In 2020 CADCAI was grateful to receive a generous grant from the Copeland Foundation to restore our oldest surviving lion mask.

The mask is part of the nationally significant Cairns Lit Sung Goong Collection and is the oldest surviving performance lion used by the community before and after the temple closed it doors in 1966.

The mask (T146) is a bespoke object which was likely made in Hong Kong in the 1950s or early 1960s. The back of head is clearly marked with Chinese inscriptions which read as “Cairns”, “Chinese”, and “active lion brings good fortune”.

Typically constructed with a bamboo frame covered with papier-mache, it is representative of traditional mask-making techniques and material used in the mid-twentieth century. The head is painted with symbolic designs in festive colours of red, orange, yellow, green and black and white. Moveable parts: the lower jaw, lip, eyeballs and ears of the lion are attached with wire. A single horn on top of the head depicts an eagle or phoenix in flight, with coiled springs attached to the two wings to allow movement. This more elaborate feature differs from the fluffy contemporary lion we see today.

This mask is of great historical, social and cultural significance . Along with CADCAI’s collection of historical and contemporary lions, dragons, drums, cymbals and gongs it is integral to Cairns’ Chinese cultural traditions of festivals and performance.

Cairns based conservator Melanie Sorenson, Sorenson Art Conservation, has been tasked with the preservation treatment of this important project.