Bleeding Roots
2017
Solo Exhibition - Fried Contemporary Gallery Pretoria

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According to the forest ecologist Prof. Suzanne Simard, every forest has “Mother Trees” that provide the rest of the younger surrounding trees (even if they are from different species) with the nutrients and resources they need to survive. Per Simard they are able to do this via a network of fungal threads which are connected to all the other trees in the forest. Simard explains that:

The big trees were subsidizing the young ones through the fungal networks. Without this helping hand, most of the seedlings wouldn’t make it.

This ‘interconnectedness’ as well as the symbiotic role of the ‘Mother Tree’ with other roots inspired Janse van Rensburg’s latest exhibition of works entitled, Bleeding Roots.

The exhibition is a combination of intricate, maze like drawings and embroidery on paper together with an installation with the title, Bleeding roots. The installation is composed of circular frames which are filled with a network of branches painted red and extended from the ceiling. The intention was that the work enacts the illusion of growing roots from above the viewer instead of below.

Exudation of liquid, in other words ‘bleeding’ as seen specifically in Birch trees, are mostly caused by pressure in their roots. The ‘bleeding’ could be linked to the uprooting of trees from deforestation, which gives a sense of mourning or crying. In keeping with the artist’s conceptual intentions, she made all the frames for the exhibition herself using natural Birch ply wood.

The artist uses the concept of the ‘Mother Tree’ to create a link to the female body as she herself is now a mother. Similar to the ‘Mother Tree’ the female body also bleeds, expands, grows new life, produces food and feeds other bodies. It can also not be over looked that being born a woman in Africa, the artist’s heritage is intertwined with the roots from the Mother Continent: The continent believed to be the origin of mankind.

Keeping this in mind, the artist used the African term “Motherism” as a prism through which to explain the deeper meaning behind her work. The Nigerian writer and former lecturer on African Cultural and Gender Studies, Obianuju Acholonu, explains the term as follows:

Motherist is a term used to describe anyone who is concerned about the menace of wars, racism, political and economic exploitation, hunger, starvation, child abuse and mortality, broken homes and homelessness around the world. The Motherist is a builder, a healer – not a destroyer, a co-creator with God and a lover of the child. He/She respects the interconnectedness of all life.

Without the watchful attention, protection and concern of the “Motherist”, mankind would be like a forest without a Mother Tree.