Sailing Onward

Tagai by Gail Mabo is one of two Queensland entries chosen to tour in The Partnershipping Project.

The latest touring exhibition to stop in at Umbrella Studio contemporary arts is on to its next home – and will feature the work of two North Queensland artists as it continues around the country.

The Partnershipping Project will now feature the work of Townsville’s Gail Mabo and Cairns’ Vanghoua Anthony Vue as it continues to exhibit in other galleries across Australia, after the artists’ pieces were chosen from among the seven Queensland artists involved.

Gail said she was excited and grateful for her work to be chosen.

“I was thrilled to be chosen to tour,” Gail said. “For this exhibition, you were basically given the boat – and then showcase how you interpret the purpose of a journey and if place matters.

“For me the boat is part of the journey itself, as in my people in the Torres Strait travelling from island to island navigating by the stars. The black ropes in my piece represent the stars of Tagai, a celestial God we use to navigate from island to island. Depending what time it is and where in the sky Tagai is, heading to each of the stars of Tagai leads to a different island.

“I’ve arranged the white ropes to emulate the currents in the Torres Strait. If you’re steering a boat you would see the natural forms of current in the water, so have transformed those into rope patterns.”

All boats except those of the chosen touring artists transform at each gallery they visit, meaning remnants of a previous creation are likely to remain between exhibitions.

“When the boat originally came to me it had a grey inside and was covered in writing – sections of Cook’s journal taken from Cook’s Hawaii and Tasmanian trips. I thought it was really coincidental that I chose this of all the boats, and it seemed fitting that a Mabo whitewash Cook’s history!

“I just did a single coat of white paint so the words still come through – because it’s like you’ve abolished our history, now I’m taking away your history because you said we weren’t here but we were. That was my little dig!”

Vanghoua Anthony Vue demounting his entry in The Partnershipping Project.

Anthony’s work was also inspired by his family and background.

“My parents initially arrived in Australia and lived in Sydney where I was born, then when I was about one we moved to Far North Queensland,” Anthony said.

“The landscape and climate up here is similar to Laos and Thailand, my parents’ previous homes. For them, having that similarity was something to help them heal from forced migration, escaping conflict in South East Asia.

“Over the past 25 years they’ve adapted and changed the place to suit their needs but then the place has also changed them in a lot of ways as well.

“I feel privileged to have my work going on tour and be part of showcasing communities whose stories are often neglected or overlooked in a lot of ways.”

The Partnershipping Project will next exhibit at Lismore Regional Gallery in December. For more information on the project, click here.

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