Kaubu Miebur Kab [War Plane Dance]

Accession Number AWM2018.1117.2
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet: 38 cm x 56.8 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description watercolour and pen on paper
Maker Gutchen, Kapua
Place made Australia: Queensland, North Queensland, Torres Strait, Erub (Darnley Island)
Date made 2018
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


In 2018 the Australian War Memorial commissioned artist and Elder Kapua Gutchen Senior (Meriam Mir) of Erub Erwer Meta (Erub Arts) on Erub (Darnley Island) in the Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait). He was asked to create a suite of drawings depicting Second World War stories unique to Erub and the eastern region of the Torres Strait, including those relating to his own service with C Company, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment.

Born on Waiben (Thursday Island) in 1957, Gutchen grew up on Erub. A Meriam Mir man, he enlisted with the Australian Army in 1987, and later taught himself to draw. For more than 20 years he sketched people, campsites, community infrastructure, shipping, and boat movements, before he began to draw from his imagination and memory.

Although too young to have witnessed the war firsthand, Gutchen’s drawings reflect knowledge of the war gathered from his own military service and that of other Erubam families, as well as from accounts passed down through oral history, dance, and song. They are inspired by contemporary commemorative ceremonies performed in the region, and by Gutchen’s contributions and performances made with the Australian Army’s Sarpeye dance troupe.

In this artwork, Gutchen has explored the legacy of aircraft in the Torres Strait. Fascinated with the arrival of flying war machines, Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion (TSLIB) soldiers composed songs and dances in honour of the allied pilots who flew these planes. Here TSLIB ex-servicemen from Mabiuag (Jervis Island) perform these original dances at a community feasting held more than 70 years ago. Looking out to sea, Moa (Banks Island) and Badu (Mulgrave Island) can be seen on the horizon.