As soon as I got over the scare of nearly tipping over into the Torres Strait with Tommo and Paul I hopped back onto the ferry to Thursday Island. Or Waiben, as it is called in local language.
Last time I didn’t get the chance to actually explore the island much so I needed to get back for a closer inspection.
I wandered up to the fort on Green Hill,
It is originally build between 1891-1893 as part of Australia’s defence against a possible Russian invasion.
But that never happened.
So in WWII it has been used as a signals and wireless station and later, up till 1993 it was used as a weather station.
Now it’s a nice spot to take in the view over TI and the surrounding islands.
But the main reason I wanted to visit TI was a rumour I heard about a festival.
I couldn’t find any information about it, so I figured I better go and check it out.
With no campgrounds and all four hotels on the 3.5sq km island fully booked I decided to give couch surfing another try.
Brian replied I’m welcome to crash at his couch for a few nights.
Not only does he live smack bang in the middle of town, he also works in the Northern most hotel in Australia, the Torres Hotel.
Always good for a beer, and a laugh.
After 3 years on the Island, where his grandmother grew up, he knows a bit about local culture and custom.
And about the ‘Winds of Zenadth Cultural Festival’
This celebration of Torres Strait culture is held every other year.
The festival brings together people from the 18 inhabited (out of over 200) islands in the Torres Strait.
Out here dance is one of the major forms of creative expression.
songs in local language,
and the use of handheld instruments, headdresses and masks,
are unique to island dancing and Torres Strait culture.
The festival lasts for four days and dance teams from different communities and islands perform.
Each dance tells a story and the dances are passed down through the generations.
But there are also modern variants. Like the dance that mimicked a diesel engine on a fishing boat.
Then there was the parade.
At the given time Brian and I where waiting in an empty street.
About 1.5hours later a few more people started to show up.
And eventually the parade arrived as well.
Apparently 2 hours late isn’t too bad on island time.
I really love the colourful dress,
Everybody joined in…
And although I didn’t understand a lot of songs and speeches that were held in local language I felt privileged to be able to be here at this time.
“We have thrown the soil to the
four winds, sucked the fresh
clean water into our mouths
and blown it out, our offering to
the four directions. The conch
shell sounds and the drums
are beating. Our companies are
ready and strong. Our Elders
are in the front row. This is how
it should be. Strike the ground
hard all our people, in whichever
way you are gifted to do.”
— Kerry Arabena