Frist Visit to Aaina Women’s Group 23/11/2011

Myself and Amber Khokhar, (Freelance Artist), visited Ainna Women’s Centre on the morning of the 23rd November to meet project participants and to inform them about what they will be doing over the next twelve months.

This was a lively session in which the groups learnt about the Wallace Collection and its impressive range of Dutch Masterpieces, the history of the Dutch Republic, the Dutch Golden Age and the Dutch East India Company.

Participants also leant about the creative workshops they will be participating in throughout the project and the type of artwork they will make. Whilst informing the groups about the creative workshops myself and Amber explained that artwork will be based upon the following five themes;

‘Spice’- For centuries, Europeans considered spices the equal of gold. They used the valuable seasonings that came from far away Eastern Lands to relieve the symptoms of rheumatism, gout and colic. They added nutmeg to flavour food and drink, and used cloves to preserve food. Cloves were also said to cure earache and pepper to suppress colds. Nutmeg pomanders were thought to cure plague and a spoonful before bedtime to increase sexual desire. Women kept spices in lockets around their necks to freshen their breath. These Spices came from Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka. At the beginning of the Seventeenth Century the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was created which grew to be one of the world’s most powerful trading monopolies and excelled in the trading of spices. The VOC eclipsed all of its rivals in the Asia trade. Between 1602 and 1796 the VOC sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade on 4,785 ships, and netted for their efforts more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods. Consequently the Dutch Republic grew into a very wealthy and prosperous nation. Here is a map of the VOC’s trading routes and the items they transported from one country to another;

‘Treasures’  This themes was inspired by all the exotic and beautiful  treasures that the Dutch East India Company brought to the Dutch Republic. We hope that project participants will be able to respond to this theme by thinking about their own personal treasures.  It is also inspired by Jan Jansz de Heem’s Still life with a Monkey

This ambitious composition is one of the finest works attributed to Jan Jansz. de Heem.  The profusion of fruit, vegetables, crustacea, glass, silver, and porcelain affords the artist the opportunity to display his considerable imitative skill. On a deeper level the subject may be seen as a celebration of the fruits of civilisation, trade, peace and prosperity with the inclusion of imported objects such as the Chinese porcelain bowls. In contrast, the viewer is reminded of the transitory nature of human life and the dangers of over-indulgence in material excess by the inclusion of the broken column and classical frieze.

‘Journeys’ – This theme was inspired by the long and adventures journeys that the Dutch East India Journey embarked on to reach the treasures of the East. We hope that the theme will inspire project participants to consider the  many journeys that they have made throughout their lives. This theme is also inspired by the many beautiful painting’s we have in the Wallace Collection of Dutch ships sailing in and out of harbour;

‘Idenity’ – This theme was inspired by the creation of the Dutch Republic in 1588 and the new national identity it was asserting for itself. (Until the 16th century, the Low Countries – roughly now corresponding to Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – consisted of a number of duchies, counties and bishoprics, most of which were under the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1568 the Netherlands, led by William I of Orange, revolted against the King of Spain because of high taxes and persecution of Protestants by the government. This was the start of the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain. In 1588 the Ditch provinces became a republic. The Union of Utrecht is regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, which was not recognized by the Spanish Empire until the Twelve Years’ Truce in 1609. The provinces of the republic were, in official feudal order: the duchy of Guelders (Gelre in Dutch), the counties of Holland and Zeeland, the former bishopric of Utrecht, the lordship of Overijssel, and the free provinces of Friesland and Groningen). We hope that this theme will encourage project participants to contemplate their identity and the ways in which they define and express themselves.

Inside/ Out- This theme was inspired by the numerous domestic scenes depicted in the Wallace Collection’s Dutch Masterpieces. Many of these domestic scenes depict the ideal image of a women in the seventeenth century Dutch Republic which was a modest women who kept charge of a tidy and organised household. However, within many of  these paintings there are often windows and pictures of maps which hint at the idea of going beyond the home into the wider world. These scenes make a lovely juxtaposition to all of the beautiful Dutch land and seascapes we have in the Wallace Collection. We hope that this theme will motivate project participants to explore their own homes and local environments for inspiration to craft creative artwork.

After initial discussions, we explained that throughout the project participants will collect lots of images and photographs that relate to these five themes which can be incorporated into beautiful collages. The group was then set the task of taking some photographs at home relating to these themes and here are some of the images they came up with;


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