Friday, July 1, 2011

The Coming of the Light

Today - 1st July - is a very important date on the Thursday Island calender. On July 1st 1871 Anglican missionaries landed on Darnley Island (also known as Erub Island) and introduced christianity to the good people of the Torres Strait.

The Coming of the Light Festival is a day of symbolism, commemoration and thanksgiving. The day starts with a procession from the beach to the Anglican church to recreate the landing of the missionaries onto the beach and their walk through the bushes until confronted by the islanders.

Bishop Mabo and clerics getting ready for the procession

The Coming of the Light procession from the beach to the Anglican Church

Arriving at the church

Once at the church there was a re-enactment of the meeting between the two groups. If you can imagine, the islanders - never having seen a white man - were afraid of the people with the pale skin and put on a show of strength with their spears. But eventually they were won over by, of all things .... cigarettes. So by acquainting them to the joys of tobacco, the missionaries were then able to introduce them to the joys of Christianity.

Winning over the islanders
Following the re-enactment Bishop Mabo led the procession into church where the celebrations continued with prayers and island songs.

Leading the procession into church, praying at the Coming of the Light monument
We then walked to Anzac Park where the festivities continued. There was lots of food - kai-kai (pronounced kye-kye) singing and dancing.

Lots of kai-kai

Preparing kai-kai in Anzac Park

Dancing in Anzac Park to celebrate the Coming of the Light

Star of the Sea residents Margaret (in green),  Anna (in yellow) and Arthur (background in wheelchair) enjoying the festival
While it's not a public holiday as such, it is a bank holiday and there are calls for TI residents to petition the mayor to declare it a public holiday for the Torres Strait only.

IBIS did not close so Rob met me for lunch - the park is only a minute away from the shop. There was such a great atmosphere I called him up and suggested he come down. By the time he got there I'd caught up with Jan and Colin - they're enjoying the company of their daughter and son-in-law who are visiting from Tully for a few days.

So the six of us sat on the grass and enjoyed kai-kai, music and fun as we too celebrated with the islanders the Coming of the Light.

Life is good.


  1. Loved reading about the coming of the light Silvana.

    Great photos too!


  2. Good evening Silvana,
    Thanks for your post. I'm actually trying to find out the name of the ship these Anglican ministers arrived on! A friend is looking to get a model made of this ship that brought the Gospel to these people.

    Any ideas on the name of the ship or who I might be able to contact about it?


    Mr Devan Foster