Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery | Myths and legends: Watercolours from the Margaret Lawrie Collection

Strait Home in the Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery showcased for the first time the complete collection of watercolours from the Margaret Lawrie Works on Paper Collection, a subset of the larger Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islands Material donated to the John Oxley Library in 1988.

As part of her field work in the Torres Strait, which contributed to the seminal publications Myths and legends of Torres Strait, 1970, and Tales from Torres Strait, 1972, Margaret Lawrie travelled with art material which she supplied to local Torres Strait Islanders to illustrate the numerous stories she was collecting.

A body of work was created by eight Torres Strait artists depicting scenes from traditional stories and everyday life.

The artists represented in the collection are:

North Western Torres Strait, Kala Kawaa Ya language group

  • Francis Abai [Saibai Island]
  • Kala Waia [Saibai Island]
  • Locky Tom [Boigu Island]

Western Torres Strait, Kala Lagaw Ya language group

  • Ngailu Bani [Mabuiag Island]
  • Ephraim Bani [Mabuiag Island]

Eastern Torres Strait, Meriam Mir language group

  • John Baud [Mer Island]
  • Segar Passi [Mer Island]
  • DH Kabere [Mer Island]

Segar Passi from Mer Island is the only surviving artist.

These watercolours are unparalleled in importance for contextualising the development of the contemporary Torres Strait Islander art tradition. It is the only collection of its kind representing a distinctive and recognisable form of Torres Strait Islander naïve realism.

All images featured in the Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery are from the Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islands Material, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Learn more about Myths and legends of Torres Strait through a re-telling of stories and songs. ReTold is a collection of online stories gathered in partnership with Torres Strait Islander language speakers and community members living in mainland Queensland.

Segar Passi is one of the artists who contributed to Myths and legends of Torres Strait. Listen to his story about his life as an artist in the Torres Strait.