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Au Karem ar Araigi le


This Lino Print is an edition of 50. This is my father’s story about the pearl shell industry in the Torres Strait.

Category: Prints
Dimensions 42 × 40 cm

45/50, 46/50

SKU: 10-14

This Lino Print is an edition of 50. This is my father’s story about the pearl shell industry in the Torres Strait. His name is Henry Savage and he lives on Erub – Darnley Island. It sounds romantic to hear of the luggers racing from the dive sites to Thursday Island with a fortune’s worth of pearl shell on board. Buyers from all over the world would come to Thursday Island to buy the shell, which was used for buttons, jewellery, and ornaments. But the reality was that the natural dangers were often as bad as the man made ones. There are many unfriendly creatures underwater such as sea snakes and the bends as an ever-present threat. In my father’s time divers went down with a helmet attached to hoses with the air pumps sitting on deck supplying them with oxygen and a tie around their waist. There were no special clothes. He would dive in island clothes. Although the divers could go deep for periods of time in seconds the hoses could be cut by sharp coral or snag on the reef. Larger sea life like sharks or whales could disrupt the hose as they swam past and sea snakes would hang around the hose link at mating time. If their air was stopped the divers would then struggle for life. Some made it through and some didn’t. My dad was round about 23 years old when he started diving. He first went to Warrior Reef near Yam Island and then worked right through the coast before coming to the Darnley Deeps on the south side of Erub (Darnley Island). Many divers have lost their lives in Darnley Deeps, as it is the most dangerous place to dive in the Strait. Most of them were Japanese and Erub and many now rest here at the cemetery. When a diver dies a red cloth flag is tied to the lugger’s rigging at half-mast. Then people know there is a death on board. My dad dived in front of Calico Reef, al the lugger boats go there and the water pressure is strong at 20, 30 or 40 fathoms deep. This is when he used the old diving helmet. My dad was the first one to use the hookah outside Darnley Deeps. He was a diver on Uncle Bluey Bedford’s boat called Jindivik. When he dived down he experienced light, dark, light, then it became completely dark. When he got to the bottom he could see again with light. As he touched the bottom he became aware everything was so still – it was like being in another world. He could see the current but the fish were standing still. On the bottom was a coral tree the size of the mangrove.

Ella-Rose Waigana (Savage)
About the artist

Ella Rose Savage (Waigana)

I am currently working as a member of Erub Arts based at the Erub (Darnley Island) art centre. I began my artistic journey in 2003 when I had the opportunity to work with the ‘Green Turtle Dreaming’ project. I am interested in expressing my relationship with the sea and am currently exploring the links between people’s surroundings, objects and our culture. Sea creatures have always been part of my heritage. I love their graceful beauty and the environment from which they come. Since I was a small girl, I learned to hunt and eat these things as part of my culture.