Waii Ar Soiboi by Dennis NonaWaii Ar Soiboi by Dennis Nona
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Waii Ar Soiboi

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with custom frame
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This is an epic story from the days of head hunting - a ritual practice which brought strength and luck to a family, but woe to the person who travelled afar in strange territory. One could be attacked at any time. No one could be absolutely safe when hundreds of seafaring warriors searched for better islands to settle. A strange footprint in the sand was a threat to the tiny island tribes that dotted the sea from Papua New Guinea to Cape York. Wai and Soibai were two young warrior brothers living in Waruid (turtle oil) who distanced themselves from each other, in a dispute which grew out of proportion, into a full scale family feud about the inheritance of a sacred drum (warrup) from their deceased father. They grew so bitter towards each other, Soibai could stand it no longer and moved away with his extended family. The tension in the community lessened somewhat, but one day a woman of Warruid spotted an unusual footprint in the morning tide. Islanders have a very good knowledge of their land and sensed that this was not a footprint from anyone from Warruid. Immediately she reported this to her husband. He quickly put on his war dress and secretly left the village to investigate. Following the direction that the footprint was headed he discovered that a Yam Island man, having overturned at Kotaid, had dragged his canoe to Dgonorr point, where he was minding it until the tide changed. The Waruid warrior sneaked up from behind with his club (gabba gabba) and making noise by stepping on a pandanus leaf, caused the Yam Island man to turn. The warrior grabbed him by his crossed chest strings (as warriors wore then) and cut his head off. Wrapping it up in palm leaves (the smiling frog face means good spirits are on his side). He brought back the head, raising it and swinging it by the hair in great style, warning the village of an impending raid. A Badu man’s wife, originally from Yam Island, knew the decapitated warrior and got word back to Yam Island. The Kaigas tribe of Yam Island sent more than 200 warriors to avenge their comrade. An early morning raid was planned while it was still dark. The time before dawn is called zeebaseeh. They left Kotaid with one man behind to mind their canoes and crept toward the village of Warruid. That morning Pitai, the small son of Waii got up to relieve himself and saw objects shining from the bushes in the distance. He told this to Waii and raised the alarm, sending all the women from the camp to the mangrove swamps, putting the children to the breast to keep them quiet. In preparation for battle. Waii sent a man to Soibai village for help. Waii realised this was a revenge fight. The warriors of Warruid performed a Gaidee, a ceremonial killing of the ground and invocation of the spirits to battle. The warriors chant and whirl about while stabbing at the ground with their spears. This makes one very dizzy and makes one forget any fear. In the lower right of the print the Yam Island men formed a line, crawling on their knees. Wai yelled to them “iwanu iwanu, garcazeet iwanu” (we see you, we see you men, we see you). The Yam Island men replied ”E-Aw” (it is a shame you found us). The first arrow was shot by a Warruid warrior and went through the chest of Daigas, the mamoose, a very important man. This crippled the moral of the Yam Islanders and was like shooting the head of a snake. The battle commenced but the Yam Islanders were beaten badly. Only a small handful of men escaped alive, but were eventually rounded up, going to Kotaid, and killed. The heads of the Yam Islanders were gathered up and traded in New Guinea for canoes. The Yam Island man who was left to mind canoes escaped with his life to tell the story to his people, leaving all the other canoes behind. As he paddled frantically away, the warriors yelled to him: “return with more warriors - we want more heads.” The story of Waii and Sobai is very popular. As great leaders, Waii and Sobai requested their heads be preserved in a special site on Math Island, where they can still be seen today.

Artwork Information

Location Australia
Region Torres Strait
Artist Dennis Nona
NWC Nation N/A
Date Created 1998
Dimensions 35.5" x 31.5" with custom frame
Materials & Edition Linocut Kaidaral edition 75

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