The skull depicted in the print has been decorated for trading. The canoe, its spirit figure occupants and the Baidam star constellation seen towards the top, all have relevance to the vital trade links the Islanders had with their New Guinean neighbours. The nose and eye cavity was filled with bee’s wax and pearl shell cut in to a diamond shape, formed the eyes. Giddi Giddi beads and a woven fibre, ribbon like material was attached to the base of the skull.
Because of the limited resources on the Islands canoe hulls of any length were sourced from the lush forests found near certain New Guinean villages up stream of the rivers that flowed into the Torres Strait.
Canoes were of vital importance as they were the only means of transport for trading, hunting and fishing at sea and inter island and mainland warfare. Just one skull would be needed to acquire a canoe of substantial size, some of which were up to twenty
metres long employing double outriggers and sails and a large crew.
In order to replicate the ribbon like fibre decoration at the base of the skull the artist has embossed an actual fibre matt into the soft ground on the metal plate. This has then been etched and the plate cut out in the shape of the ribbon.
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