Beizam (Hammerhead shark dance mask) 2005
Plywood, bamboo, cockatoo feathers, string, plastic and enamel, 100 x 1227 x 62.5cm
Ipswich Art Gallery Collection, 2005

Ken Thaiday Snr. was born in 1950 on Erub (Darnley) Island in the Torres Strait. He is a senior indigenous artist renowned for his dance masks or ‘dance machines’. His father was a dancer and sculptural headdresses played an important role in the traditional Torres Strait Islander ceremonies of his youth. However, Thaiday now produces contemporary interpretations of the theme. He is inventive in his use of materials and frequently adds modern plastic components, plywood and paint to traditional natural materials such as bamboo and feathers. Thaiday commonly depicts native fish and birds in his work, but he is best known for his shark headdresses. A shark is his key totemic animal and in his culture certain sharks are associated with law and order, so respect forms part of the inspiration for his headdresses. Hammerhead shark dance mask is designed to be worn during traditional dances, with the dancer able to control the movement of the shark and open and close the jaws by pulling the strings. The white feathers around the jaws represent foam breaking around the shark’s mouth as it feeds, adding to the sense of dynamic movement and power.