Bamba Zonke 2016 Found plastic-weave bag, custom-made tartan fabric 65 x 70 cm
The Zulu phrase ‘bamba zonke’ means ‘take / grab everything’
Hamba Mukwirikwiri 2017 Found plastic-weave bag, custom-made tartan fabric 65 x 70 cm
Who No Know Go Know 2017 Found plastic-weave bag, custom-made tartan fabric 65 x 70 cm
Plenty Sits Still Hunger is a Wanderer 2017 Found plastic-weave bag, custom-made tartan fabric 65 x 70 cm
The Past is a Foreign Country 2017 Found plastic-weave bag, custom-made tartan fabric 65 x 70 cm
We Come in Peace Seeking Gold and Slaves 2015 Found plastic-weave bag, custom-made tartan fabric
65 x 70 cm
Transnational Block 1 2014 Hand-woven ink-jet prints
64 x 90 cm
Transnational Block 2 2014 Hand-woven ink-jet prints
64 x 90 cm
Transnational Block 3 2014 Hand-woven ink-jet prints
64 x 90 cm
These cheap Chinese-made plastic-weave bags have become almost synonymous with refugees and poorer migrants the world over, much like the carpet- bags of centuries gone by. Today the movement of these people is as contentious as ever.
The bags are frequently named after the most common immigrant demographic in an area. They are colloquially dubbed things like: ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags in Nigeria, ‘Türken Koffer’ or ‘Polen Tasche’ in Germany, ‘Guyanese Samsonite’ in the Caribbean, ‘Bangladeshi Bag’ in the UK, and ‘Shangaan or Zimbabwe Bag’ in South Africa.
I have been working with these bags as a material in my art for some time. During a residency in Scotland I had Johnston’s of Elgin translate the pattern found on these bags into a high-end tartan fabric.
This series of 3 isometric cubes documents my process of working with this pattern. The isometric projection is a method for showing three-dimensional objects in technical and engineering drawings as well as in pixel art. These are building blocks or voxels for immigrants. They also bring to mind the isometric cubes of Sol LeWitt.
On two occasions during this residency, I was able to exhibit in the shop window of a gallery called Perla Mode, on Langstrasse, in a predominantly immigrant area in Zürich.
Untitled (Switzerland) 2008 30 plastic-weave bags
Space Invaders IV 2008 Swiss work permits for foreign nationals
Glenfiddich Residency in Dufftown, Scotland 2010
Having worked with the Chinese-made plastic-weave bags that have become synonymous with refugees around the world, I was interested in investigating the tartan pattern found on these bags. Furthermore I wanted to make connections between this and the famous Scottish tartan.
I commissioned Johnstons of Elgin, a well-known manufacturer of tartan in the area to help me to translate the cheap plastic-weave from the bags into a high-end tartan fabric – a refugee or immigrant tartan.
In the North East of Scotland there is a dialect called Doric, and a common expression is ‘furryboots ye fae?’ meaning ‘whereabouts are you from?’
So to personify the expression, and being a foreigner, I posed in some furry boots, a furry sporran made of seal fur, and a great kilt made from the immigrant tartan fabric in the centre of Dufftown.
I also worked on another project that involved using whisky barrels situated at Glenfiddich’s cask compound. These barrels come from the bourbon industry in America and the makers of sherry in Spain.
I painted 1020 of these barrels to create a large scale installation based on one repeat of the pattern in the bag’s weave. Using each barrel to form one stitch in the weave, I produced a massive version. Visible from an aerial perspective, this map could be seen by Google maps, and possibly by aliens not of this earth.
Johnstons of Elgin Tryptich Documentation of the translation of the bag pattern into a tartan fabric by Johnstons of Elgin. This was part of a project done during a residency at the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown, Scotland in 2010.
47 x 84 cm