Dagmar de Kok draws attention to the conservation, importance, and also development of art and culture in our global society.

  • 27 March 2012 - 14 April 2012
  • Main Gallery

 Artist's Statement

Background Hide, Hair and History

‘Hide’; means skin, but also to conceal.
‘Hair’; is the surface of the skin, protects and has an aesthetic function.
‘History’; refers to the history to be told (South African folk tales) and to the story of the here and now (street life in a city like Durban).

Following experiments that resulted in the series ‘Lonely animals’ I created for an exhibition in the ‘Galerie Judy Straaten’ in Horst (the Netherlands), I decided to explore the various technical issues I encountered during that process more deeply during a work period in South Africa (please refer to the part ‘Hair’).

My work is inspired by the traditional South African folk tales and everyday life in Durban.

1. Hide 
The hidden or mysteriousness plays a major part in my work. A lot of my sculptures portray animals of which one might think that they would rather not show themselves publicly. The animal sculptures often look stilled and withdrawn, closed off from the outside world and without communication.

For the KZNSA Gallery I created a series of clay tableau’s in which animals are portrayed that form the support of the sculpture. The biggest difference with my previous work is that these animals I have created are not withdrawn, but rather seek the interaction with each other and with the viewer.

2. History
The figurines and tableaus I have created were inspired by various well-known South African folk tales of the Zulus and Xosas, for example.

In these tales, animals often play the leading part and are used to express life’s lessons in words that appeal to one’s imagination. I consider it a challenge to sculpt the tales, still unknown to me, in clay in a western and contemporary manner while adding typical elements of everyday life in South Africa / Durban.

Folk tales are universal and typically contain several hidden layers. While these tales are often told in a child-friendly manner, they almost invariably deal with treason or cruelty.  I tried to create the expressive beauty or ugliness of people and day-to-day life in an African city like Durban. The inhabitants of the city, the streetlife and everything around it will become subjects for my interpretation of the story to be created. This may have resulted in sculptures that seem funny at first glance, but that also show themes like cruelty, discrimination and other social problems when looked at more thoroughly.

3. Hair
I am interested in the influence of the skin surface on the shape of clay (not considering colour).

The structure of the surface of the skin determines the atmosphere that the sculpture evokes. The skin is also an essential element in the shape and dynamics of the sculpture.

I took portrait photographs of people with extraordinary ‘structure’ hairdos. I tried to learn more about the structure of the various braid and weave techniques and about the meaning of all these different elements. I then implemented these braid and weave techniques in clay. These experiments were be the basis of the ‘skin’ of the animal figurines that form the pedestal for the contemporary tableaus.

Why Pangolin has scales.
Ceramic and glaze
40x37x30 cm

The Pangolin has scales because once he was in competition with the honey badger, stealing honey. Pangolin by that time had a very nice thick coat. At night the honey badger covered Pangolin’s nose with honey so that the ants and bees disturbed him. Pangolin was in panic and fell in a bushfire. He lost the competition. But the creator gave him a coat with scales so that he would always be protected by his coat.

Why Bushbuck has a red coat.
Ceramic and glaze (Red and white clay)
30x30x21 cm

Mother springbuck asked a bushbuck to take care for her baby. The Bushbuck fell asleep and lion came. Lion killed the baby. He covered the bushbuck with the blood of the baby, so that everyone would think that bushbuck killed the baby.  Since that time, Bushbucks have a red coat.

When lion took a women’s shape.
Ceramic and glaze

A lion killed a women by the river. He took her clothes and dressed like her. He went to her house pretending he was the woman. At home, her sisters and mother found out that something was wrong. She was quite hairy and cows didn’t want to be milked by her. They found out it was lion who killed and ate the woman. The family decided to set the shed alight while lion was sleeping and so they did. The heart of the women jumped upon the ground and the mother put it into the calabash. The calabash increased in size and one day the woman crept out of the calabash.

Giraffe and tortoise
Ceramics and glaze
7x45x40 cm

A Giraffe caught a tortoise and wanted to eat it. The tortoise asked not to chew him but to swallow. Giraffe did, and tortoise killed Giraffe from inside, and came out alive.

Rabbit’s triumph
Ceramics and glaze
40x5045 cm

Rabbit didn’t want to dance with all the animals for water. As soon as the water came up, the rabbit started to drink. The animals didn’t agree because he didn’t dance. So they decided to put some glue on the shell of the tortoise. While drinking, rabbit's feet got stuck on tortoise. Lion decided to take rabbit by his tale and swung him around. The white skin slipped off rabbit and there lion stood with the white bit of skin and hair of rabbit. Rabbit was free.

The trap
2 sculptures, a warthog and a lion in a cage
Ceramics and glaze
25x70x20 cm

Lion was caught in warthog’s trap.  Lion told warthog that he will never disturb warthog again if he opened the cage. Warthog eventually did and lion wanted to eat warthog. Then hare came and asked what was going on. Lion told hare that warthog caught him in a cage. Hare told lion that he didn’t believe lion even fits in that cage. Lion showed by entering the cage and warthog shut him in again.

Jackal and coq
Ceramics and glaze

Jackal caught coq and wanted to eat him but coq told him to pray first. Jackal started to pray but coq advised him to pray with his eyes closed and coq flew away.

World’s reward
Ceramics glaze
80x 40x15 cm

An old dog was putted aside by a man. The dog always served him very well but ingratitude is the world’s reward. Dog decided to travel and met a bull, a ram,  a donkey, a cat, a coq and a goose. They traveled together and came to a house and saw that in a room was a table with all kinds of nice food. Robbers were having their dinner. These animals decided to climb up on each other and all together made a terrible noise. The robbers ran away. The animals satisfied themselves with the food.
The next day, one of the robbers was sent back to the house. The animals all held their position to give him a fright. The man ran away and the robbers never came back.

Why porcupine has quills
Ceramics and glaze
40x40x30 cm

Long ago, porcupine had a coat of fur. He became quite vain. Jackal told him that there was a nganga who can make him even more beautiful. Jackal told Porcupine to take his coat of before he went there so that it would not get spoiled. And Porcupine did. The way to nganga was a thorny patch. When porcupine tried to move backwards, the thorns broke off and he couldn’t pull them out. Since then, it has porcupine quills and the jackal has a very nice fur coat.

Zebra and baboon
Ceramics and glaze
35x30x15 cm

The baboon always used to disturb the zebra. One day the zebra said to baboon; ‘Thou gum eater’s child’. The baboon asked zebra to open his mouth to see what is there. Zebra opened his mouth and baboon quickly licked milk form zebra’s tongue.
Zebra was so angry that he took baboon and pressed him on a flat rock. Since that time baboon has a bald patch on his back.

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