Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Protected?



You may recall how I was oddly inspired by this photo of a priest or diviner's shirt, found in an old design scrapbook and how the song  Do They Know Its Christmas was all over the radio at the time. I got to think about amulets and how they were worn on shirts like this - particularly by the West African Bamana tribe- to protect them from harm whilst hunting. Amulets often have text inscribed in them or an extract of a holy text wrapped up inside them.

Which got me thinking about the plight of those in Africa today who need protection from various forms of pestilence - some natural, many man-made or at least man-exacerbated. AIDS, war, lack of water, lingering post-apartheid poverty. Today there may be less reliance on battered bits of tin to protect and more on International Treaties and Agreements, although one might debate whether the international community is in fact offering much more protection to these people than a battered bit of tin combined with a large dose of faith would.

This quilt uses an eggplant purple batik (which happily has splashes of red wine like spills on the right hand side - or blood like stains if you will!) and a green batik which is only one milli-fraction of a shade brighter than the emeralds on my engagement ring ( both from West Africa - thats the fabrics not the ring) together with some barkcloth. The  barkcloth strips, embellished with traditional amulets of cowrie shells and fabric 'parcels' have been turned on their side to represent scrolls with writing marks in stitch.


Some of these stitches/ 'words' are my western ones. Some are the original stitches which come in the African bark cloth placed there by an indiginous artisan.  A large bead represents the wax seals which authenticate such legal documents.

11 comments:

Gerrie said...

Very nice, Helen. I like how the barkcloth calms down the colors and creates a story. The two fabrics you used are fabulous.

JB said...

Thanks for another educational take on the world with your challenge. I am so glad we are able to zoom in on the quilt and see all the details which are easily missed otherwise.

Diane said...

Of course you have incorporated another very thought-provoking chain of ideas in here. Visually, this is so pleasing -- wonderful balance and colors and so many great details to look at. It's very strong, Helen. Beautifully done.

Kristin L said...

Your compositions are getting more sophisticated as we go and show a lot of growth. This one, along with your Kilauea and Twelve pieces are beginning to show a consistent visual style. I like your mix here of colors and textures -- interesting without being overwhelming or too much.

Nikki said...

I love the rich depth of the fabrics and how appropriate that they are from Africa. The addition of the bark cloth really captures the feeling of Amulets.

Karen said...

Very effective in getting your thoughts across again, Helen, the amulets and scroll look of the bark cloth are really interesting. I think the company that sold me all the fat quarters is still around, so bring an extra suitcase to Houston:)

Terri Stegmiller said...

Great design and embellishments. At first I thought that the bark cloth was brown paper bag or something similar, so I'm glad you described that. That purple/wine fabric is gorgeous.

Terry said...

Helen, I love the use of the amulets. That shirt is incredible and a great inspiration for your piece.Great color, great texture, great meaning.

You would probably be interested in a Portland fiber artist named Adrienne Cruz. She uses a lot of African imagery, amulets, fabrics. Her work is pretty wonderful. You can see it here: http://www.adrienecruz.com/

Brenda Gael Smith said...

I'm looking forward to putting together the mosaic of your Colourplay quilts for the artist gallery and, one day hopefully, seeing them all together "in the real".

Not only do your quilts provide social commentary that we I have come to associate with your work, a distinctive visual style is definitely emerging. That you achieve this together with home renovations and judicial duties is testament to your artistic drive (and the benefits of being a Twelve!).

Deborah Boschert said...

I just love the idea of stitched messages in the bark cloth inspired by amulets with inscribed text. It's especially interesting that some stitches are yours and some are original to the cloth. A collaboration! I heard a fascinating program about bark cloth and the presenter really encouraged artists to think carefully about the materials we use and what they represent. You have made an important connection by including the bark cloth. The large bead is perfectly placed and I love the ribbon you used to attach it. It enhances the palette!

Françoise said...

Very nice quilt Helen. I think this is my favorite out of all your quilts.