Growing up in Southern Africa, blankets wrapped around people was a natural sight. Some tribes had blankets with specific designs printed and they walked with those blankets wrapped around them all year long; sometimes around the waste, sometimes around their shoulders. The traditional Zulu dress involves wild animal skin wrapped around their wastes. Often one would see them with a rolled up blanket balanced on their heads.
Thinking about blankets and how it is used throughout the ages, I realized and remembered the importance of blankets. My mind mulled over the term blanket and how it is used. A blanket covers the ground.....a mantle, coat, veil, drape, afghan, kaross......many times we 'blanket" one another in an embrace..... Blankets means covering, protection, comfort, warmth, care, love, embrace and anything that has to do with the kindness in this world.......
Any time someone is traumatized, we may even use our bodies to cover and protect.
I made the first ones of these figurines with blankets wrapped around them when Tinyke, my youngest daughter was about 3 years old. At the time it was simply an image that found its way into my sub-conscience and found its way into my clay work. Lizzie, the black lady who helped me in the house, was also like a second mom to Izalda, Linkie and Tinyke. She was often disciplinary factor, mentor and teacher. Lizzie was also the one that taught my children Christian songs in her language and some other elements from her culture, like how to carry their dolls on their backs held tight by a blanket.See the black woman in South Africa never suffered with colic babies. They carried them on their backs, working their days out, while the soothing rhythmic movement of the mother’s body and the warmth of the blanket worked any uneasiness away. My children was always playing in and around my studio and I often watched them carrying those dolls on their backs, with headscarves around their heads, just like so many of the woman still wear to this day.
When I first made "Remembrance" a doll wrapped in a blanket, my Christmas ornament, I was touched by the disasters of 2017; Harvey in Texas and bush fires in California was just some of the natural disasters that went on that year and in my own community I have friends that suffered from cancer, that lost loved ones, ended up in accidents and lost personal possessions due to tornadoes. The response came naturally. I felt the need to soothe and comfort where I could.
Just like the Ndebele always wore blankets around their shoulders while the Basotho blankets became a fashion statement, I felt to make a statement in this world where so many needed comfort.
During those days early days in 1987 when I started making the blankets, or coats around these figurines, it was a reference to comfort. As a reminder of my heritage, I kept making these figurines occasionally throughout the years.
In 1999 when we immigrated to the United States and experienced the deep, deep sadness over the loss of country and people, I communicated it through my work: An elephant walking from a broken vessel, a bottle with bars in front of it. The black smoke of darkness that found its way onto some of my art works. The outstanding element of my pit fired porcelain those days however, were figures raising from the wheel thrown vessels. Often woman and often with the richness of necklaces: The trademark of the Ndebele woman.
2020 is a year of devastation. While hurricanes and total catastrophic situations like wild fires, and earthquakes rattled the world, barbaric actions were brought under our attention almost on a daily basis. While all of that were going on, many of us lost family and friends, got word of a devastating illness or struggled in silence with personal situations.
We faced fear, anger and frustration as people lost their income. We got word of the elderly suffering in isolation and we had to observe how even children became isolated behind masks. Insecurity found its way even among those that thought they were secure.
Amidst all of this years difficulties, people were still trying to comfort each other. During times when it looked like everything is falling apart, life still went on and the inherent goodness of people prevails.
In 2017 my Christmas ornament of this year was my beloved little figurine and while it never had a name, I decided this little doll always represented comfort, love, embrace and anything that has to do with the kindness in this world. I remembered those who were suffering and my family and I are keeping them in our prayers on a daily basis. “Remembrance” became a symbol of comfort and joy to people across America.
I found that people walked in throughout the year, ordering these figurines for families to show their continuing love, comfort and support. Therefor what started as a Christmas ornament, is now available yearout in my studio showroom and available to be shipped anywhere in the USA.
IMAGES FROM MY OCEAN SERIES
we Blanket one another