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'Susu Shell II' by Ellarose Savage, 2009


'Susu Shell II' by Ellarose Savage, 2009

Object information

Physical description

A linocut on a sheet of thick cream-coloured paper with feathered edges top and bottom (portrait orientation) imprinted using black pigment with a design incorporating seashells, a boat, human figures and sea life. Annotations pencilled below the imprint read '3/50 "Susu Shell II" ERSavage [signature] "09" '.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of a series of four lino prints on paper titled 'Susu Shell Suite'. The artist, Ella-Rose Savage, is from Erub Island in the Torres Strait. Susu shell is the Torres Strait Creole name for Trochus shell. Ella-Rose accompanied her father on a camping and diving trip to collect and process Trochus shells. The prints illustrate the events of the expedition and the different stages in the collection and processing of the shells.

Trochus shells were collected for trade and jewellery and, in the post-contact period, were widely sought after for buttons. Torres Strait Islanders have a close connection with, and understanding of, the waters around their Islands. Many Islanders worked in maritime-based commercial activities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including diving for pearl and Trochus shells, gathering Beche-de-mer (Trepang) and commanding or crewing on sailing luggers. Ella-Rose Savage documents her interest in expressing her relationship with the sea and the links between her surroundings, objects and culture. These prints not only tell the story of a common secular activity but also provide representations of the modern resources used in that activity. These include the western board shorts worn by the divers, the aluminium dinghy and outboard (an iconic feature of the Torres Strait today) and the tents at the temporary processing site.

Object information

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