Helena Hugo - Land IV

Medium: Sugarcane cutter clothing, thread, pangas (slashing knives)

Recent uncertainties surrounding land expropriation in South Africa and disputes about original ownership have given birth to the “Land” series.

The artworks are made from previously owned sugarcane cutters’ clothing and are supported by their “pangas” (slashing knives).

Layers of material resemble many layers of soil strata, typically revealed during archaeological excavations and also translate to layers of meaning and memory. 

Parts of a “glow in the dark” skeleton t-shirt, gives us the impression of long forgotten human remains, perhaps centuries old, or even a glimpse of a mass grave - consequential of genocidal conflict. Pangas are traditionally used in African farming, but can also become dangerous weapons of war and destruction.

The Land series is a strong reminder of our human fragility and the precarious, potentially explosive situations which can arise from land disputes, segregation, and territorialism. They are also a reminder of the very real, but less thought of, destructive impact humans can have on ecology by claiming excessive land and resources for themselves. Horizontal lines and segments of colour resembles barriers, borders, and fences, so often detrimental to animal migration. But it can also resemble rivers, roads, and footpaths – means to communicate and build connections between separate groups or integration and harmony between species.

Using previously owned sugarcane cutters’ clothing, “Shiny artefact of the past – woman and man”, become a more direct, true and tangible representation of the individual to whom the clothing once belonged, perhaps more so than would a realistic portrait of the same person.

Clothing, like humanity, are fragile and withers away over time. It is also extremely personal, having belonged to someone and having shared, for a time, that person's body movement, work, and life.

These works investigate transient human nature and the cycle of birth, life, death, and resurrection.

A fitting parallel can be drawn between our human condition and a withering piece of clothing, here destroyed even further by cutting it to pieces and then reassembling it to create a newborn object with new meaning.

Inspired by well preserved bodies found at ancient burial sites covered by layers of clothing or burial shrouds they explore themes such as the layering of cloth in ancient interments and the ability of cloth to cover, protect, conceal and separate. Each head can be a representation of a person, almost like being an artifact of that persons' life. “Royal personage” was made from an antique dress, shells, wool, and rust (a reminder of decomposition and decay) and the weaving pattern on the head resembles the weaving pattern used in old Egypt to cover mummies of animal and human origin.

  • Helena Hugo - Land IV
  • The Threads That Bind Us
  • Various Fibre
  • 130 x 140 cm
  • ZAR 95,400.00 (incl VAT)