Hiri Swirl – JK.Leahy watercolour
This is a work in progress. Old man from Simbu, Papua New Guinea is a painting challenge to myself to paint larger (work) with better light and skin tone. I love the traditional dresses and particularly the headdresses from Simbu, a highlands province that is very rich in culture. I painted a young woman from Simbu a few years ago and was asked, why haven’t I painted a male from the same area. Good question. I had never thought of it. So I picked up the brush, filled the re-cycled jars with water…and, am still working on the old man from Simbu.
I found this exercise exhilarating because to get the painted black face separated from his normal brown skin and give him a background – all in dark colours was tricky. I hope you like him.
My mother and I have been planting Kaukau or sweet potato cuttings. We hope, we will soon stop buying the good kaukau at Coles for $9 per kilogramme. The cheaper – $6 per kg kaukau, is tasteless, so we took the expensive one and tried to grow it.
It was natural to have kaukau on my mind when I painted my first watercolour this year. Women is Papua New Guinea, especially in the highlands, share kaukau cuttings and this is how they transport the leaves – in bilums. Sometimes they would be given the cuttings by friends and family members. Other times they bring the cuttings from the garden home to plant near their houses.
In fact, it weren’t for my mother being in Brisbane, I wouldn’t plant kaukau because it is too much work. The soil is too dry and if rain does grow the tuber; hare, possums, rats and who knows what else, eat the leaves. Often the animals dug for the tubers as well. This time we used bamboo stakes and placed a net around the garden. My mother was determined.
I had to give in to this planting, because my mother would not give up. And now, I’m glad I went along with her. We planted two species, one was our favourite Hawaiian kaukau from Coles. Another kaukau called wan mun (one month) was given to us by my friend Marina. That term wan mun meant literally in one month we would eat the tuber. That has not happened yet. I’m not surprised because the conditions here are tough.
We are still waiting for the one month kaukau to bear and it is now three months. The Hawaiian sweet potato is white skinned and purple inside. I chopped the tips off and grew them in a drum until the shoots were strong enough to transfer to the garden. It was a long process.
Unlike the women I had painted and their gardens, the kaukau in our garden seemed to take forever to grow. I remember growing it in the humid Lae (PNG) climate. Six months gone in Brisbane, and we now start to see the kaukau leaves spread and grow rapidly. I stuck my fingers under soil to see whether there were really any tubers – and there are. I was inspired to really bring these tubers to harvest. I will post some pictures here at harvest time. I don’t know when that is.
“We have to wait for a few more months”, my mother said. This was because, she said the hot summer and then hail storms last year killed off all the leaves and then the surviving tubers re-grew new shoots. We cut the stems and planted more. Now my son has this crazy idea we could build a larger garden to grow more. (I don’t think so...I muttered under my breath).
I hope you enjoy my watercolours and I will keep you posted on the sweet potatoes.
I was looking for various textiles that have been prepared by hand and I was particularly interested in natural dyes and its processes. I found this great article in Victoria and Albert Museum called “The Fabric of India: Nature & Making”.
These are some of the short film clips and a paragraph on the dying process. If you are interested, read the full article on the museum’s website.
India’s natural dyes, especially those for blue and red, have been renowned for millennia. Blue dye was so closely associated with India that the ancient Greeks took its western name – indikos (indigo) – from the country itself. Red dyeing with fixing agents (mordants) was known to the Indus valley civilisation by about 2500 BC.
Fixing the colour is the great challenge of dyeing cloth. Indian dyers’ use of mordants was key to their expertise, which was unrivalled until the invention of western chemical dyes in the 19th century. It is this wealth and mastery of bright and lasting natural dyes that perhaps best distinguishes India’s textile heritage.
I was introduced to The Tale of the Coconut last night by Professor Craig Volker who was my English Teacher in Aiyura National High School from 1981-82 in Papua New Guinea. In this story, a Duke Of York traditional story (or legend) was taken and translated it into a modern film.
Prof Volker was involved in this project, which was made in Madina, New Ireland where he comes from. He was originally from the USA, but taught and lived most of his life in PNG and has adopted Madina as his village. This film is the first PNG children’s film produced in a Tok Ples – native tongue. There are also German, English, and Tok Pisin versions.
