Pachamama - wawa (Shell)

Artist name

Artist year born


Artwork make date


Artwork title translation

Mother - Child (Shell)

Artwork material

fired clay

Artwork dimensions

height: 30cm
width: 18cm

Artwork type (categories)


Accession method

Donated by Warmi 1999

Accession number


Label text

Moulding anthropomorphic forms in clay is an ancient impulse often, as in Genesis, associated with the divine origins of human beings. Equally ancient is the use of clay to make containers for food and drink, the prerequisites of life. In Peru many pre-Columbian cultures combined the two, creating effigy vessels in anthropomorphic and other representational forms for ceremonial use. Warmi takes these ideas and explores them from her own point of view. For her woman is the original vessel, the container from which life springs. This female figure is formed of two pots, an inverted open bowl forming the skirt, and a closed vase forming the upper torso. The woman is therefore the embodiment of Pachamama, Earth/earthenware Mother. The figure carries a baby (wawa in Quechua) on her back, a burden that sucks goodness from her, just as foreign oil companies (Shell) take oil from the land.

Valerie Fraser, 2008

Pachamama – wawa (Shell) is a fired clay sculpture. The sculptural artefact depicts a mother carrying her infant child on her back. Pachamama is a representation of indigenous mythology from ancient Peru. The narrative behind Pachamama is that she is an embodiment of the earth, encapsulating all that is natural in our world. The presence of the mother feels dominating, strong and protective of her child. She stands tall, confronting the viewer as her child pokes over her shoulder. The form of Pachamama’s body is mostly hidden by the blanket which is wrapped around her and holds her child. The viewer can only see her hair and the base of the sculpture. The blanket creates a protective structure around Pachamama and her child; she a strong figure but the blanket suggests that Pachamama herself also needs protection.

The mother figure’s face has no identifying features, such as eyes, lips or nose, which in turn can make Pachamama seem more relatable to the viewer, since she can be representative of all women rather than just one individual. However, the artist has chosen to score into the clay on the head, making lines that depict her hair, as well as creating indented carvings in the blanket to represent stitch work and finally within the base of the sculpture, where the scratches are more erratic.
The lower half, which was originally a bowl, is broad and rounded with engravings in a variation of sizes and lengths. The base resembles a tree trunk, rooted firmly to where the artefact is placed, which in turn connects back to Pachamama’s mythological status as an earth goddess. The sculpture is composed of an open bowl and a closed vase which form the body of Pachamama. In her artist statement, Warmi describes the connection between ancient Peruvian culture and memories with her own family and particularly her mother.(1) By using terracotta, she connects these two memories and creates something new.

The sculpture can be viewed from all angles, as it has no clear front or back. Each part of the sculpture has an interesting engraving, detail, and addition created by the artist. The sculpture is linked to a deep narrative connected to indigenous cultures and beliefs and as a contemporary artist Warmi brings forward the ancient concern for the safety of our earth.

(1) Warmi 'Artist Statement'

(Text taken from the exhibition catalogue for Gone to Ground, 2019)

Edie Hughes

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