March 27, 2018

A quest through Wax - Meet Addoley Dzegede

'Happy Family' by Addoley Dzegede

It’s not every day you learn about interesting, inspiring, brave new Art and meet the artist shortly after that. And then find out you connect on so many levels. So time to introduce Addoley Dzegede to you.

Addoley’s Art has two general themes; Home, what feels like home, and hybrid identities, being two things at the same time, but also being none of these things. In both themes Addoley works with personal and more global inspired stories. Her works are little stories built up from a mixture of anecdotes, memories, facts and interviews. Appearance and prejudice are returning subjects. On one hand her work is an active search on her roots, her history and her view on this, at the same time it's about being confronted by others with questions and thoughts about where she is from, how she got her name and other personal things people feel free to ask. Or as she mentioned in our talk: Taking the history or materials of a place I lived or visited and merge it in with my personal history that I always carry with me because of the way I look.

'Everybody you know is here' Addoley Dzegede

I met Addoley online when she was making her interpretation of the Vlisco classic ‘Happy Family’ for the installation ‘Everybody you know is here’. The installation shares the story about Addoley’s mother. She wanted to find out why she moved to Ghana. Her mother had not really ventured far from Cleveland before. She had been to some other cities and states, but never out of the country. So it was a big step to take as a young woman, to join the Peace Corps and move to Ghana. In the installation an interview with her mother interacts with more symbolic objects, like books she mentions and a Wax Print. Addoley wanted to include the Vlisco classic ‘Happy Family’ because of its meaning, as an object that shares a global heritage, but also because of what the pattern on the cloth tells. (Read more about that in my previous post  ‘The chicken and the egg’).
She wanted to buy a piece, but didn’t because she thought it to be too expensive at that time. She decided to make her own interpretation of ‘Happy Family’. She wanted it to look similar to an actual Wax Print, so silkscreen printing didn’t seem right. She decided to buy materials for Batik instead and started. Looking back it seems like a ridiculous plan, because it took her 3 months to make, but I’m happy she did!
When we met last Summer, I asked her to bring her ‘Happy Family’ and it is so good!
I can’t believe she made it without any experience. And I know what I’m talking about, it is such a hard technique and I love how she used and kept using it in her work. 

Addoley with her 'Happy Family' at Jansen, a Wax Print maker & seller in Helmond (NL)

Addoley work isn’t medium specific. For every project she looks for the medium that fits best. So often it involves learning new skills. She worked before with ceramics, silkscreen printing, video and made artist books. Recently she started using the technique Batik. 
It started first, as mentioned above, as a way of replacing or copying Wax Print, since it has its origin in Javanese Batik. (Read more on this in my previous post ‘Wax Prints are based on Javanese Batiks’) She likes using Wax Prints and Batik, because these materials have the same duality, the same hybrid identity as she has herself and which is expressed through her work.

‘Happy Family’ was my own take on it, it was inspired by it, but it is not an exact copy. Creating my own patterns with their own meaning. What intrigues me in Wax Prints is that they are not necessarily named in the factory. In different regions {in West Africa} people give them different names. So I’m doing my own process of naming and creating designs.

‘obama ọlọba’ by Addoley Dzegede

A wonderful and at the same time uneasy work by Addoley is ‘obama ọlọba’. An Indigo printed cloth, similar in lay-out and style as an Nigerian Adire cloth. It shows a portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama. Their portrait is surrounded by exotic looking symbols like pineapples, leaves and elephants, but also by stars, a statue-of-liberty looking torch and eagles. In capital letters is written: “On the 2nd fl of our house w/ lrg window behind us heard the official announcement obama is the 1st black president looked at each other yelled + immediately ducked suddenly felt people are watching us + we are a target hide!”. Addoley explained to me she made the cloth to explain something that is hard to talk about. “I use Art to say things I normally can’t say, not that I couldn’t say it, but I want to say it without saying it. The Indigo cloth is a short story on how I felt when Obama was elected. It was something I thought about a lot, and it was something me and my sister talked about. Our first reaction was fear. When he won we thought something bad would happen to us. Or to him. So it's that type of thing you don’t really talk about. It was something that constantly follows me, so I end up putting in my work.”
For me this is a really confronting piece. I don’t know the fear she is talking about, but I can understand and feel it through this work. So I’m happy she using this form to express her thoughts, feelings and experiences and in the process educating me.

