Kala Lagaw Ya people
Boigu (Island) Torres Strait, Australia 1940 – 2003
Gainau [Pigeon] headdress
[Torres Strait headdress: Pigeon] 1996 mixed media mixed media
42.0 h x 36.0 w x 33.0 d cm
Accession No: NGA 96.1098
This is a Pigeon headdress from the Torres Strait Islands. The fabrication of headdresses is an important part of the continuation of Torres Strait Islander cultural practices. The tradition of making headdresses and dance masks for ceremonies in the Torres Strait goes back 1000s of years. While in the past only natural materials such as wood, turtle shell, fibre and natural pigment were used, nowadays plywood, nylon fishing line, chicken feathers and enamel paints are regularly used. This is the Torres Strait Pigeon, a migratory bird that travels between the Torres Strait and northern Australia. The headdress is operated by pulling the string to flap both wings, imitating the movements of a pigeon in flight.
Gabuiel Banu was born on Boigu Island in the Torres Strait Islands and spent his childhood fishing, gardening and learning about his family and culture. He was taught to make headdresses by his father and in turn he has passed on this skill to his family. His work observes the Torres Strait Islander tradition of making headdresses and serves as a role model for younger people to keep alive this important cultural practice.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra