Part of Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF)’s mission is to help light the path and create platforms that celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and fashion design, share cultural knowledge, and make connections with, and between, the incredible artists and designers we represent.
Our latest series, DAAFF Yarns, sees us sit down for a yarn with different members of DAAFF’s community. We hope to give you a little more insight about the Indigenous art and design sector, and DAAFF’s role within it.
Today we chat with eminent First Nations artist Lisa Waup. Lisa’s art practice incorporates weaving, printmaking, photography, sculpture, textiles and installation, eloquently illustrating her life’s journey through discovery and connection.
Words | Camilla Wagstaff
How would you describe your practice to someone who hasn’t seen your work?
I have a studio-based multidisciplinary art practice, which involves the creation of objects, with a strong connection of symbology through my work and materials which connects me to family, Country, history and story.
My art practice works across weaving, printmaking, photography, sculpture, textiles and installation and my work eloquently illustrates my life’s journey through discovery and connection. My practice highlights the importance of tracing lost history, ancestral relationships, Country, motherhood and time which ultimately are woven stories of my past, present and future into contemporary forms.
At present I am studying a Master of Contemporary Art at the Victorian College of the Arts at Melbourne University, it is giving me time to focus on my practice and at present I am developing a new series of art, mainly focusing on print-based work.
What do you love most about being an artist?
The aspect of being an artist that I love the most is being able to creatively tell stories about the history of my family and ancestors. At times the content can be quite heavy regarding my fractured history, yet the end result is an object that lets people connect and query.
Art gives me a vehicle to have a voice and to be able to express myself through a visual means, I feel that I am honouring my family and ancestors with my expressed connections. Being creative enables me to see situations in a different way; this way also delivers me to a place of healing and belonging.
“ Art gives me a vehicle to have a voice and to be able to express myself through a visual means, I feel that I am honouring my family and ancestors with my expressed connections. Being creative enables me to see situations in a different way; this way also delivers me to a place of healing and belonging.”
Images | Lisa Waup, ‘Salt Water’ necklace, 2019. Lisa Waup, Family Journeys, 2019. Photos courtesy of Lisa Waup.
What are the major challenges of working as a First Nations artist?
One of the biggest challenges I feel working as a First Nations artist is breaking the stereotype of what an Aboriginal artist and artwork is. My work is contemporary, and at times needs education to accompany it. I have been known to say to people at times that ‘Aboriginal artwork is created by Aboriginal artists’.
Part of DAAFF’s mission is to encourage and assist with professional development opportunities for artists. Can you tell me a bit about your experiences with these opportunities?
I have had so many opportunities open up to me because of being a part of DAAF, I have also learnt so much about positionality and space. It has given me a space to thrive and to tell my story with pride, which also filters down to my family. The ability for networking with peers and people that I greatly admire has been incredible in so many ways.
What does the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and related initiatives mean to First Nations artists
For me as an artist, being a part of Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair honestly is a dream come true… I can’t regard it highly enough [for] what it does. Not only for me [but] also for our artists at [South East-based Art Centre] Baluk Arts.
It is the highlight of our year to come to Darwin. Each year when we return it is like seeing family again. The opportunities and support have been beyond belief; it delivers a massive sense of belonging and pride. We work so remotely – in Mornington, Victoria – from all the Art Centres around Australia. It is a space for us to connect with other artists, Art Centres and to see what everyone is creating. It’s a melting pot of inspiration.
Image | Lisa Waup x Verner, Journeys SpringSummer 19/20 Collection. Photos by Agnieszka Chabros.
You also have an accomplished textile and fashion practice. How can fashion be used as a means of cultural expression?
Fashion is a wonderful vehicle for cultural expression. For me, I see fashion as another medium for storytelling. It is a powerful medium to connect with all walks of life – I hope for it to evoke connection and questions and for people to feel a little taller when they walk in it. I know it does for me.
[Currently] I am thinking about the concept and story of the visual direction for… a round three fashion collection… and have been drawing quite a bit, experimenting with printmaking techniques and playing with colour.
Can you tell me a bit about your experiences with DAAFF’s Indigenous Fashion Projects?
Being a part of DAAFF’s Indigenous Fashion Projects has been an incredible experience, yet the most important one of all is being acknowledged on this platform with countless incredible designers, artists and the many unsung heroes behind the scenes making these opportunities happen.
DAAFF’s [fashion show] Country to Couture is all about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders having a space to do it our way – not to replicate what is already out there. How could we ever be put under the same banner? Our work is unique, gentle yet fierce and filled with our ancestors’ voices being shared with the world to see.
“Country to Couture is all about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders having a space to do it our way – not to replicate what is already out there… Our work is unique, gentle yet fierce and filled with our ancestors’ voices… ”
Image | 2019 From Country to Couture, Verner x Lisa Waup, Journeys Collection. Photos by Dylan Buckee.
MORE TO COME
Thank you to Lisa Waup for sharing her knowledge as part of the ‘DAAFF Yarns’ series.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe as the series continues, and if you haven’t already, catch up on our last two posts with Art Centre manager Joann Russo and First Nations curator Jessica Clark.
Profile Image | Lisa Waup, Continuity Print, Photo by Theresa Harrison, Linden New Art 2019.
Banner Image | Lisa Waup’s geometric design “Continuity”, screen-printed by hand on tapa cloth from Papua New Guinea, Baluk Arts, 2019 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Photo by Dylan Buckee.