When I first revisited printmaking, after many moons, I was introduced to combining printing with book making, a welcome adventure for me. Very often, after a printing session, I’m left with strips of paper. It’s not a cheap item, so I tend to hang onto off-cuts for small prints or bookmarks. With a love for books, and every piece of artwork telling a story – however obtuse to the viewer – I decided a concertina book was there for the making.
Many of us belong to our own ‘tribes’, folk we have an affinity with – similar interests, values, beliefs – and we all belong to the human tribe. Most of us also relate to others of our gender. I know I do. We experience on some level and to some degree, large or small, the trials, tribulations, and heartaches of those within our tribe, even from a distance of decades or centuries. There is a common thread that weaves its way through our psyches, that can be empathy or perhaps even ancestral memory.
Years ago, while doing family history research and checking census forms for a particular family, I was saddened, and in this politically correct society, uncomfortable, to read a child as listed as an imbecile. I followed that child’s life through the records. The terms varied (moron, idiot), but throughout her life she was always labelled as different from her siblings. I could only try to imagine what her life was like. She was fortunate to live most of her life with family, residing with a sister after their parents died, but ended up in an asylum. In those days, the work houses and asylums were places for not only the mentally or physically challenged, but also the depositing place for those who had nowhere else to go.
Researching female ancestors – girls who worked on the gold fields alongside male family members, servants working for the more well-to-do, young women who braved the unknown in the search of a better life – I felt the tug of the common thread of femaleness. I can’t possibly know how Truganini felt, watching her tribe disappear, though I have lost loved ones, often through tragic circumstances. Nor can I truly feel her fear of having her body put in a museum, as a curiosity, after her death, which came to pass. But, whether stranger or family, our gender binds us.