Torres Strait Islander Kauraraig Man
Robert Levi was born in the Torres Strait and grew living in many mainland Aboriginal communities, including Cape York. His first memory of being artistic was from grade three when he took some chalk and drew a large Jurassic Park mural, it was from there that his passion for art and painting began.
Robert creates art as a way of passing on stories, keeping culture alive and inspiring the younger generation. He is a strong advocate for the sharing of authentic Indigenous art and tackling the many issues that have emerged from fake Indigenous art.
Deep Space Hammer
The hammerhead shark is one of the most feared creatures in the oceans, able to turn at very sharp angles, a nightmare for both fish and fisherman … it is as unique and mysterious as the universe above us.
The front of the shirt is a depiction of the Torres Strait Sea Living and water management. Shown here are various water totems like dugongs, turtles and shellfish. The man/woman/child represent family healing and the headdress symbolizes the old ways.
The artwork showcases Land Management Dreaming. The Traditional Warriors/Rangers are doing a "Backburn" in order to prevent bushfires and make fresh growth. The dot circle represents the main waterhole where the native animals look for shelter from the heat.
The Great Barrier Reef … backbone of the Torres Strait culture and living. Dugongs, turtles and sharks are among the major totems along this vast underwater world. This design represents time, tide and traditions of the Australian Indigenous people of the islands.
The Dugong (Dhangal) plays a vital part in the ecosystems of the Northern Australian tropics. Used for its protein enriched meat and medicinal oils, dugongs are one of the major totems throughout the Torres Straits and coastal communities.
This shows the future hope of Indigenous unification, something that is lost at present … being dutiful to parents, strengthening family ties and taking care of the less fortunate.
From the rainforest to the reef, one can find the rock art of our ancestors. This picture shows this style with smokey background representing 'traditional grass burning' and metallic gold and copper representing 'non-traditional' abuse of mining metals from the land.
Dawn to Dusk
Dawn and dusk can sometimes be the best time for hunting and gathering. The lone warrior is making ready his weapons to catch emu or maybe kangaroo. These animals are very sensitive, so he must be calm and very patient if he is to be successful. On the other side the mainland warrior, scans the river for food with his multi-pronged spear, specially handmade from natural elements to catch fish. The barramundi are best hunted in the morning because they are up looking for food which is easier to find in the sunlight. Emus are best hunted near the evening when they are not as active and there is less visibility.
“Mudcrabs are very easy to catch, there’s lots of them around so you don’t have to worry about loading up a bit by using traps. But we use traditional methods if we can, which is to just grab them by hand. What we often do is break off a mangrove pod and put it in front of the crab so that it locks onto it. Then its claws are occupied and you can pick it from the back.” - Robert Levi
“They are the apex predators where we come from. It’s the main totem in the top western tribes up near Papua New Guinea, all of those northern tribes they’re all crocodile mob. Crocodiles are respected, but they are more respected out of fear, not love. It is important, because if we didn’t have that fear, we’d just go walking around and get killed.” - Robert Levi
“Barramundi are one of the animals that are now not just hunted by Indigenous people, we all share that love of hunting them. It’s the big totem fish in the creeks. When you go up the creek you’ve got fish and then you’ve got barramundi, they are the boss fish.
The mussels featured in the artwork are found in the same area. When we find mussels in the mangroves, we know that once the tide comes in there’s going to be barramundi around that area. In the artwork you can also see a fish spear, which is the traditional way of hunting barramundi.” - Robert Levi
“Stingrays are bad news, they’ll have anyone crying like a baby. The barbs were used for spears back in the day, when there wasn’t metal around. And traditionally we would use the stingray tale to make rings for fighting, to battle. We would cut the tail off and we’d dry it out on a piece of wood and then we’d wear it like a ring.” - Robert Levi
“Tricky customer Hammerheads are, because unlike the other sharks they have a better turning mechanism. Tiger sharks for example, have to make a big circle to turn around and reach their prey, whereas the hammerhead is able to turn straight away. They also use that hammer to whack fish, they’ll make them dizzy and then they eat them.
The artwork is called Hammerhead school because they hunt together in packs. Especially in the deep water, in the shallow water you find them alone, but when they get out on the drop off the schools run in the hundreds.” - Robert Levi
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