'The constellation of my genealogy' by Addoley Dzegede

Addoley wanted to become an artist from a young age. She studied Fine Art. But it was 3 years ago she re-started her art career with a better view on what that should be. “I now actively started pursuing options which allow me to make new work. I don’t want to feel it's pointless what I’m doing, it need to have an audience”. The aim is an actual fulltime Art practice. She is now in an artist-in-residence allowing her to work and create, teach and experience what that could be like.
I recognise this quest(ion), this struggle very well. Lately I’m struggling a lot with what to make, not that I don’t have ideas, but more the wanting to have a place, a point, to show it. The struggle or question for me is where does my Art start and were does it end. Am I an artist if I’m writing, if I’m giving a talk, walking through nature. For me personally I don’t feel a difference, because all is me.  But for the outside I feel I need to separate these things, place them in boxes, explain them, even make a choice between them. As always, the path I think I have to choose, turns into a highway and before I know it, I’m doing what I thought I should leave behind me. There isn’t that much choosing to be done as I would like there to be. It is more about creating and getting opportunities. The opportunities that allows me to make, share, and to be. I started to use my blog more and more as a tool to learn from people in my field. It allows me to ask questions I ask myself and learn how things work in different creative fields. 

Addoley is working towards an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis (USA). 
She is making her own Wax Prints that specifically reference histories of St. Louis. Some are general knowledge, others are more specific. The titles will explain what the reference is. For example, a brick pattern gets the title ’37 21’. ’37 21’ is the number of a building that used to exist across the street from the museum that was torn down a year ago. Also St. Louis has a history in producing bricks, it was a big industry. These two stories come together in this Wax Print.
Another work is a Soft Sculpture Necklace of 45 beads on the floor. The enlarged beads made from textile connected with a cord will look like buoys. They refer to the history of trade beads. These beads are often called African trade beads, but they were made in Europe and used for trading with, and trade for people. They are in the same family as Wax Prints; they are seen as African, but are made in Europe.

Last December I got a package from Addoley. In it a Soft Sculpture Bead made from the Lady Africa Wax Print fabric (see previous post The Lady Africa Wax Print). 
So a little sneak preview of what the beads will look like. I’m really looking forward seeing the final installation!

Addoley’s exhibition ‘Addoley Dzegede: Ballast’ will be held from May 11th (opening night) till August 19th at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

For more visit

March 20, 2018

Europalia - Power and other things at BOZAR

My second visit to one of the Europalia exhibitions was mixed with joy and surprise. I made a second visit to the growing installations at WIELS, looking forward to the next step in the work by Ada van Hoornebeke and Maartje Fliervoet & seeing my beans grow. I started my morning with receiving a gift bag by Europalia which I won entering a competition online. The bag included a wonderful purple umbrella and a miniature boat of which I saw the original big one later in Liège.
I just finished reading the biography of Gerret Pieter Rouffaer (1860-1928) by Frank Okker to help me with my research. His life and legacy is something I'm exploring now to find out more about Batikmaker Carolina Josephina von Franquemont (1817-1867). So when I entered the exhibition 'Power and other things' fully expecting "modern art", I was pleasantly surprised entering at 1865 with two paintings by Raden Saleh (1811-1880). It was as if I continued in the timeframe I already was fully immersed in. And not only that, with strong markers, pieces from history, that matched the storylines in my head. 
The paintings by Raden Saleh show the strength and power of the Merapi volcano. One shows an eruption at day, one at night. The Merapi is a very visible marker in the landscape on java. When I was on Java in 2016 Merapi was blowing smoke the whole time. Merapi was for me the 'I'm almost home' point. Having my temporary home in Sleman, it was every time a relief finding that Merapi hadn't erupted. Raden Saleh's paintings visualise the eruptions both beautifully and terrifyingly well.

