Australian Embassy

Media release - 18 May 2018

Torres Strait masks to be introduced for the first time in Vietnam


“Evolution: Torres Strait Masks” exhibition which introduces 13 beautifully decorated masks from Torres Strait in digital format was opened today at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. While the opening coincides with International Museum Day 2018, the exhibition contributes to the celebration of 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam and showcases Australia’s unique Indigenous culture.

The Torres Strait is a network of islands connecting Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Traditionally ancestors crafted the masks using materials native to the region and from the sea, such as Koerar turtle shell, fine rope fibres and wild bees wax. While rooted in ancient spirituality, today masks and mask making are expressions of artistic and cultural revival, reflecting on Torres Strait Islanders’ oldest and most vibrant rituals. These masks also bridge the gap between ancient Torres Strait traditions by connecting the next generation to their culture and passing down ancient knowledge.

This international travelling exhibition was developed by Gab Titui Cultural Centre and is presented in partnership with the National Museum of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The exhibition will be open until 18 July 2018 in Hanoi.

HE Mr Craig Chittick, Australian Ambassador said: “I am very pleased to present Torres Strait masks for the first time in Vietnam through this exhibition. In this important celebration year of Australia and Vietnam’s diplomatic relations, we chose to share Torres Strait Islanders’ mask culture, a very important part of Australian diverse culture, to enhance the people-to-people links between the two countries.”

“The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is very proud to host this wonderful exhibition which complements the 2018 International Museum Day’s theme: Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics. Digital displays of artefacts like this exhibition create more chances for Vietnamese people to enjoy cultural masterpieces of the world.” said Associate Professor Vo Quang Trong, Director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

Coinciding with this theme, the exhibition also offers Cracks in the Mask, the first documentary ever made about Torres Strait Islander’s culture, history and their deeply personal connection to these ancient works of art.