Finally I have started building new ideas and sketches. This time my muse is Ungnyeo the “bear woman” from Korean folktale Dangun.
In the tale, a tiger and a bear (Ungnyeo) lived together in a cave and prayed to the divine king Hwanung to be made human. Hwanung heard their prayers and gave them 20 cloves of garlic, a bundle of mugwort and ordered them to stay out of the sunlight and eat only this food for 100 days. Due to hunger, the tiger left the cave after roughly 20 days, but the bear remained inside. After 21 days, she was transformed into a woman.
Ungnyeo was grateful and made offerings to Hwanung. Her lack of a husband drove her to depression, and she began to pray beneath a sacred betula tree to be blessed with a child. Hwanung heard her prayers and was deeply moved. He took Ungnyeo as his wife and soon after, she gave birth to a son, Dangun, who would go on to found the nation of Korea.
I had a pleasure to meet Michael O’Donnell of Tarariki Pottery. For his own words he is a clay worker, but he is known as an artist, environmentalist, storyteller and catalyst. In his own unique way he has learned to walk the path of the old peoples of New Zealand and Ireland.
He is one of those rare characters able to move from the world of nature and primordial language of ecology, to be in the classroom for children, university students, concert rooms or galleries where his exhibitions tell story from the ordinary (to the extraordinary).
Some know Michael as the ‘Waterman’. He has carried his clay water jars containing the waters of life to numerous parts of the world. He most recently appeared in the film documentary ‘The Water Whisperers’.
In this picture I am standing right next to his sculpture series ‘Guardians’. Aren’t they wonderful! Michael explains that these were “in response to an overwhelming sadness that we weren’t listening to what the land, sky and water were saying!”