The dynamic and muscular shape of the hammerhead shark is a key feature in the dance masks created by Ken Thaiday Snr. It is an important cultural symbol to the people of the eastern Torres Strait Islands and is the artist’s key totemic animal.
Although based on historical Torres Strait Islander dance masks, Thaiday Snr has adapted the use of lightweight contemporary materials in his works to further extend his creativity, while maintaining his strong sense of artistic identity. Constructed to sit on the dancer’s shoulders and chest, with the upper shark protruding high above the dancer’s head, the ingenious feature of the pulleys manipulates sections of the mask, mimicking the shark’s movements while swimming and eating. The feathers surrounding the shark’s mouth evoke water spray, created by the shark during its feeding frenzy.
Although constructed primarily for the public artistic domain, the cultural significance and dynamism of a major ancestral totem of the Torres Strait is evident. TB