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Whispers by Quandamooka artist Megan Cope

27 September – 26 November 2023

Monumental Steps and Podium Level

Sydney Opera House Presents

On Tubowgule, now called Bennelong Point, Quandamooka artist Megan Cope introduces Whispers, a melding of First Nations history and environmental consciousness. With more than 85,000 oyster shells positioned across the Sydney Opera House precinct, the artist evokes the ancestral midden sites that were used on this site for Aboriginal celebrations and gatherings for thousands of years.

A Monumental Public Artwork

With oyster shells, Cope has reimagined the architectural framework of the Opera House itself. Two hundred timber Kinyingarra Guwinyanba poles - the phrase means “a place of oysters” in the Jandai language of the Quandamooka people - have transformed the Northern Broadwalk into a landscape of cultural history and community. These poles, covered with oysters, stand as symbols of ecological rebirth and ancestral homage, echoing the call of collective memory and Indigenous resilience. They connect to a 14m wall of shells that frame the western side of the building and emerge through the upper podium. 

A singular artistic statement, Whispers beats with the spirit of community. Over the past year, more than 3000 volunteers have taken part in over 100 workshops in three key sites - the Opera House Forecourt, Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville and the artist’s studio in Brisbane - where they  worked together to clean, polish, drill and thread thousands of shells by hand. Together, these volunteers  created a rich tapestry of shared narratives and kinships, elevating the humble oyster shell into a symbol of a community, heritage and Country.

NSW Government

This program is proudly supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW’s Blockbusters Funding initiative

Making Whispers

Watch the documentary

By Walbanga and Wadi Wadi woman and award-winning producer Alison Page and director Nik Lachajczak.

From the artist

Meet the team

Other information

A man holding a long colourful curtain.

Contemporary Art

Contemporary art at the Sydney Opera House is guided by the promise that visual artists can challenge us to experience the world anew. With an emphasis on commissioning and exhibiting the artists of today, the twentieth century architectural icon is situated as a catalyst for visual artists to stage open-ended exhibitions, installations and projects that offer insights into the most pressing cultural, political and social questions of our society.

Two Aboriginal women on top of the Sydney opera house.

First Nations

Tubowgule, as the land on which the Opera House stands is known to its Traditional Custodians, the Gadigal, has long been a gathering place for storytelling, ceremony and culture. The Opera House continues this legacy today by embracing and celebrating the culture of Australia’s First Peoples.

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