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Spotlight on the Collection: Lisa Waup woven works

In this series, we are going to explore some of the interesting items from Bayside City Council’s Art and Heritage Collection.

This week we look at the woven works by Indigenous artist Lisa Waup focusing on the sculpture Chosen before birth.


Chosen before birth by Lisa Waup

Lisa Waup is an Indigenous artist of Torres Strait Islander and Victorian Aboriginal Gunditjmara heritage from southeast Melbourne. Her work comprises intricately layered woven sculptures, body adornment and vessels.

Chosen before birth is a deeply personal sculpture that depicts a seated mother with a small child sitting in her lap. The work is a carefully woven piece comprising feathers, bird’s feet, seeds, possum fur, tapa cloth, wood and raffia. The mother figure has two faces and references Waup’s experience as an adopted child. The figures of mother and child encapsulate the love and support Waup has experienced from both her mothers throughout her life – her adopted mother whose love, strength and guidance Waup values on a daily basis, and her birth mother, whose spiritual presence has always been with her but whose sacrifice in giving her up for adoption she acknowledges as a painful gift.

‘The dual figures that I have weaved signify my mothers, my mum is holding a babe in arms, a gift from the universe. My birth mother is present within this figure, her face is at the back of my mums head. She wasn’t physically there during my many years without her, yet spiritually she never left. This figure is a homage to my mothers, a recognition of respect and admiration, to hold them in great esteem, adulation and worship.’ Lisa Waup, 2016

The layering of various materials in her work can be seen to symbolise the layers of her own personal history that she is continually uncovering. The repetitive stitching she uses to make her finely constructed pieces can also be interpreted as reattaching fragments of history and weaving them into a cohesive whole.

Feathers are an important material used throughout her practice, as she explains, ‘as long as I can remember I have always collected and have been attracted to them. The feathers are precious and as individual as the last one I have found, no two are the same. Feathers in my artwork have always symbolised connection to nature, connection to land, giving a place and a time. They for me are a replacement of ancestral Indigenous history that is unknown and lost and is a tangible piece of cultural information’.

Lisa Waup lived in Papua New Guinea for some time where she taught printmaking and photography at the University of Papua New Guinea, Port Morseby. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from RMIT University and is currently completing her Master of Contemporary Art at the Victorian College of the Arts. In addition to her own practice, Waup works as a programs coordinator at Baluk Arts, a not-for-profit Indigenous-run art centre located in Mornington, Victoria. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria; and Kingston City Council, Melbourne.

Interested in learning more about the Art and Heritage Collection?

Bayside City Council is the custodian of the Bayside Art and Heritage Collection, a collection of around 2,000 items that was principally formed when the former Sandringham and Brighton City Councils merged in 1994. Artworks and heritage objects are displayed at our Corporate Centre in Sandringham, Bayside Gallery in Brighton and other Council owned buildings.

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