James Eseli (Kala Lagaw Ya/Badhulaig, Torres Strait Islands, Australia)

Art Gallery of New South Wales

James Eseli (1929-2009) was a senior Maluyligal elder and a renowned artist from Badu Island in the Torres Strait. He was known for his choreography of the airplane dance and for making headdresses that resembled different types of aircrafts. He was inspired by his childhood memories of witnessing the air raids and evacuations during World War II and they represented both the threat and the fascination of the foreign invaders. Eseli also created totemic headdresses such as crocodiles and birds that were made of bamboo, feathers, shells, and other natural materials and choreographed dances using these headdresses to connect with his ancestors.