Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Conversations with Earth - Evee Erb

I chose to respond to the story of the indigenous Kichwa people of Ecuador. In 1993, an Ecuadorian contractor for a carbon offset foundation negotiated a 350 acre pine plantation to be constructed in Mojandita, a Kichwan community. The community would work together on the plantation, and would benefit from the sales of mature pines. However, the contractor failed to provide adequate training for such rigorous, high-elevation work, and also required the Kichwa to pay for expensive tools and supplies, and paid the Kichwa only half of the agreed upon amount. After ten years, there were hardly any pines that had reached maturity, so there were none for the Kichwa to sell and profit from. The Kichwa are very close to nature (which they refer to as "Pachamama"), and perform regular rituals to honor the earth. In the Summer of 2003, a candle from such a ritual had caused a fire, which spread through over half of the plantation. The contractor insisted that the Mojandita residents pay for the damages, however they backed down once the Kichwa threatened to move against the company. Today, local vegetation is regrowing throughout the previously charred plantation site. However, there are many other carbon offset plantations sprouting up across the globe, presenting the opportunity for the exploitation of indigenous peoples and their land.

The Kichwa are subculture of the larger South American Quechua ethnic group , who specifically live in Ecuador (their dialect is also referred to as Kichwa, and is a Quechuan language spoken only by approximately 2.5 million people). Similarly to the Kichwa, other Quechua groups have been facing a struggle for land rights and ethnic discrimination for centuries. As with all Quechuan ethnic groups, handicrafts play an important role in their culture (particularly weaving and pottery). As such, I am creating a ceramic piece for this assignment.

My sketch acts as a sort of rough blue print... I am going to use several different techniques to build up the portrait using many different layers of slip, colorant oxides, and glazes. There is a portrait of a Kichwa woman, and the negative space of her hair will fade into the background and become the barren, charred plantation landscape. In the center will be my drawing, which will be on a clay slab that is supported upright from the back (similar to a picture frame). On the sides of the piece are two thrown and altered forms that will be attached, serving as little planters in which sprouts will grow, framing the sides of the piece. In this way, the piece will have three-dimensional elements, but will still be seen from a visual plane rather than as a sculpture. I have researched different methods of weaving with pine needles, and may incorporate this into my design as well...

The process of the Mojandita landscape being burned relates to this piece as well, due to the face that as ceramic pieces are fired, certain chemicals and natural compounds burn away from the clay and surface treatments. As such, it can be difficult to predict exactly how the piece will turn out, though I have started compiling different glaze recipes that I want to use that fit into my color palette, which will consist mainly of greens, ochre, brown, and soft red tones. Though much South American pottery is made using an iron-bearing red earthenware clay, I'm going to use a lighter stoneware clay body in the hope of being able to get more precise color results while I'm testing the glazes.

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