Living, breathing culture on Badu

Badu Art Centre brings the blue planet to our lounge rooms.

Badu Art Centre is one of Australia’s foremost Indigenous Art Centres and is where an exciting group of artists from Badu Island create powerful work. Located in the Torres Strait approximately 55 kilometres from Thursday Island, Queensland, the island has become known for the striking lino cuttings and designs by local artists.

‘Everything here on Badu is Badu artist Hands Made,’ explained Art Centre Manager and artist Mr Laurie Nona.

Aiona Gaidan jnr, Gub. Photo by Badu Art Centre.

‘Badu Art Centre is 100% Indigenous run. We have a manager, myself, who is an artist and from Badu, all our directors are Badhulgal, all our artists are Indigenous, and everything we make is made here on Badu.’

‘That’s what excites me about Badu initially, that we are 100% Indigenous. And the fact that the medium we practice in, the lino cutting – it excites all of us and we never get bored of it because it is the closest artform that reflects our ancient and traditional way of carving pattern and printing it on paper now,’ said Mr Nona.

The art centre’s mission is to create opportunity for Badu Island people to make art, showcase this work to the world and in doing so strengthen the awareness of Badu Island culture. Reflecting their strong cultural traditions, language and links to the sea, Badu artists are producing works using a range of media including printmaking, etching, jewellery, textiles and carving. The Island is also home to the only Indigenous owned Bronze Casting foundry in Australia.

Art by Mr Nona and the artists at Badu Art Centre reflects a point of view embedded in the island environment where it is created.

‘Our art is based on environment, it is based on preservation, it is based on nature, and it is based on being at one with Mother Nature. All our art is about creatures and the way they are and how we live in this region that is Torres Strait, as people who live on an island but live most of their lives in the water,’ said Mr Nona.

Gargarrau Losah – Yadphalgyak Solaulau Thonarr (Eucalptus Flowers – Tells of mating turtle season), Matilda Malujewel Nona, Photo by Badu Art Centre.

At a time when conservation and climate is increasingly vital, these artists have an important place in the conversation. It is an issue that is very significant for Torres Strait communities, many of which are situated on low-lying islands exposed to sea level rise impacts.

‘For us, the sea is important. It is our work, our home, and it is who we are. Everything in it we need to look after,’ said Mr Nona.

‘Badu art brings the blue planet into people’s lounge rooms… Torres Strait art, that’s what it does. It educates and brings into people’s lounge rooms the fact that the blue planet is important,’ he added.

Matilda Nona, Kupay Thoeridhan. Photo by Badu Art Centre.

Artwork sales and visiting Badu Island

Collectors are encouraged to purchase directly from Badu Art Centre. This not only ensures authenticity and provenance of the artwork, but importantly maximises the income to the artist by avoiding an additional commission of up to 40% to be taken from the purchase price by a secondary gallery or retail layer.

All artworks have a certificate of authenticity that explains the cultural significance of the work and includes a unique catalogue number, as well as a biography of the artist.

As a closed community, all visitors to Badu Island must first request permission and can do so through Badu Art Centre.

To see more work by Badu Island artists visit the Badu Art Centre website.

Brooke Boland
About the Author
Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.