Ilma Savari, Hijiomene Ahihe - Ancestors Mirror, 2019, painted and appliquéd barkcloth, 61 x 130 cm
For over thirty years the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery has been championing non-Western art. Rebecca has traveled across the globe - from the deserts of Central Australia to the forests of Tribal India, from the Mayan Highlands of Mesoamerica to the remote communities of the Kalahari - in search of the unknown, the uncommon, the extraordinary. In 2019, she traveled to the remote villages of the Ömie people in south-eastern Papua New Guinea, becoming one of only a scant handful of white people to make this arduous week-long trek.
She was fascinated by the Ömie peoples' traditional artistic practice, the making and decorating of bark cloth, or tapa. And amongst the various practitioners - almost exclusively women - she was struck by the work of Ilma Savari. Although working within an ancient tradition, Savari's clarity of design and boldness of vision were compelling and individual.
Eye of the Sun, Ilma Savari's exhibition now on at the gallery, is the first solo-show by a woman artist from Papua New Guinea.
Ilma Savari, Umberi - Legendary Snake Name, 2019, painted and appliquéd barkcloth, 112 x 149 cm
Ilma Savari’s images are executed on sheets of barkcloth made from the inner bark of the paper-mulberry and fig trees that grow on the volcanic slopes of Mount Lamington. The making process is one governed by traditional rules, spiritual considerations and other symbolic practices.
The beaten-bark tapa cloths are then painted with pigments made variously from pounded and chewed leaves, roots, volcanic ash and fruit pulp. Additional bark-cloth elements are appliquéd onto the sheet with grass thread and a needle made from a sharpened bat-wing bone.
Ilma Savari, Bojo e Sore, 2020, painted and appliquéd barkcloth, 70 x 200 cm
Installation view of Eye of the Sun at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery
Eye of the Sun will be on display until 30 November at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, 2a Conway Street, London, W1T 6BA.