I have been re-reading the book ‘In Praise of Shadows’ that was first introduced to me at the Textural Space conference by Lesley Millar back in 2001. This quote from the Preface by Charles Moore has helped to reinforce some of my feelings about our desire to belong, something that was reinforced time and again in the conversations i had during the Stories of Cloth project.
“One of the basic human requirements is the need to dwell,
and one of the central human acts is the act of inhabiting,
of connecting ourselves, however temporarily, with a place
on the planet which belongs to us and to which we belong.”
Another interesting book that looks into the theme of belonging is ‘Eternal Echoes – exploring our hunger to belong’ by John O’Donohue.
“The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature.”
“Our hunger to belong is the longing to bridge the gulf that exists between isolation and intimacy. Distance awakens longing; closeness is belonging. Everyone longs for intimacy and dreams of a nest of belonging in which one is embraced, seen and loved. Something within each of us cries out for belonging.”
“Although each soul is individual and unique, by its very nature the soul hungers for relationship. …….It is your soul that longs to belong
…….your soul is also ancient and eternal.”
“Belonging does not merely shelter you from the sense of being separate and different; its more profound intention is the awakening of the Great Belonging which embraces everything.”
“We are in a huge crisis of belonging. When the outer cultural shelters are in ruins, we need to explore and reawaken the depths of belonging in the human mind and soul that will lead us once again to unexpected possibilities of community and friendship.”
“….an exploration of the creative tension between longing and belonging.”
One way of expressing belonging is through image, story and nostalgia, another is more philosophical and takes us on a personal journey of reflection. The word belonging is made up of two words, being and longing. Todays Postmodern culture tends to define identity in terms of ownership, possessions, status etc, but true belonging is not about ownership; it comes from within. Religion suggests that the exclusion from belonging is the most terrifying thing; for example hell is viewed by some as ultimately separation from God whereas though in all religions peace, beauty and fulfilment, are to be found in places of total belonging: heaven or nirvana etc.
I have been reflecting on my personal interests,areas that I am keen to study more and noticed that since this project started I have become particularly fascinated in traditions; practical and social skills passed on through rituals and narratives, especially things to do with the everyday. All these things are signifiers of a sense of belonging; they help to create collective identities, often identities that share universal qualities of expression that link us by our humanity.
My chosen artistic medium of textiles underlines this idea as cloth has a universal language; no words are needed to make a depth of meaning clear, but the skill, personal quality and ritual meanings behind cloth are common to all humanity. My past experience of working with women from various cultures has taught me that cloth is uniting; it sits in the liminal space between knowing and unknowing. It combines skill, tradition, story, cultural identity and personal expression, but is often made for a purpose, a utilitarian item and not just for display. Cloth has very feminine undertones to it and therefore means that I can identify with that; my connection in the making is with women from all cultures and all histories, the intimate touch is passed on through the use of fabrics; the sensory engagement and intimacy that we all feel.