Dennis Nona

(Australia 1973 – )

Badu Island, Torres Strait region
Language group
Kala Lagaw Ya, Torres Strait region

Sazi - Special root

Not on display
Further information

Dennis Nona's traditional wood carving skills can be glimpsed in the intricate detail of his prints. There are distinct Melanesian influences in his designs which come from the close ties Torres Strait Islanders have with the coastal peoples of Papua New Guinea to the north. Traditionally drums and other items of material culture are obtained from Papua New Guinea and the designs decorating these objects have been absorbed into Islander culture. Nona's printmaking becomes a form of cultural maintenance through art. Nona's cultural heritage, learnt through storytelling and ceremonies, helped him develop his linocut skills which feature an intricate decorative style based on the rich narrative legends of the Torres Strait Islander people.

This marine blue etching, produced following the artists Australia Council sponsored residency at Brighton University in 2003 where he explored the etching process, depicts the effect of Sazi in a sea lagoon. Sazi is a special root used by Torres Strait Islanders to intoxicate the fish so that a plentiful catch is easily available. The Sazi root is crushed and its liquid released into the sea lagoon or the inland swamps from where creeks and rivers form. In the swamp there are barramundi, mullet and prawns and in the lagoon there is a wide variety of fish. Sazi root is used especially for community feasting on ceremonial occasions.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005

Place of origin
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
etching, blue ink on BFK Rives paper
50.0 x 32.0 cm platemark; 76.0 x 57.0 cm sheet 18.0 x 61.0 cm platemark; 57.0 x 76.0 cm sheet
Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. beneath platemark, pencil "Dennis Nona 2005".

Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2005
Accession number