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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Sazi - Special root



Dennis Nona


1973 -

Language group

Kala Lagaw Ya, Torres Strait region


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 where the work was made

Brisbane Queensland Australia



Media category


Materials used

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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Dennis Nona

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Referenced in 1 publication


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2006, 'Year in review: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art', pg. 23-25, Sydney, 2006, 24.