Kapua Gutchen Snr. is an Erub artist, respected as an Elder for his strong cultural knowledge. Born in 1957 on Waiben (Thursday Island), he was raised on Erub (Darnley Island) and nearby Mer (Murray Island).
Gutchen learnt to draw while he was in the Australian Army. For more than twenty years he sketched people, campsites, community infrastructure, shipping and boat movements, before realising he could also draw things from his imagination and memory.
While growing up on Erub, Gutchen spent time listening to people in his community telling stories and legends, including stories about their work and lives, from pre- and post-colonisation times. These stories and his own cultural practices have a significant impact on Gutchen’s art.
One of the works in the exhibition, Koiet Le ra Takarr A Izurzur, depicts a sacred mourning ceremony of the artists’ tribe, the Meuram Buaigiz. The painting describes Daido Siriam cult members performing takarr (mummification) of a prominent tribal member, Koiet Le, immediately following his death, and shows details of funeral customs and mummification techniques.
Gutchen’s works are a visual language of the culture and people of Erub, their ceremonies, rituals, market trade, music and dance performances.
Image: Kapua George Kutchen Snr., Daido Siriam 2017, pen and ink, 38 x 57 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Erub Arts. Photo: Michael Marzik.