Photographing the first day’s work of the ‘Saltcircles’ during a misty sunset. (photograph by Steffen Holzkamp)
Art can be thought-provoking, inspiring and make the world more beautiful. But can it do more?
Part of my being is that I question everything. I love understanding the relations between things, the ‘why?’ of everything. I also love to find alternative solutions to problems or do things other people think cannot be done.
Often I ask myself, why am I doing art? What ‘real’ purpose does it serve? And can it do more than just look pretty, be a clever idea or make people think? Somehow all these things have not yet completely satisfied me. Yes, they all have merit and even a purely decorative painting has its purpose, but I believe there is more to life and more to art.
This has led my search, amongst others, to old, shamanic traditions. Somewhere during my art history studies I came across a reference to Ethiopian healing scrolls. If a person was sick, the priest would make scrolls according to specific rules (for instance the scroll needed to be as long as the person’s height, if I remember correctly), on which they painted symbols and wrote prayers. These scrolls were then taken home by the sick person and were viewed every day till the illness was cured. Interesting – art made to heal somebody?
Again and again I stumbled onto references where art is used for protection, fertility, health, initiation or to manifest a desired state. I became more aware that in olden days the shamans and priests made use of what we today call art (dance, painting, sculpture, music, etc.) to do their work of healing, blessing and manifesting. Since I read about the healing scrolls, I have been looking at the link between art and spiritual and mythical traditions and beliefs more closely. I do believe that under certain circumstances, art has more power and effect than what we normally imagine, and so I decided to try and be much more conscious about what kind of art I am making and why and how…
Working in the Moon Valley, Namib Desert (Photograph by Steffen Holzkamp)
Be the change that you want to see in the world
In 2007 I made my first conscious work into this direction. I developed a personal Yin & Yang symbol to harmonize and balance the male and female energies in my life (Click here if you are curious). In 2010, I hoped for rain and made a work entitled ‘Rainmaker’ (read more about it here) – this was the start of becoming more interested in working directly in nature. Towards the end of last year the general concern about the environmental threats posed to the Namib desert by increased mining and industrial activities and proposed plans for off-shore mining of phosphate on the Namibian coast, started growing. Having grown up in Swakopmund and still considering it one of my homes, I, too, am concerned and decided to find ways in which I can do my part “to make the world a better place” and protecting the environment.
I realized that protesting or being against what I consider to be a threat is not the way to change things – or at least not my way. Instead I looked at ways of putting energy into the reality I would like to experience: a balanced, healthy and protected environment, in which all beings co-exist in a harmonious way, without destroying each other. This is based on the spiritual idea of ‘what you sow is what you reap’.
Planting black ‘roses’ in the Namib Desert (Photograph by Steffen Holzkamp)
The works had to fulfill at least one of two different purposes:
- to protect, bless and heal the land
- to make the threats visible and conscious, because if you have looked into the eyes of the danger, you understand it better and loose the fear and can act from a stronger base.
Loosely based on different aspects of old shamanic and spiritual traditions from all over the world, I tried to find my own formal approach, use of form, symbols, rituals and materials according to my intentions to produce my art or healing works.
Click here to be taken to see a small selection of the resulting artworks and brief descriptions.