This whole project came about because my husband, Bill, is part of a team from St Andrews University who regularly fly out to Blantyre, in Malawi as part of the Scottish Government’s partnership scheme to support Malawi’s development.
Bill is also our local cub leader. When he first visited Malawi he created a link between his cub pack and a cub pack in Blantyre, Malawi.
Two years ago, Bill’s work received another three years of funding, and as an artist I thought it would be a wonderful idea to run an art project between the two scout groups. The project has grown out of these humble beginnings.
I had recently taught an etching workshop for children at the local primary school, and felt that the cubs in both countries would be excited by an etched project between the two packs.
I decided that I wanted to somehow promote the partnership between the two countries, and this led to me to the idea of etching cultural motifs onto photos from the other country: I would photograph my favourite things in each country, and participants could etch their favourite cultural motifs of their country onto the pictures from the other country.
By superimposing the two cultures I would highlight the strong relationship between our two countries and the common bond of human experience, despite the cultural and geographic divide.
I started telling people about my idea and found out that Auchtermuchty had various other connections with Malawi: the primary school is twinned with a school a short way out of Blantyre, and the parish church has strong links with a church and community also just outside Blantyre. These connections made me realise that the project could encompass the whole community so I contacted other groups and organisations.
The current organisations taking part in Auchtermuchty:
Regretfully, Auchtermuchty Parish Church had to withdraw due to capacity problems.
And in Blantyre:
I also decided to produce my own artwork on a similar theme to the community participants.
My artwork comes from the perspective of an outsider to both cultures, because even though I’ve lived in Scotland for over 20 years, I wasn’t born here, and there will always be aspects of Scottish culture that I view as an outsider.
I’d like to thank everyone I have spoken to who has given me help, advice, and ideas for the project; the community side has really felt like it has been communally developed. I’d like to especially thank Alison Watson who asked why I wasn’t filming the project. A simple question that scared me senseless for a little while and then sent me down completely different paths to what I’d imagined. The explorer scouts will be learning filmmaking in the spring, and will then film the entire project for me, and their film will be a strong feature of the exhibition.
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