I have been fascinated by the Rapanui Moai (Easter Island statues) since I came across them almost 40 years ago in, of all things, a comic book. I finally got to see (and touch) one up close, at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History about 10 years ago, and another housed at the British Museum two years later. Even in the noisy rooms where each sits/stands – the Smithsonian one is at an entrance, guarding some uncomfortable benches, the other dwarfs a staircase – they exude, if rock can do that, a long suffering quiet dignity, and are testament to the basic human need to artistically express their soul anyway they can. As recently shared on several social media, ‘EARTH without ART is just EH’. I could not agree more.
The stoic Moai came again to mind when I saw Edna Manley’s iconic bronze Negro Aroused, mounted in front of the sea, in Jamaica last October when I went to present a paper on the ShortKnee at the Rex Nettleford Conference at the Edna Manley College. At the National Gallery of Art around the corner, I also saw several models and made a mental note to do a ShortKnee/Moai something. Coming across the image of Negro Aroused 1935, in Art in the Caribbean, An Introduction (Walmsley and Greaves), I attempted a ShortKnee something. A pencil sketch led to a painted rough model, hand cut from a chunk of blue packing Styrofoam that had been quietly sitting on the floor since the beginning of the year….waiting its turn.
Also in this same book, I was similarly struck by the Moai-like sculpture of Le Memorial Cap 110 by Laurent Valere rising out of the ground. This memorial work facing the Caribbean Sea, speaks to the wreck of a slave ship off Martinique in 1830. The images are stunning on the artist’s site, http://www.laurentvalere.com. My reinterpretation of Valere’s work came in the shape of five Absolute Vodka bottles that I had collected…they too were waiting their turn. Absolut ShortKnee.
|Absolut ShortKnee in progress|
|Absolut ShortKnee…missing sand or beach|
The spirit of these pieces appeal to me, given that the history of the Grenada ShortKnee connects to ancestral Africa and the African slave trade, and survival afterwards in a colonial island environment. The stoic expressions of the painted wire mesh masks of ShortKnee masqueraders, alludes to this long a-suffering, and to the basic human need for art/artforms to express their soul …anyway they can. The original artist works, and my translations give me hope for a future large than life size ShortKnee sculpture installation created from the oversize volcanic basalt rocks roaming the Grenada countryside.