The Journey Projects has moved back into the studio. Pierre Coiron of Stability Engineering has approved the weight limits for the sculpture and Jason Smith of Smithworks Iron and Design, is forging the Ogirishi Tree out of steel, while I tackle the ornamentation for the top of the tree and the benches.
As a Visual Mythologist, myth is always at the core of my work, being joined by stories that I have heard as well as the ones that I tell myself. Myths are different from folklore in that they are “stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale.” [J. Simpson & S. Roud, “Dictionary of English Folklore,” Oxford, 2000, p.254] (found at Etymology.com). The African continent has an abundance of “divine beings” and its system of divining along with tellers of sacred stories is second to none. I turned to these ancestral spirits and their stories by way of Nigeria as inspiration for the installation.
The Ogirishi Tree (newbouldia laevis) is an actual tree found in Africa. It often adorns the shrines of diviners or healers according to Dr. Patrick Iroegbu, author of Healing Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria. Iroegbu writes, “According to informants, a shrine captures and maintains the healing forces in the very location and assures the good balance between cooling down and warming up of the forces.” Trees are important in African culture and the Ogirishi tree along with other plant species are harbingers of these forces. Considering that trees filter the air that we breathe one can see why we hold them so sacred.
In the case of this installation and my role as a Visual Mythologist, I have re-imagined the Ogirishi Tree as the centerpiece of a great garden where ancestors, along with their guardian spirits reside. Children are drawn to this place because it is settled and peaceful (mostly). The children beg their parents to take them to the tree, because it seems that the adults are transformed when they enter the garden, reclaiming the child that they carry within. The library has always been a place of solace for me and the Ogirishi Tree becomes a metaphor for the library with this new work. A good story is transformative.
The tree will be adorned with hundreds of hand made and found objects such as flowers and birds, which will be strung on beaded wire. The installation will include two steel benches, whose seating is comprised of handmade ceramic tiles that will echo the color and objects of the tree top and the ornamental wrap that will engulf the sculpture. I hope the effect is magical.