I watched a really interesting Storyville documentary on BBC iplayer called Mugabe and The Democrats. It is about the leaders of two political parties in Zimbabwe trying to get people to vote honestly in a referendum about the electoral system of the government. In a speech to the voters, one of the leaders talks of how they once fought a war with guns in Zimbabwe but now they fight a war with pens. I thought that this was a powerful statement and that it could also be a really powerful visual. I have been trying out different finishes and shapes with pen lids in order to create a striking necklace for my collection. It might take me quite a lot of work to make them into something good, but I think it would be worth the hard work!
According to the artist Ralph Ziman, guns have an ‘almost mythical ‘ status in South Africa. Good or bad, the AK47 has become a massive part of the culture in cities and rural area’s of Sub-Saharan Africa. As I have mentioned before, I am interested in the contrasts of Africa and in the image of the young girl from the Mursi tribe holding a gun so casually, we see an evocative example of this which is what I am hoping to express through my work. When I visited the British Museum recently, they had an example of a fake assault rifle which was made by poor road workers as an attempt to warn off potential ambushes. The fake gun was made from wood and covered in tar. This has inspired me to make my own version of a fake gun using tar amongst other materials. I have been working on gun designs to be used as a motif throughout the collection
Contrasting textures and tones are something I have been interested in over the last few projects. The research I have done on modern Africa has led me back on that path once more. In the above images (taken from the amazing photography book of Leni Riefenstahl’s photography by Taschen) we see the beautiful painted bodies of two tribes people, I really love the contrasting skin tones and how the finishes accentuate their form. Contrasts, however, have not only been skin deep throughout my research, they have been integral to many parts of it, from tribes people against city people, traditional against modern and poverty against great wealth. Africa really is a land of contrasts and so I thought it was really important to show this through my work. I have been playing around with different surface textures on recycled rubber inner tubes. Recycling has become a big part of my practice, it is also something which is prevalent in African culture. Tribe’s people are very resourceful and will use what is available to them to create beautiful adornment.
I have been researching African street style, particularly in Lagos, Akkra and Benin City. I absolutely love the style of the people in these photo’s, it’s so bold and confident. There are clearly modern, western influences, but in each you can still see a connection to tradition, whether that be a print or some jewellery.
Whilst researching all things African in the UK I came across this little place in Dulwich. The museum is full of curiosities collected in the Victorian age. There were some interesting pieces on display in the Africa collection. I was particularly inspired by the amazing textures and by how strange and quite scary most of the objects were.
I’ve had some research ideas for my final major project floating around my head for sometime now but I finally decided to concentrate on Africa, a broad subject I realise! I am particularly interested in Sub-Saharan Africa, the contrasts of rural and city life and the changing culture. It is near impossibly not to be drawn in and inspired by the amazing adornment which has existed in their culture for hundreds of years. For me, it is really important that I find my own voice within this theme, to express an alternative viewpoint. Unfortunately I can’t afford to go do any primary research in Africa! So I’m doing as much as I can from the UK. I’m really excited about this project so far, hopefully it will lead me to something interesting!