The film was produced and directed by Marc Thümmler.
THE TALE OF THE COCONUT // DIE LEGENDE DER KOKOSNUSS (2015)
Children’s film // Kinderfilm, 15 min, 2015
When you turn around a coconut you will find a human face on its bottom side. The children’s film THE TALE OF THE COCONUT explains why this is the case. The children of Karawara Primary School tell us an old legend from their home, the Duke of York islands in Papua New Guinea.
THE TALE OF THE COCONUT recounts how a group of men from the island leave for Pigeon Island to go hunting. After the hunt, one of the men is left behind on Pigeon Island without a raft and has to swim back home by himself. On his trip back he is attacked by a shark.
At first he cleverly distracts it with the pigeons he caught. But then he runs out of pigeons…
If you want to watch this movie, here are the links;
I am happy to send you the links to the other language versions of the film that are now available online:
English version with optional French and Spanish subs
Ramoaaina version (Tok ples) with English subs
Tok Pisin version with English subs
Tok Pisin version with German subs
My sister-in-law asked me once if I wanted to see ice cream cones.
“To eat?” I asked.
“No – just to see,” she said.
I thought that was a rather weird thing to suggest, until I actually saw what she meant.
Shampoo Ginger Cones are referred to as ice cream cones in Lae, Papua New Guinea where many other beautiful ginger plants are found. This plant species originated from Hawaii.
When it flowers, these tiny orchid-like bloom protrudes from the cones. It is hard to imagine that a tough, robust and rubbery bulb could produce such a delicate flower.
The featured collection (here) came from photos I took of my sister-in-law Esther Kauc’s garden. Both Esther and my mother have cultivated a wide range of ginger plants for the unique flowers and dense leafy coverage which provides shade and boundary for their homes.
Upon seeing the plants, I realised what Esther had meant. I didn’t have any urge to bite into them – but I was captivated by the ginger’s beauty so much so, I could not stop looking at them.
This art I made from graphite or pencil drawing has a lot of softness from smudging with water. I used an old toothbrush and my hands. I gave new life, a Papua New Guinean scenery in the background to the mother and baby, I had previously drawn. Since this part of the drawing process was taken, I added a pig pen in front of the first hut and more details to the foreground.
At this point in making the artwork, I had stopped working because ten minutes earlier, I accidentally drank a whole cup of graphite water, thinking it was my drinking water. I was thirsty, but not that thirsty. It just so happened that my older son Nathan had set the cup of my drinking water next to the cup I was washing the graphite in.I did not know what I drank; I was too absorbed in the work even when I thought the ‘water’ did taste funny. Ten minutes later, I became so thirsty again so when I reached out for the cup – I noticed the difference and went outside thinking I would throw up.
In a slight panic, my younger son Chris rang 000 here in Brisbane and then got put through to the “poison centre” and was told, “your mum will be ok”. I was told to drink plenty of water and milk.
Well mum is ok. Apart from a very dry throat and mouth for a few hours, I felt alright.
I am guessing that drinking water contaminated with medium must be a very common mistake for many people who make art. Feel free to share what you have eaten or drank that you shouldn’t have – like your art material.
Working loose on paper with watercolours. I find this work a challenge. It has only started to take shape by midnight tonight, but I still have two or three more paint layers to go.
From my friend Joel Savage’s blog.
folklore- the tree of wisdom 2011 100x120cm
Africa is a large continent influenced by different cultures, customs, traditions and ideas, which are often presented or crafted as images. The creative artists in the continent produce wonderful and amazing paintings adored by tourists worldwide.
One of the Ghanaian artists who has made a name for himself is Wisdom Kudowor. Known as a trans-cultural visionary, his work is influenced by the human form as a transformational agent and ancestral wisdom as an aesthetic tool.
Travelling out to exhibitions transformed Kudowor into knowing he could “tackle other things and create something admirable out of them.
“You are a human being first, African second. When I free myself from the trappings of being African, my work became more universal;” he said. His work is available at http://africanartagenda.tumblr.com/