Many years ago, before the coming of the white man, four brothers (bala) Malo, Sagai, Kulka and Siu made their way by canoe through the Torres Strait to the central and eastern islands from the northern tip of Kay Daol Dai (literally big land) or the northern tip of Cape York. Each was to establish and lead a tribe of their own, setting down law and creating the unique Torres Strait Islander culture which continues today.
Sagai, the second oldest brother of the hammerhead clan totem (kurr) stopped at Iama Island (known as Yam). Maiu, his wife from Tudu Island, came from the crocodile clan (kodal). Both islands share the same culture and customs today. Because of his great strength and wit, Sagai was elevated to the status of a god. He taught the young men to fight well and was rewarded by them with the heads of their enemies from warring islands.
In my print, the lead warrior is Sagai, followed by his brothers. The hammerhead shark and crocodile totems and round symbol of the hammerhead shark totem are represented.
Kulka was the second bala to leave the group, remaining at Aurid Island (Auree). He became the god of hunting, adopting the fish totem gai gai (Trevalley).
Siu, the third bala, went to Masig (Yorke Island) and became god of dancing. He adopted the tiger shark totem (baidam).
Malo, the eldest bala went to Mer (Murray Island) and became the god of religion and law, creating a strict set of rules, not unlike the ten commandments introduced in 1878 by missionaries (now celebrated as ‘the coming of the light’). These same rules were presented as evidence by Eddie Mabo to the Supreme Court in his now famous land rights case for his people. For this, Malo adopted as his totem sugu (the octopus).