By Richard Davis
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Extra info for Woven History Dancing Lives: Torres Strait Islander Identity, Culture And History
The nearby Coral Sea glinted with promise as it splashed against the village shore, but the waters were unable to ease the air’s muggy burden. Some of the hardier 250-odd village members ambled along the dusty village road adjacent to us, weaving in and out between the patchy shade and long sweeps of sun heat. We had been talking for a while when the conversation swayed towards the complexities of the land claim report for which I had been preparing anthropological material for the last year and a half.
Harris 1977:422) A subsistence gradient also existed across the Torres Strait from east to west. This diversity of subsistence strategies across the Torres Strait should be understood in terms of the relationship between the location, size and population density of individual islands, and the relationship of one island community to another. The position, size and availability of natural resources on individual islands and between island groups were reflected in the patterns of community organisation and socioeconomic structures.
Likewise, Island custom incorporated dances and ceremonies from Polynesian missionary and other Pacific Islander influences. Traditional songs and dances were maintained, often against mission and administrative wishes. The use of cool, clean pandanus mats in homes, the need for large wooden drums at dances, and dance costumes for the performance of old-style dances requiring decorations and headdresses of feather and shell, meant that some exchange ties continued to be maintained. Strong kinship ties within the Torres Strait islands could not easily be severed by colonial or discriminatory laws.