Ken Thaiday Sr / Meriam Mir people / Australia b.1950 / Beizam headdress (Shark with shark jaw) 1991 / Plywood, enamel paint, plastic foam, PVC plastic, cockatoo feathers / 46 x 26 x 60cm / Purchased 1992 / © Ken Thaiday Sr

Ken Thaiday Sr
Beizam headdress (Shark with shark jaw) 1991

On Display: QAG, Gallery 17

Ken Thaiday Sr was born in 1950 on Erub (Darnley Island) in the outer Torres Strait, one of Australia’s most remote communities. Thaiday spent his childhood with his family, fishing and gardening, and participating in ceremonial life. When he was about 13, the family moved to Thursday Island where he attended school, and two years later they settled in Cairns.

Thaiday first worked for the railways, then as a labourer and later as a leading hand (a supervisor on a construction site). Though Thaiday now lives and works with his family in Cairns, the celebration of his island culture remains an important aspect of his life.

In the 1980s, Ken Thaiday became a leader in the creation of Torres Strait dance objects when he formed a dance troupe to perform at traditional tombstone ceremonies in north Queensland.

While spectacular headdresses have become his best-known works, he also creates dance weapons, zamiyakal (articulated dance machines), paddles and musical instruments. His artworks are based on the rich history and narratives of the Torres Strait Islands, including the pearling industry.