Cairns Art Gallery exhibition catalogue.
Segar Passi: Bakei – 1960s to the Present is the first ever major exhibition of works by senior Torres Strait Island artist Segar Passi.
Passi, who as a child taught himself to paint, has been making art for over six decades. In the 1960s he was one of eight Torres Strait Island artists asked by anthropologist Margaret Lawrie to record, in paintings and drawings, the history, culture, flora and fauna of the Torres Strait.
The young Passi made more than 135 remarkable watercolours and sketches for Lawrie’s project. Some were depictions of bird and marine life, while others told stories passed down to the artist by his elders on Mer (Murray Island).
The only surviving contributor to Margaret Lawrie’s landmark cultural project, Passi is now in his seventies but he has never lost his passion for painting. One of his particular interests, as an artist and as a cultural custodian, is weather conditions, and their importance in the lives of his people. He has devoted much time to communicating this knowledge to children on Mer, and many of his pictures are themed around weather.
Segar Passi’s paintings, with their bold colours and directness of form and composition, are in some ways evocative of naive art, yet they possess a unique character that defies categorisation. And, while having a strong place within the artistic traditions of the Torres Strait, they are also recognised as outstanding works of contemporary art.