MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh
MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh (Mussel Gathering | Precious Fragments) is a multi-platform art work that uses sculpture and conversation to explore contemporary Cornish cultural identity & its relationship with heritage, land, and extraction industries, including tourism and mining. Views on and experiences of contemporary Cornish cultural identity are sought, through sculpture workshops, podcasts, symposia, public talks, and exhibition.
The MESKLA conversation considers issues of authenticity, fractured culture, colonialism, the links between identity, land and labour, indigeneity, language and intangible cultural heritage. With conversations expanding to connect to broader contexts - historically, nationally and globally.
The Rubbish Sculpture & Conversation workshops that are central to MESKLA also provide a methodology for the project and its research. Sculpture takes up space, and within MESKLA it becomes a physical place holder for Cornish identity and culture. The workshop conversations encourage open dialogue and listening, creating space for participants to be able to articulate their views, and consider different perspectives and experiences.
Through talking whilst making, participants are given an opportunity to access different modes of thinking, the variety and nature of the found and reclaimed materials used in the sculpture workshops inspires and challenges, much as the eclectic nature of each of our personal histories does. It is essential that participants are able to play freely without judgement, and the pace of the conversations is unhurried, to allow time to unpick areas that anyone might find uncomfortable. All making is powerful, having permission and opportunity to be creative with no direct instruction reinforces that all voices, views and experiences are important.
In 2022 the discussions were woven into a series of podcasts, workshops, a symposium and a sculptural installation exhibited in Redruth. For 2023 MESKLA continues this deep exploration of individual relationships to Cornish identity, while also questioning more structural factors. The project follows the kravorigow ha neus/tendrils and threads laid out in the first stage of the work to look at the impact and meaning of the Cornish diaspora, the significance of links between the Celtic nations and indigenous languages networks, and the relationships with and to land through both ownership, kinship and sympathy.
In 2023 so far MESKLA has presented conversations, exhibition and workshops with The Writers’ Block, Tate St Ives and at Murdoch Day Redruth. MESKLA partnered with Carn to Cove, FEAST and cultural consultant Lara Raratanga to present the workshop symposium Welcome Words: When do welcome words become dangerous discourse? MESKLA will also take part in the pilot Flamm Cornwall programme with a new workshop series, sculptural installation and film mini project entitled Gwyrdh Glas.
Running until October 2024 - the 10 year anniversary year of Kernewek/Cornish National Minority status being recognised by British government - MESKLA will continue to question how we maintain being a modern, open, embracing culture, making space for those who feel the import of ancestry, and those who choose Kernow/Cornwall as their home and identifying culture.
A limited edition of small palm-sized pocket sculptures (above) were cast from reclaimed copper and given, on a first come first served basis, to those who contributed to the sculptural workshops, creating a physical legacy, and reminder of the shared conversations.
Independent queer arts & heritage consultancy ButCH/* will formatively evaluate the project. A pamphlet was produced with texts by Emma Underhill and BuTCH/*, and can be viewed here.
The Gwyrdh Glas work for Flamm Cornwall will host rubbish workshops to make rock sculptures informed by the carns of Kernow, which will be painted in colours that connect to participants’ identities. We will look for suitable Kernewek/Cornish language words for those colours. If a fitting word does not exist, we will create one through conversation, use of Kernewek/Cornish dictionaries and support from Kernewek speakers. The colours and their words will be collected in a sample book - Liwyow a Gernow (Colours of Cornwall) which will be added to the MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh archive, and offered to the Cornish Language Office to the ever evolving langauge of Kernow/Cornwall.
To continue the discussions of MESKLA I aim to produce a small artist’s publication of a Cornish/English phrase book of words, terms and questions collected during the podcasts and workshops.
Sovay on Carn Brea
Photo credit: John Hersey Studio
Photo credit: John Hersey Studio
I am Cornish and care passionately about Cornish identity and culture, but I want to find out what others in Cornwall think & feel about this too. I've developed MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh to specifically do this.
Cornwall is a National Minority, a Celtic nation with an indigenous language, and historic networks that reach out to sea, but how does this relate to the contemporary identity of people who live and work here now. MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh has grown out of my experiences as a Cornish person and my previous work that has spoken about contemporary Cornish experience. In the early 1990s I co-founded Pennskol Kernow the campaign for a university in Cornwall, at that time I was also working with a group of fellow young women to set-up Truro Young Women’s Centre, a project aimed at supporting women between the ages of 16 & 23 who were experiencing homelessness. Through this work I was able to take part in the first Racial Equality Council conference at Cornwall County Hall to listen and think more expansively about cultural identity around the UK and globally.
Between 2013 and 2016 I developed my project Molluscs Hunt Wizards which explored relationships between place, landscape and personal experience. More recently, 2019, I co-produced Common Place: Art, Community & Social Change with Tonia Lu of Cultivator Cornwall. This symposium took place at Murdoch House in Redruth and looked at the relationship between art and gentrification. Following on from that symposium I want to create an art project that will involve a broad range of voices from all different parts of Cornish society. I chose to locate it in Redruth because it is a town that I have a long relationship with, from childhood through to adult work life.
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Funding also gratefully received from Redruth Unlimited, further generous support to help realise the project is given by Liam Jolly of Auction House, Ellie Allen of Splann, Jowdy Davey & Lowender Peran, Falmouth University Falmouth Campus, Kresen Kernow, Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek, Gorsedh Kernow, Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, Kath Buckler, Alice Mahoney & CMR, ButCH/*, and Cornwall Council Cornish Language Office.