Striking Torres Strait Islander masks on display at Museum of Tropical Queensland

21 March 2018

An exhibition of 12 striking masks and related cultural materials celebrating the rich and continuing tradition of mask making in Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait) opens on Saturday 24 March at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

The Evolution: Torres Strait Masks exhibition was developed by the Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Waiben (Thursday Island), in partnership with the National Museum of Australia, and explores the longstanding importance of ceremonial masks in Torres Strait culture, and how they influence contemporary art forms.

Acting CEO of the Queensland Museum Network Dr Jim Thompson said Queensland Museum’s Museum Development Officers had worked with Gab Titui staff on the exhibition design for several years.

“The Evolution: Torres Strait Masks exhibition is the result of a significant ongoing relationship between the Museum and Gab Titui,” Dr Thompson said.

“With the Townsville region having one of the highest populations of Torres Strait Islanders outside of the Torres Strait, this exhibition is as important to the local community as it is to visitors to North Queensland wanting to learn more about the Indigenous culture.”

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the exhibition featured masks of extraordinary beauty that were testament to the ongoing significance of Torres Strait Islander art, custom and history.

“These ceremonial masks, created by prominent contemporary artists from different Island groups, provide a unique insight into the vibrant cultures of the Torres Strait,” Ms Enoch said.

“I applaud Queensland Museum on this important collaboration with Gab Titui Cultural Centre.”

Director of the National Museum of Australia Dr Mathew Trinca said he was thrilled the Museum could be part of the exhibition tour which will continue until 2019.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase these significant objects, which explore key cultural practices in the Torres Strait from both historical and contemporary perspectives,” Dr Trinca said.

Lead curator Leitha Assan, one of the first participants in the Encounters Indigenous Cultural Workers Scholarships in 2016, said these remarkable works were created by contemporary Torres Strait artists Andrew Passi, Eddie Nona, Vincent Babia, Kapua Gutchen Senior, Yessie Mosby, Alick Tipoti, Milton Savage and Seriat Young.

“The exhibition takes you on a journey from time immemorial when masks were used in ceremonial rituals involving art, theatre and dance by our ancestors, and we show how these historic artefacts have inspired new works that are constantly developing and changing,” Ms Assan said.

Evolution: Torres Strait Masks is a travelling exhibition from the National Museum of Australia.

Evolution: Torres Strait Masks will be on display at Museum of Tropical Queensland from Saturday 24 March to Sunday 2 September 2018.

Visit for further details.

The Museum is open daily from 9.30am – 5pm and will be closed on Anzac Day.

Image credit: Andrew Passi 'Sor Kobir' 

Media Contacts:   

Museum of Tropical Queensland
Andrea Hughes  07 4726 0604 or 0497 347 117

National Museum of Australia
Media contact Tracy Sutherland  02 6208 5338 | 0438 620 710 or