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Bringing the music back to Thursday Island

15 APRIL 2004

The National Museum of Australia is releasing a major CD collection of Torres Strait Islander music and songs to mark the opening on Thursday Island of the region's first major cultural centre.

Entitled Paipa , the CD will be launched tomorrow at the opening of the Gab Titui Cultural Centre by Seaman Dan, one of the many Torres Strait Islander musicians and communities recorded on Thursday Island and down the Queensland coast.

Paipa meaning windward in western Torres Strait language complements the themes of the new Gab Titui Cultural Centre and the National Museum's current exhibition in Canberra about the migration and culture of Islanders. The songs bring alive Islander stories of pearl diving, sugar cane cutting, World War II, young people and the environment and the Coming of the Light - illustrating their diverse migrant musical heritage.

'The National Museum congratulates the Torres Strait Regional Authority and all those Islanders who have created this important keeping place for their powerful cultural traditions,' said acting director of the National Museum, Craddock Morton. 'We worked closely with many Islander communities to help build our Gallery of First Australians. We look forward to further collaborations with the Gab Titui Centre and its wonderful exhibition facilities.'

The Museum's Islander partnership is best embodied in the traditional double rigger eight metre canoe, he said. Carved by the Saibai community for the opening of the National Museum in March 2001, it is now a highlight of the Paipa exhibition.

Saibai dancers also toured to Guangzhou, China, where the National Museum opened its first international exhibition, Stories from Australia, in December 2002. This profile of indigenous communities is now on loan to Tandanya Institute in Adelaide.

Under the guidance of TSI elders, the National Museum also exhibited the famed Alfred Haddon Collection from Cambridge University Museum, a priceless collection Haddon gathered in 1898 and not seen since by local communities. The Haddon collection was exhibited by the Museum in its first year and then loaned in 2002 to the Cairns Regional Art Gallery.

The Paipa CD, produced by Central Queensland University anthropologist Karl Neuenfeldt and engineer Nigel Pegrum, is available from the National Museum shop for $28.

For review copies and interviews please contact Public Affairs Director Martin Portus, on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or email m.portus@nma.gov.au , who will be attending the Thursday Island opening .