Lola Greeno, born in 1946 on Cape Barren Island Tasmania, is an Aboriginal shell necklace maker, sculptor, installation and fibre artist. Greeno comes from a long line of shell stringers and her work is mostly made from shells, she sometimes combines traditional and contemporary stringing by using mutton bird features, gum nuts, echidna quills and kangaroo vertebrae. This stringing tradition is an opportunity for women to share stories and knowledge with younger generations and is passed down from mother to daughter. Greeno continues this tradition with her own grandchildren. Her necklaces tell the story of her Aboriginal heritage, visiting the beach to collect shells, while growing up on Cape Barren Island 360km from Tasmania Island.
As well as a body adornment, shell stringing played a significant role in cross cultural exchange during early European voyages to Van Diemen’s Land in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were used as gifts and as items to trade such as axes, clothing, glass beads and fish hooks. British colonisation had a devastating impact on the life of Aboriginal people, and although settlement threatened the tradition of shell stringing, survivors maintained their cultural practices. The shell stringing tradition is one of the few which remains and continues to evolve today.
Australian Curriculum Connections - Year 4 History
The diversity of Australia's first peoples and the long and continuous connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to Country/Place (land, sea, waterways and skies) (ACHASSK083)
Australian Curriculum Connections - Year 5 History
The nature of convict or colonial presence, including the factors that influenced patterns of development, aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants (including Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) and how the environment changed (ACHASSK107)
- Find Cape Barren Island on a map. What other Bass Strait Islands can you locate? What do you imagine the environment is like on these islands?
- What does tradition and culture mean to you? Why is tradition and maintaining culture important?
- Shell stringing is a tradition which has been passed down from one generation to the next. What traditions or skills have been passed down in your family?
- Lola Greeno has been identified as a cultural warrior. As a class, brainstorm what it means to be a cultural warrior.
- Artist Julie Gough describes shell necklaces as both record and communicator. Using Lola Greeno’s necklace as an example, explain Gough’s statement.
- Compare Malahide by Julie Gough in the Gallery’s collection to the shell necklace by Greeno. How do these two works communicate similar ideas about the enduring culture of Tasmanian Aboriginal people?
- Aboriginal shell work is considered a Tasmanian heritage icon. What other heritage icons in Australia can you name?
- Australian Design Centre - Lola Greeno Video
- National Gallery of Australia - Lola Greeno Video
- ABC News Indigenous artist Lola Greeno keeping shell stringing alive with Cultural Jewels exhibition
- Full AGSA Education Resource on Lola Greeno