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Mabo A Stellar Focus of Annual Art Fair

June 27, 2017 Whats On No Comments Email Email

Artist Gail Mabo has created an exhibition honouring her father, Eddie Koiki Mabo and his connection to the stars, land and sea that will be unveiled at this year’s Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF)

Mabo’s six-part installation comprising photographs of the night sky and hand woven navigational ropes is a personal tribute to her father marrying modern day science with an art practice dating back thousands of years.

“I was inspired by the fact that two years ago Sydney Observatory named a star after dad for his contribution to land rights,” Ms Mabo said.

Eddie Mabo is remembered for initiating a decade-long, legal claim in the High Court of Australia that succeeded in overturningterra nullius (land belonging to nobody) and advancing the cause of Indigenous land rights.

On 3 June 1992, five months after Mabo’s death, the High Court’s landmark ruling, commonly referred to as Mabo, recognised native title in Australia for the first time.

Principal curator of Sydney Observatory, Matthew Connell said the star, named Koiki after Eddie Mabo’s traditional name, sits prominently in the heart of Australia’s Southern Cross and larger Torres Strait Islander constellation of Tagai.

Ms Mabo said in Torres Strait Islander culture the stars are very important for navigation and time keeping.

“Tagai guides us, tell us when it’s time to plant, to harvest, when turtles are mating and the best time to collect seafood,” she said

Taking cue from imagery supplied by NASA showing Koiki’s position in the sky at a set time, on the third day of each month, for a six-month period (when Koiki is visible in the Southern Hemisphere), Mabo has woven a series of ropes using coconut fibre with shells collected from her father’s Mer Island homeland.

“When Pacific Islanders travelled between islands they would use these ropes with knots, bamboo and shells to guide them through changing ocean currents.”

Mabo’s exhibition will occupy an entire wall of Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal’s shed three and form part of CIAF’s Family Values exhibition between 14 and 16 July.

CIAF’s artistic director and curator of the exhibition, Janina Harding said they are thrilled to present Ms Mabo’s exhibition in a year marking the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision.

“Gail shares her experience through an exciting innovative form of conceptual practice, that is thousands of years old.

“She is definitely an artist not to be overlooked,” Ms Harding said.

Programmed in CIAF Conversations under the title, Reflections, Gail will be speaking about her father at CIAF on Friday, 14 July at 9.30am and again at her stand in the Art Fair the following day, Saturday, 15 July at 10.30am.

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