Beizam (shark) dance mask
Oil, Enamel Paint on plastic and plywood, steel wire, dyed feathers, plastic swivel, cockatoo feathers
70 x 26 x 26 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Born 1950, Erub (Darnley) Island, Torres Strait; lives in Cairns, Australia
"My father was a proud Torres Strait Islander as am I….Dancing is very important to me because of my father. He was a very good dancer so this is why I dance, to carry on my culture, to stand in his footsteps as my sons will do for me. Every Torres Strait Islander is like this. We learnt from our grandfathers and forefathers."
Ken Thaiday takes sharks, fish, birds, and other native Pacific animals as subjects for his mobile sculptures or "dance machines." Each sculpture is designed to sit on the head of a performer like a helmet with moving parts controlled by string. Thaiday comes from the Torres Strait Islands to the North of Australia and close to Papua New Guinea, and these headdresses played an important role in local indigenous ceremonies. Thaiday has updated the form, materials, and subject matter to create traditional headdresses for the twenty-first century.