Wednesday, 14 August 2013

'cloth only wears, it does not die'*

* a phrase from a Bunu Yoruba prayer
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I chanced upon a fascinating review of this book 'Cloth that does not die: the meaning of cloth in Bunu social life'  by E. Renne, University of Washington Press 1995, here and here
I was drawn to the article because of the title and it brought to mind the another book I had recently acquired in the abbey in France titled: File le temps, reste le tissu' i.e. time flies, the cloth remains...... serendipity.
Among the many interesting facts in the review, I must admit I haven't (yet) read the book, is what an important part colours in cloth play in the Bunu society. Seeing as we've been concentrating on white over at Jude's WhatIf diaries class I was particularly interested to read about white. A colour, or non-colour depending on your definition, I have come to appreciate working with during class, especially as that has led me to enjoy working in tones, rather than contrasts, but that is another story and I will go there another time. Back to Bunu whites: white in their own language is funfun which already sounds like a good thing! The colour white is associated with nature spirits and spirits of the water; it is also linked to fertile, moist substances such as semen, milk, rain, urine and mucus. It provides a path between the world of humans and spirits, when there is a need for spiritual aid. I find this colour symbolism really interesting and if you are going to work in white, this could add a layer-of-meaning, even though it's not even part of our cultural heritage, there are certain elements that echo within me. 
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The piece I'm currently working on is a home-dyed square of cotton with a winged figure (I see her) and the back is a thin white cotton. I have been basting them together these past few evenings after office hours, first a visible baste, now replaced by an invisible one, invisible on the front that is; the back is a different matter, the white has become intersected by the pale grey embroidery basting. I love how the lines are wobbly (although that wasn't my intention) and have created a pattern of their own and as I always like a piece to be viewable on both sides I thought I might accentuate to meeting points: where the horizontals meet the verticals, adding red beads on the back and thereby creating seemingly random dots on the front.   I started this cloth with a different idea in my mind, but this is where it has led me so far.






what amuses me in this corner, is the fact that whilst I was basting the two pieces, they had moved ever so slightly and that meant one corner had too little and the other corner too much white cotton; I just couldn't be bothered to undo the stitching and instead cut the surplus triangle off and added that here, so there's a row of stitches that form a sliver. Embracing imperfection, what happens......hmm could even be the title.....

6 comments:

Nancy said...

There is so much goodness here that I don't know what to say first! Since I'm too tired to think about it, I'll just say thanks and love it! So interesting :)

saskia said...

hi Nancy: goodness, ah that makes me so happy, that you would see goodness here!

Debbie said...

Love this cloth such subtle colours, and yes I see the winged figure.

Mo Crow said...

hmm that book is going on my wish list!!! love how you think about the work and take it deeper Saskia

Mo Crow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
saskia said...

Debbie: sometimes the dyeing offers a special gift like this one, how are your dye results coming along?

Mo: ah well, deeper and deeper she wandered into the woods......it feels at times as if I'm searching for an answer (the answer) to All my questions, knowing full well such an answer doesn't exist (and I probably wouldn't notice it if I bumped into it, ha) the wan/won/dering is the thing isn't it, really?