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© Billy John McFarlane Missi/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2017

Mudhaw Warul (Sheltered Turtles Behind the Reef)

Date: 2007
Overall: 895 x 700 mm
Medium: Linocut printed in black ink, hand coloured
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Billy John McFarlane Missi
Object Name: Linocut
Object No: 00049230
Place Manufactured:Cairns
Related Place:Torres Strait,

User Terms

    This linocut by Billy Missi is titled ‘Mudhaw Warul’ (Sheltered Turtles Behind the Reef) and is printed in black ink from one block and then hand coloured. It tells the story of how to hunt turtles in the Torres Strait based on particular times and tides of the day.
    SignificanceThrough his artwork Billy Missi expresses the importance of his cultural heritage and kinships and demonstrates how this, in the form of the knowledges and stories shared in Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait) culture, has sustained his people to survive for many, many generations in the Torres Strait. This linocut shows the significance of hunting practices and turtles for survival in Torres Strait Islander society and culture.
    HistoryArtist's statement:

    The giant clamshell in the middle of this image represents the reef and is a feminine symbol indicating the provision of food.

    Mudhaw is a shelter like a hut or a place. When the bigger reefs are exposed and dry, the turtles move to the middle channels between these exposed reefs. When the strong westerly tides come in and push through the reefs, the turtles have to struggle against them. The turtles shelter from these tides behind smaller reefs within the channels, and protect themselves from the surging water.

    There are several methods of turtle hunting based on the time and tides. In Mudhaw Warul, with the incoming tide, a group hunting turtles drifts through the reef in a canoe. Towards the rear of the inner reefs there is a back-draft of tide and this is where the turtles are resting, waiting for the tide to settle. It is at this time that they are caught. In this process the timing and communication between the crew are vital. The spear thrower must direct the crew to steer the canoe into the optimal position to catch the turtles. The turtles continually come up and down behind the reef, for although they can remain under water for up to an hour, they must surface at intervals to take a few deep breaths.

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