East Anglian Stitch Textiles
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All posts by Melinda Berkovitz

“The True Anzac”

I was born in Australia and during my school years there was shockingly little attention paid to the history, culture and appreciation of Indigenous people – the Aboriginal people of Australia.

In my textile work over the years I have researched and explored related themes on many occasions as a response to this woeful lacking in my education experiences.

When EAST chose to commemorate the 100-year end of the WWI, I once again returned to examine the Indigenous Aboriginal role as part of the ANZAC forces. It was illuminating.

On the first of January 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed. In August 1914, when Great Britain declared war on Germany, Australia, out of loyalty to Imperial Britain, immediately pledged a force of 20,000 men.  The prime minister, Andrew Fisher, said Australia would support Great Britain “to the last man alive and the last shilling”.

On the 25th April 1915, Australian troops landed on the beaches of Gallipoli, Turkey. This date later became Anzac Day.  The Anzac soldier stood for reckless valor in a good cause, enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never know defeat.

In World War 1, indigenous Australians, known as the “Black Diggers”, fought alongside their European counterparts in every significant engagement of the War: Gallipoli, Palestine and the Western Front.  For many it was a chance to see the world, earn a decent salary and be treated equally as brothers.  However, it was the hope for fair treatment on return, with a chance of citizenship, that encouraged the indigenous Australian soldier to enlist.

This did not transpire.  There are very few examples of indigenous ex-servicemen being offered land or citizenship rights.  For many the prejudices encountered before the War were even worse when they returned home.  Tragically, those that died had given their lives for a country that they had inhabited before the white settler, yet where they were not considered equals.

Fortunately, in more recent years the contribution and recognition of the brave “Black Diggers” has begun to be acknowledged and included alongside the honour and respect awarded the Anzac soldier.  In April 2012, Trooper Horace Dalton, 11th Light Horse Regiment, was reburied with full military honours and a traditional ceremony.

In my work “The True Anzac”, I  have portrayed two features of Australian culture: that of the indigenous heritage seen in the patterns and paint markings which are included, and on the periphery surrounding the central feature, that of the white Australian.

Melinda Berkovitz

Melinda

Ready to go!

EAST BLOG January 2019
By Melinda
 
Over the years as a textile tutor and mentor I have said too many times to count, “the work is not finished till the framing / presentation is dealt with”
My new motto is the work is not finished until the packaging and means of transportation are sorted!
Wow what a week. I always knew it would be a bit of a mission to be producing my work for EAST in one country and exhibiting it in another. Yes, I could have made it easy for myself and worked “small” or at least a little smaller but my creative self would not allow me to be dictated by such practical matters as how to get the work back to the UK. At least the smaller pieces can travel with me as hand luggage
And so, the normal excitement of collecting my work from the framer was slightly overshadowed by the reality that it was now that delivery to the UK had to be dealt with. After several days and many phone calls and running around (not aided by a nasty flu virus), we are ready for collection. DHL is supposedly appearing at my little house in the North of Israel on Sunday and as if by magic my work should be in Chelmsford ready for me to bring to the next EAST meeting.
A million things can still go wrong but I am at least fairly confident that the many layers of bubble, shrink plastic and this amazing water tight plastic sheeting that a cousin sourced for me, will re-define the meaning of “proper packaging.”
 
I have done my best. It will probably take as many days to unwrap all the layers, but only then will I truly give a sigh of relief and think finished! Fingers crossed please!

Ready and waiting for collection

 

Modigliani – more than just the nudes!

Modigliani – more than just the nudes!
Even though I am past counting candles on a birthday cake, I am not past “insisting” on an enjoyable day out to celebrate another year. I was sure the Modigliani exhibition would be an appropriate treat and I was not disappointed!
Modigliani is a complex character. Born in Italy to a Jewish family, he spent most of his working career in Paris, including the years of WW1. This and a prolonged childhood illness greatly influenced his art. At times during his life Modigliani’s art was scorned as unsophisticated and simplistic. Yet when you enter the first room of this exhibition, that opinion is completely overturned. The colour palette is both sensual and absorbing, the images distinctive and engaging.
Most people are familiar with the distinctive wide eyed, narrow – faced nudes that Modigliani perfected during his short turbulent lifetime, (he died aged 36).
However, like many artists, Modigliani went through various periods and changes. The work I was least expecting was a room of his hypnotic sculpture heads. Whilst living in Paris, Modigliani had an intense two-year period where he focused almost exclusively on sculpture (1911 – 1913). The figures are both beautiful and powerful, many resembling Caryatids (the classic female figure), which reputedly had a “religious” like meaning to Modigliani. African art played a huge influence on Modigliani and his fellow Paris contemporaries, such as Gaugin, Matisse and Picasso. Sculpture had been an early passion of his and it is unclear why he so abruptly abandoned this medium. Poor health is the most likely explanation plus a growing confidence in his 2D work.
By the time of his premature death, Modigliani was a confident portrait painter. However, like so many other renowned artists of the C20th he too is mostly preoccupied in capturing the “essence” of the person rather than tight representation or likeness of character. Modigliani sits securely in an extensive line of artists who have been interested in non-European sources, (e.g. African) that has inevitably extended and developed the western canon of art
At the end of this exhibition I felt privileged and grateful to have seen such an extended array of Modigliani’s work. It was both exciting and thought provoking particularly as Modigliani died so tragically. To leave such a legacy is awe inspiring and moving.
The exhibition continues until April 2nd, so you still have time to enjoy this “must see” exhibition at Tate Modern.

Melinda Berkovitz

You never know what to Expect!

January 2017
You never know what to Expect!
In recent years I have found it easier to face the “trauma” of aging by marking my birthday with an interesting arty experience. This year four generations – my mum, daughter, grandson and myself visited the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to view  Regarding Africa – Contemporary Art and Afro – Futurism.
The term Afro – futurism refers to music that grew during the 1960s among Afro – Americans as well as to the poetry, comics, cinema and art that developed later. Today it applies to a wide range of art that reflects an African version of futurism. The initial works were created during the post – colonial period: the 1960s-70s, called Africa’s “Decade of Independence”.
Today Israel has a growing community (known as Little Africa) of immigrant workers and asylum seekers from Africa. Some of the works presented in this exhibition were created by artists from within this Tel Aviv community and expressed various aspects of the Africa – Israelconnection and of the way Africa has assimilated into the Israeli imagination, fantasy and reality.
I expected that this exhibition would have political overtones but was surprised to discover the work of artist  Adjani Okpu-Egbe, born 1979 Cameroon: lives and works in London. His piece titled “The Politics of Mary Seacole” grabbed my attention not only because of the bright vivid colours- red, green and black (colours of the pan-African flag) but because of the astonishing text in the painting “Michael Gove, hands off”. It appears that Mary Seacole was born 1805 in Jamaica to a Jamaican mother and Scottish father. When the Crimean War
broke out in 1853 Mary opened an independent hotel in England to treat battlefield wounded with the secrets of herbal medicine she had learned from her mother.  
Mary was forgotten for many years but more recently she has become the object of renewed attention though some have claimed that her importance is being exaggerated in the name of political correctness. It appears that Michael Gove, as former Secretary of State for Education wanted to remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. This opened a renewed debate about the place and role of a black woman in British history.
I had never heard of Mary Seacole’s story and controversy. It was so unexpected to come across art work in Tel Aviv inspired, albeit in a negative light, by recent UKpolitics. As is so often the case when you visit a really good and interesting exhibition, I left this one with many questions, ideas and thoughts to explore.

Melinda Berkovitz