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KEN THAIDAY CALLS UPON THE SHARK IN HIS LATEST EXHIBITION – ABC ARTS

October 8, 2014

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By Nicola Harvey and Rachel Storey

Ken Thaiday Snr is described by Carrigeworks’ visual arts curator Beatrice Gralton as “the most important artist working out of the Torres Straight at the moment”. The Cairns-based choreographer and artist was in Sydney this week to open an exhibition at Carriageworks, featuring a large new commission.

Thaiday, whose sculptural headdresses are included in the collections of the Art Gallery of NSW and the National Gallery of Australia, draws upon the landscape of the Torres Strait Islands and his cultural ancestry when creating his artwork.

The theme of this latest exhibition is “all about the shark”. The artworks displayed consist of a large-scale kinetic sculpture that references the Dhari, a ceremonial headdress and traditional dance of the Torres Strait Islands, plus a collection of elaborate sculptures depicting various sea creatures and Thaiday’s headdress ‘dancing machines’, which are inspired by the hammerhead shark, Thaiday’s family’s totem.

“When I was a little fella I grew up with all these things because I’m a fisherman, what you see now it’s all about myself,” says Thaiday.

Thaiday’s dance troupe Erub Kebile is performing at the exhibition opening on 3 October, as well as at an artist talk with Thaiday the following day.

Gralton says Thaiday’s artworks are “responding to the re-interpretation of these traditional dances but in contemporary life…using contemporary materials.” The end result is a captivating performance that is accompanied by drumbeats and soulful vocals performed by Thaiday and a group of Indigenous singers.

In the spirit of keeping his traditions alive, Thaiday, who inherited a great deal of his knowledge from his father, choreographer and cultural leader Tat Thaiday, is keen to pass that same knowledge on to the next generation.

“My father taught me everything, he was one of the best choreographers in Dhari, all my singing and dancing today is from my father”.

Ken Thaiday, presented by Carriageworks and Performance Space, runs 3 October – 23 November at Carriageworks. Artist talk and Erub Kebile performance will take place on 4 October 11am-12pm.

– Produced by Nicola Harvey and Rachel Storey, Photography by Kate Blackmore

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