» Skip to content

Published: 11 May 2019

By Andy Ross

Recent articles

View all stories

Ancestor Bags

The summer always brings us interesting visitors, such as Sue Hiley Harris.

Sue came to see the studio this week and gave the library some books published by herself and David Moore. One of them is a small publication produced for an installation of thirty art-works on a theme of personal genealogy. 


Sue is Australian by birth but has lived in the UK since the mid-70s, and in Wales since 1981. A gift from her mother of Australian Aboriginal bags, made of string and coloured with earth pigment, must have made a significant impact on her because it was the inspiration for this project. Sue saw a similar bag to hers in Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum (accession number 1900.55.291) and saw that it had been used for carrying the bones of deceased relatives. Upon the passing of various family members including her mother, Sue decided to make weavings devoted to thirty of her direct ancestors from four generations. 

It is complicated to explain but I shall try. The weavings that Sue has generated, one for each of the people in her story, are represented by colour, loops and stitches. Looking like line drawings when viewed from the side, the pieces show colours when seen from the front or back. Here are some scans of the pages of the publication which may help to explain how colour, texture and loops were used to represent gender, longevity, births, children, death and place in each hung piece. The picture of the hanging pieces was at MOMA Wales. 

Thanks for coming in to see us, Sue and David. And thank you for the books which can be viewed in the studio library.