Merapi, Eruption by night by Raden Saleh in 1865
Collection Naturalis, Leiden

Merapi Eruption by daytime by Raden Saleh in 1865
Collection Naturalis, Leiden

Next up was Jan Toorop (1858-1928). Where Raden Saleh represent the Javanese artist getting praise outside Indonesia and more specifically in the Netherlands for showing us true Javanese culture. Jan Toorop is the Javanese born-artist getting praise for being Dutch...He left an interesting body of work in which his roots clearly shine through, however he is always seen as an Dutch symbolic artist with a interest in Indonesia. It really emphasizes the Dutch view on their colonies and the people that were a direct result of these colonies. By only looking at the Dutch, it feels like there is no room for this shared heritage, this mixed history and what it meant. 
There were different wonderful works on display and a photo album showing portraits of Jan Toorop. My favourite work had to be Toorop's Batik Statement. The young artist, 22 years old, sitting in room covered with batiks, surrounded by different objects, looking at the ground as if lost in thoughts. 

Self portrait in Studio wearing Javanese dress
by Jan Toorop in 1880
Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

The photo I started this post with is of a tile tableau designed by Jan Toorop in 1900. I know this image as long as I can remember. It is always used when showing the "fusion" of East & West ("Oost & West"), Indonesia and the Netherlands. I always thought of it as such a cliche, not realising what the image actually was (See the sketch of this work in this post). As I mentioned above, I was and am fully submerged in between 1850 and 1910. Only two weeks before I was standing in front of this work, I was flipping through an catalog of an exhibition about "Nederlands-Indische kunstnijverheid" ("Dutch Indonesian crafts") organised by and at 'Oost en West'. This tile tableau was made specifically for their location, a gallery for showing Art from Indonesia. Rouffaer was one of their experts, writing about and sharing his knowledge on many subjects. Batiks from the batikworkshop of Raden Saleh's wife were on display in the gallery. Oost en West was a place with a group of people with whom, if it was today, I would probably hangout there all the time.

'Papuan man' by Emiria Sunassa in 1951
Collection Nasirun, Indonesia

Next to this visit back in time, there were certainly artworks from a nearer past that were just as inspiring. The fast sketched drawings by Emiria Sunassa of Papuan men stepping out of the jungle, showing there hunt trophies. The style is simple and so fresh.

The miniature paintings by Japanese artist Makoto Murata are small copies of 153 war paintings,  sensōga , in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. Displaying the sensōga let to different conflicts and the museum has an ongoing issue with ownership of the paintings. Murata's tiny copies allows people to view the entire collection and look back at the history of the Asia-Pacific War (1913-1941).

The exhibition had also two interesting works on fabric with very different stories. The handkerchief with portraits on them hang in a staircase leading down to an installation. The portraits are of women who due to their commitment to the Indonesian Communist Party were put in concentration camps in 1965. I think it is a beautiful and strong statement to portray this women on something that can catch sadness. 
The second story on fabric was in a temporary set-up between the two exhibitions, 'Ancestors & Rituals' and 'Power and other things' at BOZAR. The work by Alexis Gautier was made around the creation of a new island. This magic island that appeared over night, aka was made by the artist, was a way of seeing how people live, interact and own islands. Part of the exhibition was 'Princess's Weave'. The story goes that in 1505 Queen of the small Buton island in Sulawesi decided to cut her striped dress into small squares, creating a currency for her island! For the five following centuries the bank notes were exclusively woven by the princesses. This amazing story is true and how did I never heard of it before. Apparently 12 pieces of this woven money survived and are being kept in Museum Nasional in Jakarta. It sounds like to most amazing money in the world!

Work by Octora Chan based on Colonial Balinese portraits

For more on this exhibition read the article on DutchCulture 'The role of art in Indonesia'

For more on Europalia visit or keep checking my blog because more posts are coming up soon!

