I work with medium to large-scale intricate, yet, bold lino and vinyl relief prints depicting my culture; stories, totems, clans, country, environment and my home community of Injinoo. My passion is to restore and preserve old stories passed down from Injinoo Elders.
“It’s about keeping culture alive, it’s about being the ikamba (crocodile) and the strength it has to stay alive and survive”.
My rhythm and carving techniques and design is not a representation of the style of art of my people (Injinoo people). There are symbols that belong to my people seen throughout my work and the stories are the intellectual property of my ancestors, present and past elders of Injinoo. I’ve been permitted by my Elder Ama Mary Eseli (Cultural and Language keeper and teacher) to use stories and language of my people told to us using my own style and imagination. My style reflects my heritage as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person and influences as a contemporary Indigenous artist from Injinoo.
I was born in Mount Isa, Queensland on the 21st of September 1988 and currently live and work in Cairns. I come from the Angkamuthi and Yadhaykana clans from Injinoo on the mainland, Badu, Moa and Murray Island in the Torres Strait on my Father’s side and; Woppaburra people (Great Keppel Island) and Batchulla people (Fraser Island) on his Mother’s side. My Father’s line extends to Solomon Island, Philippines (Manila) and Malaysia. My Mother’s line descends from Melanesia – Kanaka, Scotland, Germany and Denmark.
My printmaking journey began in 2010 on my return to my home community of Injinoo after four years of study in Sydney. I hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales – College Of Fine Arts in Sydney. Although my major studies were in painting and drawing, I participated in elective classes such as printmaking and ceramics and since then, have been heavily involved in printmaking.
My contemporary style of designs and patterning includes cultural symbols that connect me to the spirit of my clans. My work is recognised through my unique carving techniques, which emphasize the rhythm, composition and overall aesthetic of my works.
“My artwork reflects the continuation of cultural knowledge passed down from generations long ago, onto our Elders, who are now passing on all aspect of culture; language, tribal stories, significant land marks and rituals, dancing and beliefs to the next generation. The stories, I use, in my works were told to me by my Elders during cultural lessons in School and over the years. It is important that cultural knowledge is passed down from our Elders and that they teach language, tribal stories, art, dancing and cultural beliefs to the next generation to carry on the 40,000+ year old ancient culture we breathe today”.
“We are in a day and age where culture and grass root knowledge is slowly deteriorating due to Elders passing, our ever-changing lifestyle and social disadvantages in our communities, practicing art is one way of maintaining and developing culture and has always been a part of Aboriginal culture. Through this tradition, it will preserve my culture in one way for years to come”.
All my works based on my people and culture I dedicate to my Elders – past and present of my Community of Injinoo in recognition for the survival and preservation of my culture for future generation.
“It is through our past and present Elders, that, our culture continues to live and I am continuing the culture through my practice as a print maker”.
Mandang Ikamba translates as ‘strength of a crocodile’ in the Injinoo Ikya language of my people. My Elder and Aunty Rev. Mary Eseli chose the language ‘mandang ikamba’ for the title of one of my work, it meant a great deal to me and for the future of my people. I reflected on the issues affecting my people and today’s lifestyle and society which has had many negative and but some positive impacts on the future of my culture, language and stories. The title of the work expressed the notion for keeping culture alive.
My Aunty Rev. Mary Eseli explained to me that the crocodile knows its territory from birth. The crocodile is patient, a guardian of its territory. The crocodile will travel away but always come back to the area where it lives.
“We need to be strong like the crocodile. It has survived thousands of years and lived alongside our people for over 40,000 years. If we become the crocodile, our culture and language will be protected for the future generations to come”.
My successful journey so far includes participating in the Primavera 2012 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Sydney, 11th Nationwide Academies of Fine Arts Printmaking Biennial, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou, China 2012, Queensland Regional Art Award 2012 – Xstrata young artist development award winner with his work featuring in ‘The Essential Character of Queensland’ – Queensland Regional Art Award touring exhibition 2013, two-time finalist in the 29th and 30th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award at the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2012 exhibition – ‘Where the art leads: new exploration by Queensland Indigenous Artists’, Naissance 2013 – Far North Queensland Emerging artists at the Cairns Regional Gallery, Story Boat exhibition at Cairns Regional Gallery and the InkMasters Print exhibition at the Tanks Arts Centre in 2012. Teho was successful in Australia Council’s JUMP Mentoring Program and ArtStart Grant 2012.