Thursday, July 12, 2012

Urban myth

 

It was an easy step to make to go from my last 20/12 quilt, 'Vilakazi Street', straight to urban mythology. My first step was to google South Africa Urban Myths and very quickly I found a list of myths about AIDS. One of those is that having sex with a virgin is a cure. Obviously acting on that belief has very negative connotaions for any uninfected adult involved. However, as I read further I found many links leading to the same story, a story which outraged me, which moved me and which galvanised me to make art about it at once. It says a lot about the fact I have done child protection work for many years that it did not suprise me.

I am conscious that others reading this blog may be less battle hardened though, so I have decided to walk a middle ground with this post. The link to the extra information that spurred me to make this quilt is here.

If you are here for pretty art and don't want to know more that's fine. The explanation that follows still makes sense. But, I make no apology for saying what I have said so far. I hope you will read the link, because this quilt was made not to shock for effect but to express my strong feelings that unless the world knows about the dangerous urban myths and debunks them, nothing will change.

In thinking how to visually portray the urban myths I got to thinking about how we cling to perceived truths to protect us even when there is no scientific evidence behind that belief. I have used the African amulet to symbolise the myths, referencing the tradition of placing a piece of writing from a holy book inside a pouch on a hunting shirt to give magical powers of protection. This amulet contains a list of urban myths about how to cure AIDS, wrapped in a piece of kuba cloth and bark cloth with additional wax print to represent the spread of AIDS all over the continent. ( On a momentary light note I nominate myself for the Most Odd Use of Prairie Point Prize). The Cowrie shells are an African symbol of life and regeneration. The amulet is hanging over a grid of streets and city blocks. The background is, like my other 20/12 quilts stamped and scraped with screen inks.

Underneath, I have literally taken the virgin cure myth, writ it large and ripped it to shreds.

17 comments:

nicolette at dutchcomfort said...

I read the extra information and words fail me to tell how shocked I am about this myth and the abusers.

When I saw the first glimpse of the quilt I knew it had to be yours. You have such an ability to translate your feelings into fabric art!

Françoise said...

Beautiful quilt Helen. I knew about that story, so shocking and sad.

Sandra Wyman said...

A truly powerful quilt, Helen - one that needed to be made.

B J Elder said...

Powerful! I had not realized that was going on in South Africa (or anywhere). It brings tears to my eyes to think that anyone could do such a thing. I greatly appreciate you sharing this as we NEED to be aware so we can work to stop these horrendous acts.

Candied Fabrics said...

Clicked on the link - OH MY GOD! I had not heard about this atrocity yet. sigh.

Your piece is beautiful. I'm glad to know something beautiful can come from something so horrific!

Uli Day said...

Bless you, may we all learn to speak out our outrage!

Diane Perin Hock said...

I am not at all surprised to learn that an important (and appalling) story is at the heart of your piece, Helen. You have made a powerful piece -- visually striking and effective as an assortment of shapes and textures, but all the more powerful with the knowledge of what lies behind (and inside) this assemblage. I think this may be a good example of how the strength of your feelings about this urban myth and your message are conveyed so well even without the viewer knowing the details.

Helen Conway said...

Thank you all for deciding to read the extra information.

Helen Conway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerrie said...

I clicked on the link and got sick to my stomach. Words fail me. I knew nothing of this atrocity. To think you made something so beautiful out of such an atrocity - again, words fail me. I love how you used the elements of this quilt to portray the story -and have explained them to us. You are undergoing a creative growth spurt, for sure.

Karen Rips said...

I have heard of this myth before, along with some other horrible "cures" for Aids, and am so grateful to you for highlighting this in your art. Wonderfully done, Helen

Kristin L said...

As always, your inspiration behind your artwork is fascinating. I would not have gotten the connection to that particular urban myth by just looking at your piece, but once explained, it's all there. You've taken something horrible and drawn us in to it with beauty.

Terry Grant said...

The story is horrifying. The quilt, while not horrifying, has a feeling of dread--the cowry shells look like tears. The torn words shout PAY ATTENTION HERE! Your work is powerful.

Terri Stegmiller said...

The heartfelt passion you put into your work is inspiring. The story behind this quilt is heart breaking. While your work is always wonderful to look at, for me it's knowing what the story behind it is that drove you to make it, makes it that much more interesting.

Deborah Boschert said...

I continue to be so impressed with how you use current events and societal issues and history to inform your work. Your body of work has such depth in so many ways.

I especially love the repeating images of the city blog in the background and your repeated use of the amulet bag.

I've looked back at your Metamorphosis and Map quilts and I am so eager to see these three together! Please write up a post with all three images.

Brenda Gael Smith said...

The cowl shells look like tear drops which Is appropriate for this heart breaking story. Your 2912 series is shaping up beautifully. I can't wait to see what you do with the next challenge theme!

Helen said...

Hi Helen

Like you, I found the extra reading shocking, but not surprising. You have made a great piece, but I missed the praire point. Did I not look hard enough?