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Two hands are placing small shells onto a light brown boomerang.

Shellwork Art Workshop
First Nations workshop with the Gujaga Foundation

1 October 2023

In the Centre for Creativity


Join Aunty Lola and Aunty Maxime Ryan from the La Perouse First Nations community to learn the cultural practise of Shellwork. This workshop is presented in dialogue with Sydney Opera House’s 50th Birthday installation, Whispers by Megan Cope.

Teacher's Resource

In this resource, find an artist statement, a behind the scenes video, activities and curriculum links.


A 50th Birthday celebratory workshop

On the occasion of Megan Cope's installation Whispers as part of Sydney Opera House’s 50th Birthday celebrations, join Aunty Maxine Ryan and Aunty Lola Ryan, First Nations artists from La Perouse for an afternoon of creating an artwork with local shells. This workshop is for all ages and is free (registrations required).

Shellwork is a unique practice in this the La Perouse community. It has been passed down from mother's, aunty's and grandmother's over generations. It originally began as a tourism market, where women and children would collect small shells along the beach and create art such as boomerangs, jewellery boxes and shoes to sell to the wider community. 

The community of La Perouse continues to create Shellwork to educate and share the knowledge of their old people with the broader community and younger generations. Shellwork Art is often exchanged as gifts to distinguished guests to Sydney such as Royalty. It still remains a significant part of their community as the traditional people of Coastal Sydney.

Megan Cope

Megan Cope is a Quandamooka Artist. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work, paintings and public art investigate issues relating to colonial histories, the environment and mapping practices.

In 2022 her work was featured in We, On The Rising Wave, Busan Biennale, South Korea, Reclaim the Earth, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France,  Embodied Knowledge: Queensland Contemporary Art, Gallery of Queensland, Brisbane as well as The NGV Triennial (2020), Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres at the Art Gallery of South Australia, The TarraWarra Biennial (2021): Slow Moving Waters, The National, Art Gallery of NSW (2017), and Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial (2017). In 2017-19 Cope was the Official Australian War Artist.

Her work is held in Australian and International collections. She is a member of Aboriginal art collective proppaNOW and is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

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