Alick Tipoti: Lagangu

In July Alick Tipoti travelled to Melbourne from Badu to attend the opening of his exhibition Lagangu (from the islands) at St Kilda’s Linden New Art.

"For Alick his language is also central to engaging performance with tradition and ancestry"

Curator Edwina Bolger writes in the exhibition’s online catalogue:

“The driving force behind Alick’s passion for creating his art is cultural preservation. Diminished because of Christian teachings Alick sees the possibility to save traditional language and revive ancient stories through visual art, songs and dance”

Alick shares Linden New Art’s gallery spaces with Samuel Tupou whose exhibition Duplikator runs concurrently with Alick’s Lagangu exhibition. For further details about these exhibitions, location and times visit the Linden New Art website.

For Alick it was also an opportunity to visit Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria and to see his own work on display, a collection of small Mawa masks or Poenipaniya.

While discussing these masks in a presentation at the National Gallery of Victoria, Alick talked about carving and printmaking and how, when he was carving the lino in preparation for his often spectacular and significantly large prints, the way to create what is highly complex imagery and all done in reverse of course, is not to concentrate too hard on the process of carving itself, as imagining the totality of the work and what has to be achieved becomes difficult. So you need to get into the zone of the work itself and then the carving flows.

Alick talks about mask making differently. Mask making is more spiritual and the dance really does connect you with the ancestors. In this spiritual state and when we dance with our masks this sets us apart from the audience. They are in a distant place. We have to be careful to stay on this side, we do not want to be in a place from which we cannot return.

For Alick his language is also central to engaging performance with tradition and ancestry, as it is very difficult to do this if you are thinking or performing using the English language. It is as if the English language is like a crackly radio, unclear in its capacity to communicate.

You can watch Alick carving in the film Zugub, the mask, the spirits and the stars and learn more about the spiritual aspects of mask making by watching Mask story.

Alick Tipoti is a member of the Creative cowboy films Culture counsel