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Dhari a Krar: Headdresses and Masks from the Torres Strait

Ken Thaiday Snr performs the dance of his shark totem.
Ken Thaiday Snr performs the dance of his shark totem. Photo: George Serras.

Dhari a Krar: Headdresses and Masks from the Torres Strait showcased a spectacular collection of masks and headdresses from the Torres Strait. Dhari a Krar means 'headdresses and masks' in the western Torres Strait language of Kala Lagaw Ya.

The exhibition brought together a diverse collection of masks, headdresses and dance objects dating from the mid-1800s to the present.

The exhibition highlighted the continuing importance of masks and headdresses to Torres Strait people today. Torres Strait masks and headdresses are spectacular items, which have an instant appeal.

They provided a great entry point to understanding some of the history and ongoing cultural traditions of the different communities of the Torres Strait.

Audiences were able to see the evolution of Torres Strait masks and headdresses in art, theatre and dance, how older pieces have inspired new works and how these cultural traditions are constantly developing and changing.

Highlights included a stunning triple hammerhead shark headdress by the artist Ken Thaiday Senior and a vivid Mawa witchdoctor mask made by the artist Allson Edrick Tabui. A number of rare headdresses and masks collected in the mid to late 1800s were also on show for the exhibition.

The exhibition was developed as a collaboration between the National Museum of Australia and the Cairns Regional Art Gallery. It was on display  at the National Museum of Australia from July 2006 to July 2011 in the First Australians gallery.

Meet the makers

Rosie Barkus, James Eseli, Victor McGrath, Allson Edrick Tabuai, Kenneth Thaiday Snr and Alick Seriba Tipoti