January 31, 2021

How Do We Form Our Identity Through The Places We Live?

Yolanda McKean

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Charcoal, Paper, InkEbba's River, 2021

My work over the years has been autobiographical, considering relationships, ecology and spirituality.

This form of collage is unusual for me, but it was a way for me to explore the idea of identity and nationality which is an important issue for today. The collage was inspired by David Rudkins film and play ‘Penda’s Fen’, a coming of age story set in Malvern.

Exploring the conflicting forces of past and present which include sexuality, authority, tradition and ancient pagan past. I was also at that time visiting my family in my childhood landscape of the Romney Marsh.

I began to look up the place names of the hills I lived on which used to be islands in the area, Ebba’s River, the Oxen Isle, these names were so evocative to me, the connection between the non-human world and its inhabitants fundamental.

Still the pagan alter remains where those who lived here before sacrificed oxen to their pre-Christian gods. There is a line in the film at its ultimatum, ‘I am nothing pure. My race is mixed. My sex is mixed. I am woman and man. Light with darkness. Mixed. Mixed. I nothing special. Nothing pure. I am mud and flame!’.