Date of this Version
Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,
The Symposium’s theme linking past actions to future creations implies a linear and sequential correspondence between them - one precedes the other yet offers possibilities to be realized at some future point in time. A different model for time sequencing where past, present and future are conceptually more integrated is the New Zealand Maori view of ancestral presence manifest in the past, but also present in the future. To paraphrase a Maori proverb, “the ancestors stand behind a person, but also stand ahead.” Thus, within this non-European concept of time, the ancestors are simultaneously regarded as both progenitors and future descendants within a time frame conceived as a spiral, which endlessly loops back on itself. With a backdrop of time as a spiraling continuum, this presentation explores the cross-fertilization between Maori weaving heritage and contemporary art making in the two-dimensional pigmented ink drawings of Maori artist, John Bevan Ford, in terms of symbolic, metaphoric and visually mythical language. The inspiration for Ford’s choice of Maori cloaks as the vehicle to graphically represent ancestral lineage as well as sacred, collective and personal history melds ancient mythological themes and cultural attitudes with current innovative, exploratory and creative impulses. Ford’s depiction of sacred cloaks as metaphors for earth and sky aligns with Maori beliefs that cloaks made from plant fiber and feathers embody the gifts of the gods of forest, land and sky. Technically, each object is labor-intensive. Ford’s drawings are composed of meticulous all-over markings of very small lines replicating the texture of fiber, which corresponds to the painstaking process of weaving the body of a cloak through accretion line by line. Both genres share the sacred and genealogical environment of Maori spiritual and aesthetic practices extended to the realm of lived experience with all the variables and contradictions.