” Shamanka” is textile piece commissioned for the 2010 GAIA conference, held on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
The shaman has an important role in many cultures through being able to travel to the spirit world to bring back messages and understanding. Often this task is undertaken in a period of isolation and for some shamans through drug induced trance. Others enter trance through drumming, dancing or chant. Meditation, visualisation or a dreaming can also provide insights as one undertakes a deep inward journey entering the vast and limitless void of cosmic consiousness .
At times the ecstasy and intensity of the shaman might seem like crazy rantings. However, the shaman/ka knows the boundaries between the worlds and has the ability to translate the symbology.
I have long wondered about the meaning and connection we have to symbols. At times when I have included symbols in my work it has been intuitive. However, over the past few years, insight and awareness has been gained and with it amazement at how these symbols have been energized through time and belief.
Shamanka is surrounded by birds who for eons have been thought to carry messages from the gods ( or is it from our own souls?). Some of the birds depicted on this handstamped, batik cloth themselves are symbols of diffent aspects of ancient wisdoms and myth, such as the owl and the eagle.
As the Shamanka emerges from the vastness of the cosmos below her are lizards which I have used to signify transformation, regeneration, and renewal. According to J.C.Cooper, in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, lizards also represented divine wisdom. (Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols.Thames and Hudson,London.1998).
Part of the Shamanic journey often involves dismemberment and renewal. When I finished and handed over the Shamanka I felt as if I had been turned inside out. To create and complete her necessitated isolation and becoming very introspective. She taught me to carry on in spite of distractions, to pull apart and to reconnect, to restructure and to refigure. She had a presence of power, dignity and wisdom. She is strong. She calls on us to discover our own strength and to honour that which we hold within and too often discount and disregard.
In creating the Shamanka a number of different techniques were used such as applique, quilting, freeform knitting, beading and some handspun strands of wool in her hair. These handcrafts were necessary for survival and link back to very early times. By incorporating these techniques I tried to honour the ordinary world as well as the extraordinary, connecting to women’s history and weaving the story threads of our being. As well I wanted to indicate the strong “earthiness” of the Shamanka whose role as an intermediary is not only as a spiritual teacher, interpreter and healer. Shamanka is closely connected to nature and reminds us that it is vital to respect and care for Mother Earth.