Badhulgaw Kuthinaw Mudh

Torres Strait Islander Art from Badu Island
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Home / Artists / JOSEPH AU / Pearl Diver
Joseph Au Badu Art Centre pearl diver
Joseph Au Badu Art Centre pearl diver

Pearl Diver

by JOSEPH AU

Size: 76cm x 28.5cm

Medium: Lino Print

Category: Art Prints / Etchings

$220.00 (Incl GST)

My artwork seen here called the Pearl Diver; tells my story of the Torres Strait pearl shell divers. Our forefathers, uncles and fathers were pearl divers, diving to depths between 30 metres and 50 metres under the sea. The Torres Strait seas are notorious for catching sailers unaware with some of the strongest currents in the world and many random reefs. The equipment used to dive in the Torres Straits in those days was very basic and unsafe. Many men from our community lost their lives while diving due to the dangerous practices and poor equipment. Nearly all divers got a bad case of the bends (decompression sickness) in the stories told to me by our community elders. This was due to a shortage of air and the diver then had to take off his diving helmet while deep underwater and quickly surface for air. To avoid the bends diving at those depths, divers need to go up in stages equalising along the way. There was little work around back then and the pearl shells provided some sort of income to our people, but the pay was not what you would call good. I once was told by one of my late grandfather that he was paid £10 for his Christmas holiday pay when the divers went back to their respected island communities for Christmas season. When a young boy turned 13 years of age, he was expected to jump on the lugger boats. If any men were found on the island, they were made a prisoner by our local island council and thrown in the lock up. Only the Chairman of the Island, the police deputies and the women remained on the island in them days. The young men would start out working as a cook or a deck hand and then work their way up the ranks to become a pearl diver.