March 6, 2018

Europalia - Ancestors & Rituals at BOZAR

When I saw this detail in a palepai at the Europalia exhibition 'Ancestors & Rituals' I was imagining how it felt; standing on ship, with the wind in your hair, moving forward to the unknown with such confidence. I always love discovering these stories in textiles or on other objects, and this exhibition was full of stories. 
I was in October last year in Brussel to participate in a work by Ada van Hoornebeke and Maartje Fliervoet in collaboration with Manoeuvre. The Batik-workshop-installation at WIELS was an interesting growing sculpture on which I will write more in an upcoming post. Before I headed to WIELS, I made my way to BOZAR. Why is ever artspace name in Brussel written with capital letters? Anyway, as synchronicity makes my path, it was no coincidence I could combine my visit. When Art festival Europalia announced that their focus country would be Indonesia, I knew I had to see as much as possible. Unfortunately their music, dance, performance program I missed entirely, their exhibition program I did manage to see, entirely, amazingly! So time for some revisits!

Palepai, ceremonial cloth
acquired in 1946
Lampung, Sumatra

First exhibition I went to was the 'Ancestors & Rituals' at BOZAR. It was just opened, so I didn't know what to expect. The exhibition started with objects from Dong Son Culture. Objects from 500 AD made to honour ancestors and to use in rituals to ask them for guidance. 
At the entrance was a well rounded figure of a woman with on her back a child. The statue stood once in Pagaralam (South Sumatra). So much strength came from it. It made me sad she was removed from her location, yet happy the statue survived. Its always a double feeling with these kinds of objects.

Another object from the same culture, a bronze vessel, was decorated with a familiar looking motif; Parang Rusak. This motif is nowadays the most popular pattern in Batik on Java. Originally Parang Rusak is from Yogyakarta and was a pattern used only by the royal family. The design on the bronze vessel from 200 AD is thought to be the original inspiration for Parang Rusak.

Pillar of Sun god Surya
from 500 AD
Sawu, East Nusa Tenggara

With this discovery I started looking differently at the objects in the exhibition. There were no actual Batiks on display, but I started finding Batik motifs and other interesting patterns on sculptures, a kris and jewellery. In one room stood three buddha like statues. I recognised some from my visit to Museum Nasional in Jakarta and after I quickly made a little bow before it, I took a closer look to examine the patterns on the fabrics carved out of stone. The statues from the 14th century are from the Majapahit dynasty, a kingdom on Java ruled from 1293 till 1500. They look like gods, Shiva and Parwati, but are actually the kings and queens depicted as gods. The crossed legs are from Prajñaparamita, a goddess for wisdom and perfection. The motif on her knees look like a type of nitik, which is considered nowadays as one of the most difficult types of Batiks to make. Nitik is made using a canting, koper pen, with a square spout. When I first heard about it, I thought it wasn't possible to actually make square dots with a canting, but I saw it with my own eyes. A perfect Batik motif for a perfectionistic goddess.

Kris from Surakarta (Solo), Java

Detail of Bark cloth with a Buffelo motif
Find the horns and the head 
From South Sulawesi

The last object I want to write more about is this fellow on a chair with a nice top-hat. I'm always fascinated by ancestor objects, especially and mainly because they tell so much about the person it is made for. They can be kind hearted, mean looking or just intelligent, bright or very very sad. This one I found so wonderful. Normally these types of statues have a squatting pose. A typical way of sitting without sitting if you are flexible enough. This statue from the Moluccas is made before 1888 for a person who was probably Christian. If the person was European the information didn't say, but the hat and the chair surely suggest he was. I just love that although this person for who the statue is made didn't believe in the ancestor worshipping, they made it anyway, just in case. And added his top hat he probably wore on special occasions and gave him a chair so he didn't need to try to sit in a squatting pose.

Majapahit-ancestor statue with two deer heads, a tree of life 
and apparently the rainbow broke off...

Pectoral disc, Belak
Made from gold, 19th century
From Timor

Detail of cloth decorated with beads and shells
From Sumba

For more on Europalia visit or keep checking my blog because more posts are coming up soon!