Get closer to life ! Experience that life is first of all about existence, i.e. being and surviving. It is about perceiving of this existential condition of human beings. Try to get rid of all the assets of civilization which pamper our being like a space made comfortable with plenty of cotton.
If wind and rain, cold and night covers the earth, you feel protected if you have at least a simple roof above your head. Try this in the African bush, try it in the tropics or in the Himalayan valleys. You’ll experience existential feelings.
What connects all these places is one of the most simple and certainly most affordable inventions of human beings: the corrugated iron roof. You’ll feel the heat of the burning sun beams , you have to learn to sleep under the sizzle of an army of rain drops - and you always know that the weather, the sun, the wind and the rain are just there, just a sheet away. So you are part of the environment, of nature and its moods.
But then, in Lagos, Nigeria or in Colombo, Sri Lanka, two tropical countries where I used to live for more than 10 years I learned also about the beauty of these landscapes of corrugated iron roof sheets. The penetrating humidity and the abundance of rains works on these roofs like restless ants. If one finds a place to have a view from above, it can appear as a sophisticated pattern of carpets on display. And some of these roofs can tell whole stories. This occurred to me most strikingly first in the tower house of Susanne Wenger in Oshogbo in Nigeria. I became to love the stories on the roofs, I wandered through towns and villages to collect those roofs which told such stories and challenged me to discover more of them. I would highlight some by colour and a few lines , continue the design of others or develop my own intuitive stories on the fertile ground of these corrugated roofs.
When eventually I decided to move around to collect story-telling roofs, some locals joined me to offer a helping hand, others might have had her doubts about the state of my mind ( try to grasp the consternation of locals as a “white lady” went browsing through their trash).
But eventually all these endeavours of collecting these roofs,, working on them, my often talks with people who helped me carrying and cutting these sheets I consider an homage on all those people living under these roofs. It is indeed a poor material. And don’t forget the holes it develops over the time, the dropping of water into the house until the sheet is eventually replaced by another.
To remember these people who live under these roofs, to bring them and their lives closer to my audience was the underlying spirit to all my art work around the corrugated iron roofs.