Inspired by the cultural heritage of the 8 tribes who live in The Lower Omo River in SW Ethiopia and whose way of life is under threat from river damming and plantations, I began the design of the first head. I am not sure at this stage whether it will be a stand alone piece, or part of a set. I thought about the shape I wanted to achieve and knew that I wanted the head to have its tongue protuding so I could place a dead bee on it, but if this was to be a single piece, rather than a few heads displayed together, I wanted there to be more. I designed some drawers onto the back of the head that I thought could contain other objects (yet to be decided but I feel that a forget-me-not would be appropriate because of the connotations of its name, but it is also a very personally important flower to me). I felt that possibly I could create some of these ‘hidden’objects out of ceramics. The idea of the drawers appeals to me as it would make the piece more interactive, which has always been an important aspect to me, as I feel the viewer is provided with a fuller, all round experience and is pulled in to the piece more effectively.
However, as I was drawing these designs, I could not help but feel weighed down by the responsibility of displaying a ceramic head that was based on an Indigenous tribe. I worried about possible negative connotations and repercussions, should I fail to adequately and sensitively convey the hardships they have endured and if my work would be misinterpreted and viewed as inappropriate. Many of these peoples have lost their land,traditions and livelihoods from business arrangements made between their own Government and western countries. They are disenfranchised and powerless to stop these business agreements, which strip them of their land and a way of life they have followed for centuries. I feel that at this stage, maybe this subject is too important and sensitive for me to be able to capture and represent with enough care. Sadly I feel that I may need to go back to the drawing board. But my interest in the experiences of indigenous peoples and their lifestyles will pull me back and one day when I have sufficient skills, I will document their plight, through my art work.
Joseph Beuys believed that artists must act as modern day shamans, healing society and showing the right path. I wish to encourage people into a more ecological way of living, for the good of our planet and for our own survival.