In February 2019, a group of artists living and working on Mer commenced work on a collection of contemporary bamboo furniture design. Mer, also known as Murray Island, is a small volcanic island in Eastern Torres Strait. Mer marks the start of the Great Barrier Reef and is home to a native species of bamboo, known in Meriam language as marep, and colloquially in English as black bamboo. The collective of artists became affectionately known as the Marep Pamle, or bamboo family.
Working in groups, the artists developed ideas for bamboo cabinets and seating; each object designed to tell a collectively agreed upon story informed by Meriam life and culture. The eighteen women and men of the Marep Pamle worked for three weeks to produce the cabinets, seating and cushions in this exhibition with the support of Melbourne furniture designer and craftsman Damien Wright, and the workshop team, including curators from the National Gallery of Victoria, Cairns Art Gallery and Gab Titui Cultural Centre.
Members of the Marep Pamle include: James Blanco, Kalina Day, Helen Dick, Dulcie Gibas, Bobby Kaigey Snr, Mary Kaigey, Robert Meddy Kaigey, Helen Mabo, Alick Passi, Andrew Passi Snr, Andrew Passi Jnr, Nellie Passi, Taukie Passi, Zane Sailor, Clay Sambo, John Tabo, Sabu Tabo, and Reteah Tapim.
Black Bamboo: Contemporary Furniture Design From Mer, Torres Strait is a shared curatorial initiative between the National Gallery of Victoria, Cairns Art Gallery and Gab Titui Cultural Centre, with the support of Mer Gedkem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation RNTBC.
The NGV is extremely grateful to The Hugh D. T. Williamson Foundation for their leading support of the NGV’s Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture.
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