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A family affair at Tarnanthi Art Fair

Arts & Culture

For Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander artist Lisa Waup, this weekend’s Tarnanthi Art Fair is an opportunity to showcase a new-found connection to family and culture.

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Waup has always been a keen jewellery maker, but it wasn’t until she gave birth to her twin children 20 years ago that she started to incorporate her Indigenous heritage into her designs.

The Victorian artist was separated from her Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander parents at a young age and raised by an Australian-Italian family.

“I knew that I was adopted but I never knew my background, my roots and my family’s history,” she tells InDaily.

“After I had my first-born children I found my birth mother and it was then that she told me that she is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

“It’s quite a new discovery, probably only 20 or so years ago that I really started to get to know my own history.”

Since then, Waup says she has become much more aware about how her birth family’s culture guides her art.

The celebrated contemporary artist is now the program coordinator at Baluk Arts, an urban Aboriginal art centre in Mornington, Victoria, where she creates jewellery, woven objects and drawings, and organises exhibitions for the centre’s 15 participating artists.

Waup has also been commissioned by the Art Gallery of South Australia to create 1000 colourful membership brooches for the upcoming Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, which opens tomorrow.

The brooches are made from recycled pressed bottle tops and painted with enamel paint with the help of her daughters and father.

Lisa Waup’s hand-pressed and painted brooches are available during Tarnanthi.

“It’s a bit of a family affair, making those brooches, and I’ve been doing them now probably for about three or four years,” Waup says.

“My dad, who’s 85 years old, flattens them for me and my children are involved in it as well with the painting.

“This series I’ve been using stencils but my daughters have been painting directly on to them and I quite like the idea of them being quite varied because they’re not just being done by one person …

“It’s also something quite common to my work to use found objects, which I use quite a lot in my weaving.”

Waup will join a team of about five artists from Baluk Arts who will travel to Adelaide this weekend to sell a range of original jewellery, woven objects, prints and drawings at the Tarnanthi Art Fair at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.

The art fair provides an opportunity for art lovers to view and purchase works directly from more than 40 different Indigenous art centres across the country.

“I went to the first art fair and it was a wonderful eye-opener,” Waup says.

“I think it’s just a wonderful experience for our artists to be able to see art centres from around Australia and to connect with different artists from across the country.

“We’re quite different because our art is quite contemporary, so it’s wonderful to see some of the more traditional works from other centres to show where we sit in the art market.”

This year’s art fair will feature 10 new participant art centres, including Bábbarra Designs from Maningrida in Arnhem Land, where Tarnanthi feature artist and master bark painter John Mawurndjul is based.

John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new – installation view. Photo: Jessica Maurer

The Mawurndjul exhibition – titled John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new – will showcase the contemporary artist’s talent for cross-hatch marks on bark as part of a collaboration between the Art Gallery of SA, Museum of Contemporary Art and Maningrida Arts & Culture.

Tarnanthi Contemporary Aboriignal & Torres Strait Islander Art Festival opens at the Art Gallery of South Australia on Friday and runs until January 28. The Tananthi Art Fair runs from this Friday to Sunday at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. Find out more about Tarnanthi and the art fair here

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