Joel was a custodian and song man of the Wanman ceremonial group. His main sculptural theme was the “Lore Poles”, known as Thap Yonk. He was also the principal ceremonial song man and dancer for the associated ceremonies of the Kugu Owenh tribe and had claims and responsibilities to the Putsch traditions. Joel made artefacts, spears, woomera, firesticks and “Lore Poles” (Thap Yonk). He also produced a series of paintings and prints exploring line and tone through his traditional saltwater clan design, usually applied to the final surface of his “Lore Poles” (Thap Yonk). Sadly, Joel died in 2019 after a long illness.
My family are from the saltwater,
All the paintings that I do,
The white represents the salt water,
And the red represents the sun,
When the sun sinks down on the saltwater.
I am a song man,
And a traditional dancer as well.
When he passed away,
I am the eldest son,
And do the singing and dancing as well.
Of course, I was bred and born in Aurukun,
My father was originally from Pormpuraaw.
With my art I have travelled around, Australia and overseas,
I have been to places like the Netherlands,
Amsterdam and Utrecht.
Then with my art,
I have been to places like China, Hong Kong,
And took some of them, herbs, bush medicine,
Now I am working in the City at Canopy,
People come around here and see my art,
the ochre, we go out to the salt plains,
And dig down into the ground,
And find the yellow ochre,
And pick it up,
And put it in a pile,
And take it home,
Make a fire,
And cook them on the coals.
From the yellow it turns into red.
Traditional dancing uses the paint as well,
I am a song man, dancer and a singer,
My father gave his knowledge to me,
To my son.
All the traditional ways of learning,
When I was a kid my father used to come and sing along,
When I used to go to sleep it goes in my head,
The words, what it means.
I can speak Wik, Mungkan,
My father is from Pormpuraaw,
I can speak both languages,
Can speak both languages,
And even my mother’s side, Thaayorre.
English is my fourth language.