Beyond Borders explores the commonality of our human relationship with place, and our emotional attachment to the objects with which we surround ourselves. No matter our country of birth, our ethnicity, the colour of our skin, our religious affiliations, our height, age, weight or gender, our memories, unique to each of us, bind us to our past and influence our future.
Some memories, buried so very deep in our psyches you would imagine them beyond recall, can be jolted suddenly, and sometimes traumatically, to the present by a mere glimpse of what may appear to others as a mundane object of no consequence.
This recognition of the emotional attachment to objects felt by each other as individuals is something we can all relate to. We understand the way in which the sight or touch of items which appear of no significance to others can cause memories of people and places to come flooding back, and when in the media, we witness victims of natural disasters returning to the place their homes once stood, we can empathise with the survivors as we see them searching desperately for something, anything, that binds them to that which they have so suddenly lost.
I remember as a child watching countless old American westerns where wagon trains wended their way through ever harsher landscapes, lightening their loads as they went by shedding much loved items of furniture. The grief this caused the settlers was apparent as many had carefully carried these items with them from their country of origin. Their grief was not just for the discarded furniture, but for the memories of home and family that were embedded by association.
Frequently these associations are strongest with items used on a daily basis. In my family, this seems to have largely focused on ceramics with members of the various generations all laying claim to their favourite cup, plate, bowl or teapot, and Heaven help anyone who misappropriated the favourite! From my observation of friends, this is not unique to my family but seems a universal trait. The Kitchen Series pays homage to those favourite pieces we all adore.
A potter friend of mine gave her daughter a teapot she had made. Later, after her daughter’s home was destroyed in Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires they were searching through the rubble and discovered the teapot, a little warped but still intact. On the other side of the world, another disaster, this time man-made, saw Hakima’s kitchen in Badula Qulp destroyed by missile fire, again, her ceramics survived. This resilience of the ceramic medium is further celebrated in the Dialogue of Bottles, where the spirit of clay, formed by human hands is further strengthened by fire and able to withstand the ravages of time and civilization.
The earliest clay bowls discovered by archaeologists were those made in the New Stone Age. Very similar in shape as those we use today their purpose was the same ... a receptacle for food. This intrinsic linking of ceramics with food is universal. Meal times, when family and friends come together to share sustenance and discuss the day’s happenings is shared by all cultures no matter how meagre or celebratory the offerings. The work, One hundred bowls to feed one hundred souls, pays homage to the importance of the humble bowl in our lives. Each bowl is of a size to hold the daily (uncooked) food ration of 400gms of rice or cornmeal, and 60gms of lentils, which, along with 50gms oil and 5gms salt contains enough calories to sustain human life and is what those in many refugee camps subsist on (ref U.N. Refugee Agency).
I watch the news, I read the newspapers, I read my email, all of which at times seems swamped with the utter misery of the many millions of displaced people in our world today, and I simply cannot comprehend what it would be like to be one of them........... To leave home in the morning and find you are never able to go back, to possess nothing other than what you have on. Seeking Gondwana references all of those who have travelled by sea seeking a new start and sanctuary in this land we share.
J.K. Mulcahy 2011