19 September, 2021

Billy Missi’s Torres Straight designs translated to light at Bulmba-ja

Billy Missi was undoubtedly one of the Torres Strait’s most prolific and respected artists, working at the start of the 21st Century from the island base of Moa, drawing inspiration and cultural guidance from his homlands of Mabuaig and leveraging his practice from a new base in Cairns, prior to his early passing in 2014.

At the time, he was working with a number of collaborators and galleries and planned to continue his ongoing professional relationship with KickArts and curator Russell Milledge. Over the last years KickArts, with Justin Bishop at the helm, worked closely with the partner and children of Missi to assist them in establishing the Billy Missi Estate.

Now in 2020, despite the interruptions of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the family and friends of Pal’n and the Billy Missi Estate vowed to continue the ongoing collaboration with KickArts/NorthSite and have put the finishing pieces together of a major retrospective exhibition of the late artist’s work with NorthSite Contemporary Arts, presented as a physical exhibition and satellite virtual event in association withCIAF’s 2020 digital edition.

The opportunity to not only see the realisation of Pal’n’s major works in exhibition but also in a new artform, has been an important and rewarding experience for the family and friends of the late artist, in particular for his children Amos, Peggy and Edna.

Billy was always so committed to his artwork, and we beleived in him and supported him, the children were still so young. Now as they are coming of age they can again see their father;s works and hear those stories and meet up with their family here through this exhibition and special time. It was amazing to see Billy’s work and the kids, what it means for them, and not only the artworks that the family has seen before, but the purple clan design works on the lights on the building, that was amazing to see. It meant a lot to me and his family.” said the mother  of his children, Edna Tom

Exhibition curator Russell Milledge also worked to translate significant artworks from the exhibition, into the new largescale digital public artworks visible on the Bulmba-ja Arts Centre Facade. “We worked with some of the key linocuts in the exhibition and the linear nature of the designs translated extremely well to the long-format of the facade. Designs from the artworks Gudakathurai, and the fishbone design in the artwork Constellation and Kinship, 2009 translated magnificently and continue to impart important information, in Billy’s designs and words.”

NorthSite Director Ashleigh Campbell stated, “it’s wonderful to have this digital asset available and to be commissioned by Arts Queensland to work alongside First Nations Artists to recontextualise their works into these new large digital public artworks. As part of this commissioning series, we’re also working with young IndigeDesign Lab creatives so that they are able to learn how to create for the digital space and also see their new designs on the digital facade.”


“This term translates along the line of, ‘ask and it shall be given unto you’. In our culture it’s very important that permission is sought from the appropriate people before you take something. For example, you must ask the dugong clan leader before spearing dugong for ceremonies or for the events of neighbouring tribes. To marry into another family, you as a young man would have to talk to your Wadhuam | Uncles. You must ask before you break fruits, such as coconuts, from certain trees that m ay belong to other family members. It also extends to the use of any intellectual property associated to clans or tribes.”

Billy Missi, statement for artwork created Djumbunji Press, 2008

Billy Miss Bulmnba-ja Digital Facade public artwork

Consultation (Gudakathurai), 2020 created in consultation with the Billy Missi Estate is screening on the Bulmba-ja Facade for the next 3 months.
The Bulmba-ja Facade. NorthSite’s Facade project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland
Artwork on Bulmba-ja Facade created with the Billy Missi Estate
Consultation (Gudakathurai)
digital animation
LED strips on building
Courtesy of the Billy Missi Estate and NorthSite Contemporary Arts.