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8 September, 2020

Missi's an exhibition not to miss

This week marks the last chance to view “Billy Missi’n Wakain Thamai,” a bilingual exhibition featuring the extraordinary work of the late Queensland artist Billy Missi, at the Bulmba-ja Arts Centre (formerly Centre of Contemporary Arts) in Cairns.

Through his eyes: The late Billy Missi was an artist, advocate and ambassador representing the art and culture of the Torres Straits.

The recently-redeveloped Queensland Government-owned arts centre, run by NorthSite Contemporary Arts (formerly KickArts) serves as a place for the development and presentation of contemporary First Nations work.

Since its reopening in July after the COVID-19 lockdown, the exhibition is a must-see for anyone who has not yet visited, according to NorthSite Arts Director Ashleigh Campbell.

“This compelling exhibition, which translates roughly to “Through Billy Missi’s Eyes”, celebrates one of Queensland’s leading artists and is the culmination of many years of collaboration and cultural sharing,” Ms Campbell said.

“As an artist, advocate and ambassador representing the art and culture of the Torres Strait, Billy Missi expressed a deep connection to his home, Mabuiag Island, and concern for the environment and his people.”

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said Missi’s artistic legacy was significant.

“He was well known for his evocative lino cut prints, and for his innovative printmaking techniques which translated Torres Strait iconography,” Ms Enoch said.

“His artworks detail cultural stories passed on to him through generations of storytelling, and his works of art are held in prestigious private and public collections worldwide.”

Missi was instrumental in helping to establish the Mualgau Minaral Artist Collectivein Kubin Village Moa Island, and the first print workshop in the Torres Strait Region, working closely with Mualgau Elders to recognise Island legend stories through print.

As Chairman of the Mualgau Minaral Artist Collective, he was a key player in the first Torres Strait regional art development plan, and in 2005 he helped set up the Moa Art Centre.

As a Board member of KickArts Contemporary Arts (2007 – 2010) and UMI Arts (2008 – 2009), Billy Missi supported the establishment of Djumbunji Press, KickArts Fine Art Printmaking in Cairns.

During this time, he published iconic editions as a lead artist, mentoring many other Indigenous printmakers in the region.

He was one of the inaugural supporters for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) as a committee member in 2008 and so it is a fitting tribute that this exhibition was presented in association with CIAF’s online program in 2020.

This is also the last week to view “Ilan Lines”, an exhibition of beautiful and intricate drawings of Torres Strait Island wildlife by NorthSite artist-in-resident Peter B Morrison.

For more information on both exhibitions and other upcoming exhibitions at the centre, visit

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