High Points - the future's behind you and the past is in front of you

I spent a month walking the high points of North Uist to gain a sense of the island's topography comprising of lochans, peat bogs, and low hills. To convey its wateriness, I drew with graded dilutions of Sumi ink onto a continuous sheet of Japanese Kozo (rice paper). Despite more than twenty-five years of living there, I started to see the land differently and began to comprehend an indigenous perspective that until then had eluded me.

I explored the island terrain over several weeks, stopping to draw only when I had reached the top of each of the seven highest points of North Uist. From each position, I found that I was only able to draw the terrain I had just come through. When I looked ahead to where I was going next, I realised that I couldn't yet conceive of what to draw as I hadn't been there yet. For the Aymara people, an Andean tribe, the past is in front of them and the future lies behind. They gesture ahead of them when remembering things past, and backward when talking about the future. For our society, this is at odds with how we see the future as something we head towards, and the past as no longer visible, and therefore behind us.

As I sat drawing on the hilltops, I realised that I was always retracing where I had just come from, and that my back was turned on the next part of my journey. And so I started to see what the Aymara were getting at. They identify as paramount, the difference between what is 'known' and 'not known'. You can only see in front of you, what is known with your own eyes - the past is known, so it lies ahead of you. The future is unknown, so it lies behind you, where you haven't yet been. This sense of unfolding knowledge is held within High Points, 2013 (460 x 9100mm), and exhibited in the gallery in a scroll form, where a new section is revealed each day as a point of meditation.

 © 2020 by Laura Donkers

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