An exhibition of twelve striking masks celebrating the rich and continuing tradition in the Torres Strait Islands was held in Majuro at the NAPA building last month. This was the first exhibition hosted by the newly established Australian Embassy. It afforded a special glimpse of the Torres Strait Islands, one of Australia’s two indigenous groups.
The Torres Strait Islands Mask Exhibition was opened by Ambassador Brek Batley and Foreign Minister Casten Nemra. The Torres Strait Islands, like the Marshall Islands, is a remote collection of islands at the very northern tip of mainland Australia, with deeply rooted culture and traditions.
The exhibition demonstrated the longstanding importance of masks in Torres Strait culture and ritual, and how they influence contemporary art forms. The masks represented ancestral, supernatural and totemic beings that are central to the traditional beliefs and cultural practices of Torres Strait Islanders.
Schools in Majuro and Ebeye visited the exhibition during the two weeks it as on display. The Alele Library and students from the College of the Marshall Islands helped elementary school students design their own masks after visiting the exhibition to learn more about the Torres Strait. Students combined a tour of the exhibit with a visit to Alele Museum, where they drew their own masks.
In Australia, the Torres Strait Regional Authority and Gab Titui Cultural Center partnered with the Embassy to showcase the masks and share audiovisual material from the Torres Strait as part of the exhibition. Majuro Stevedore and Terminal Company provided the gallery space.
“We also plan to open this Exhibition in Ebeye in the coming months, and who knows, perhaps tour it to other atolls if they are interested,” said Ambassador Batley.