Watch Alick Tipoti create his mural ‘Kudusur’


‘Kudusur’ translates as ‘poling with elbow’. This work is Alick Tipoti’s interpretation of the spiritual ancestors, Thoegay and Kang, know to his people as the Zugubal. Thoegay and Kang are two brothers, who extend their elbows and use them as paddles for their canoe. Keen-sighted Thoegay sits at the front, and Kang is blind and sits at the back, Kang is always chewing on a medicine plant.

Tipoti was born on Waiben (Thursday Island) in the Torres Strait. As a young man he developed a passion for the stories of his ancestors, particularly those of Badhu (Badhu Island), and continues the Islander storytelling tradition through dance performances, printmaking, sculpture and large murals. Tipoti is inspired by the ancient artefacts of the Torres Strait Islands, which he has seen in universities and museums, and from the traditional stories handed down and recorded by his father and the recognised elders of the Torres Strait.

watch OUR TIMELAPSE OF ‘kudusur’

Alick Tipoti, Kala Lagaw Ya people, Australia b.1975 / Kudusur 2017 / Commercial acrylic paint / Commissioned 2017 / © The artist

Tipoti explains that this mural depicts the brothers summoning the winds to blow, because they wish to sail to another island. Four spiritual figures appear from the sea through whirly-winds. These are ancestral spirits – the ancient Zugubal. They have come to present the winds of different directions or seasons that blow in the Torres Strait Islands, so that the brothers can the choose one blowing towards their destination. Left to right, they read as: Naygay (dry season); Sager (trade wind season); Kuki (monsoon season) and Zey (transitional period).

Thoegay and Kang are spiritual super-humans, masters of witchcraft and other kinds of island magic. At the bow of the canoe, they place a skull of another ancient ancestor, so that they can communicate with the spirit world through it.

Between the brothers in the canoe is a Bu (trumpet shell) which has been rubbed with leaves from a sacred plant. The sound from the Bu clears the skies at night, exposing only the stars that will guide the brothers to their destination. The stars Tipoti refers to are those that came before what we see today – the ones we see today are now Thoegay and Kang themselves.

Alick Tipoti introduces ‘Kudusur’

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