A private moment with a mushroom in a dark room....
The demise of a bowl
I wasn’t ecstatic about the prospect of tracking my ancestry. In fact, I felt threatened. I already felt diluted by the events in my own time stream and I didn't know if I had enough courage or energy to go back even further. I’d rather have left it hidden in the mists of my personal history.
I did not experience anything beneficial from the souls that came and went before me. They were far too busy dealing with survival issues; physical and emotional, to have time to pass on some of the wisdom they might have gained. They scarcely had time for a cup of tea and a conversation. Maybe I haven't been looking for any. Needless to say, I had repeated some of the mistakes they made as a result. I have found far more value in the people I have collected and lost in cyclic repetition of my own volition. I appoint my own family members. I siphon the necessary from them and give back all I have for as long as the need exists. They are invaluable but not irreplaceable, and neither am I. I am in a time-limited race to learn all I can from anyone who has any knowledge, wisdom, and insight – self-gained or by proxy. I am at war.
My ancestors’ major concern was about preserving the physical bodies that had to get up the next morning. My concern has become one of rescuing the inner world. I am a pioneer. I am sharing my findings with my family, we try to take on the challenges together, but always, it is I, the one responsible for finding a way to get there. I hope that they aren’t blind followers and I a crazed prophet leading them to their demise. I try not to make the journey a frightening one. I sprinkle hopeful words and thoughts in their path. Maybe they won't see the fear in my eyes. Someone has to stem the terrible tide. I started with myself, within my immediate circle of relations and adopted relations. I am deconstructing the mould of my ancestral confines.
Whereas the breaking of a bowl was an act of love for some, to me it has been a process of purification. I need to break more bowls, destroy more confines and worn-out legacies before I can start reconstruction. I need to release the past and let it be.
I chose to fashion my bowls in a larger than average teacup. A cup, I think, is significant where women gather together for short periods of time amidst the chaos of daily life. This is the time women use to pass information to one another, to delve into the mysteries that confront them, to console, laugh, cajole. The cup ritual, or, before that, the bowl ceremony, is time measured in the volumes of vessels.
My bowl's creation was facilitated by its partial destruction trying to bring it into existence. I tried to dry it in the oven before making an attempt to give it some character. It burned. (This is the first time I used my oven, should probably have known better). It burned beautifully. I burnt it some more with a flame torch. Problem solved. The bowl scowled at me. Character achieved.
The bowl came into existence as fiery and tempered as what I remember my great grandmother to be. I glued photocopies of her lace all over the bowl as an offer of appeasement, to her and all the women in my life who ever had to deal with life with nothing more at hand than the delicate threads of hope and perseverance.
As a means of destruction I chose fire (naturally). I heaped lavender into the bowl (another peace offering) before soaking it in lighter fluid (personal touch, the old girls just had to deal with this). It lit easily and burnt (again) for a very long time. Watching it burn I regretted the fact that there was no full moon in the sky. The bowl became a glowing source of light in itself as the sun set behind me.
I collected the ashes, spooned it into the receiving bowl. Surprise. The hot ashes charred the new bowl. History imprinting itself on the current time stream. I calmed the hot ashes by packaging it into another laced photocopy and tying it with red string. The bowl seemed peaceful then, non-threatening.
I phoned a friend. 'How about some tea? I have something to tell you. I burnt something.'
Transferring the recipe, the hammer and the dog
(about her artwork)
I would like to say something about the strength that women possess and which they use to raise the generations after them, that strength which is almost intangible and invisible but always clearly present when measured against the past.
(The recipe = patterns, habits, inner and outer appearances etc.; the hammer = strength, to build or break; the dog = care, tenderness, protection, defence, love).
Posted 28 June 2005, www.face.org.za, author: Lizette van Staden.