My colleague Scott Mitchell and I recently visited Darnley Island, also known as Erub, in the far eastern Torres Strait Islands (TSI).
It was a beautiful plane trip to the island from Horn Island, with a brief stop over on Murray Island (Mer), with amazing views of the reefs, sand cays and surrounding islands. I’m glad that I didn’t know before landing that, at 450m long, it is the second shortest runway in TSI!
After landing on Darnley, Scott Mitchell and I went up to Erub Erwer Meta (Darnley Island Arts Centre), to Diann Lui (art centre manager), Lynnette Griffiths (project manager) and Jan Cattoni ( a film-maker who is documenting the progress of the acquisitions). We were also able to meet many of the artists who will be contributing to our new works. These included Maryann Bourne, Emma Gela, Florence and Kapua Gutchen, Racy Oui-Pitt, Ellarose Savage, Sedey Stephen, Alma Sailor, Jimmy Thaiday and Demag Ansom.
Before we had arrived, the artists had started coming up with ideas about what they would like to make. Several stories were put forward, but in the end everyone decided on a story about Dauma (a large mud crab found in mangroves) and Garom (a rock cod), who fall in love and get married on a reef just off Darnley. Following the wedding the dance begins, with teke (a groper), bringing his dancing group, and cockroach, the main man or leader of the pack, leading the dancing. The story of Dauma and Garom was created by George Mye, who passed away last year. The art centre was given permission to use this story by his son John, who was able to tell us about the story. This story is also painted on the preschool wall, which was lovely to see.
The acquisition of the new ghost net works from Erub Erwer Meta was made possible by a grant from the Australian Museum Foundation and the bequest of Patricia M Porritt.