A year before the boat people attracted huge social attention, I was already hit by the images of overcrowded boats. What a contrast with the large ship on which our family migrated back from South Africa to the Netherlands!
From a school map of Africa I made two half dresses, symbol for the different worlds within that one continent. I painted the halves and connected them loosely with cords. They are connected halves, but don’t form one whole.
Mieke de Waal, born in Pretoria, South Africa, living in the Netherlands
My hovering soft sculptures are painted to tell human stories. Some are as small as a girls’ dress, others are six-foot high kimonos. Their shape, form and size all serve the poetic meaning that my work is trying to convey. Characteristic for my working method is the in-depth research I conduct on a given topic. Sometimes I spend months collecting my ideas and emotions into a soft sculpture. The actual construction of the sculptures is also an inquisitive process during which I experiment with materials as well as techniques. I enjoy working with canvas, ink, acryl, embroidery and other materials found on flea markets or street corners.
My soft sculptures are fragile and sober in shape yet rich in meaning and colour. Each work carries a unique story. For example about the knowledge of plants of shamans of the Amazon; about the journey of a man whom life has brought far from his place of birth; about the fickle relation between mankind and the forests we need but disregard; or about our conflicting desires for comfort and wanderlust.
CV: research and art
Before attending the art academy in Utrecht, I obtained a Ph.D. in anthropology. This instilled in me a vigorous curiosity for the tension between the individual and his culture, between society and its members. In my art, I aspire to connect small stories to larger issues in an investigatory way. I hope to inspire curiosity and contemplation in my viewers.
Mieke de Waal