Works of art never seen before outside of the Torres Strait are coming to the Newcastle Art Gallery in May as part of an exhibition focusing on the traditions of Torres Strait Islander culture.

The free exhibition, WARWAR: The Art of the Torres Strait, has been four years in the making and was developed by Newcastle Art Gallery in collaboration with highly awarded artist and curator Brian Robinson.

The exhibition will include over 130 works of art, including new works from Badhulgaw Kuthinaw Mudh (Badu Art Centre), Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Arts (Moa Arts) and Erub Erwer Meta (Erub Arts).

For Newcastle-based artist Toby Cedar, the exhibition is a step forward together for the local community.

“This is such a great opportunity that the Newcastle Art Gallery has organised because not a lot of people know about the Torres Strait,” he said.

“The community has been yearning for something like this to happen. Everyone has come together to get involved, to be a part of this exhibition and tell our story.”

Cedar said the local Torres Strait Islander community have personal and ancestral connections to the artefacts that they haven’t seen before.

“It’s going to be emotional and exciting at the same time,” said Cedar.

“The way it’s situated in the gallery tells different stories of different eras, together telling the whole story of our history.”

To coincide with the exhibition, the Torres Strait Islander flag will be raised at City Hall for the first time in the building’s 92-year history and flown permanently.

The City of Newcastle said in a statement that this will be done “as a mark of respect for the local Torres Strait Islander community”.

Cedar said for him and his family it will make him proud to see the flag flown.

“It’s the feeling of being recognised, especially for my kids,” he said.

“It makes me feel my people are being included and acknowledged alongside the other flags that are already flown there. It’s a start and I’m excited that this is all happening because it will have a snowball effect.”

WARWAR: The Art of Torres Strait will run from May 29 – August 22, 2021 and has been timed to coincide with significant dates including Mabo Day (June 3), Reconciliation Week (May 27 – June 3), Coming of the Light (July 1) and NAIDOC Week (July 4 – 11).

Newcastle Art Gallery will program bespoke events on each significant date in collaboration with local Torres Strait Islander artists and performers.

A Curator and Artist Talk will be held on Saturday July 3 featuring Brian Robinson and Toby Cedar in conversation with Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton.

By Madison Howarth