bells of forgiveness

the bells of forgiveness is the most personal and gratifying work i have created and i would like to share with you why and how these bells were made and what they mean to me.  

many years ago i visited the shanghai museum and saw an exhibit of ancient chinese bronze-cast bells strung in a group off a large wooden structure. that image remained embedded in my memory until i started making this work.

the bells formed a part of my exhibition, making space, in 2009, comprised mainly of vessels of light and sound. while designing the forms for the bells, i was also researching their historical, ancient and contemporary functions across religions and cultures: bells as a call to prayer, bells for community gatherings, bells as announcements and judgements, bells on ships, bells for warning and danger, bells for awakenings, bells signalling that something is going on…

their main resonance in my own personal life and work was from buddhist temples where people ring bells to ask for forgiveness and it was in the spirit of this internal  dialogue that these bells were made.

i have been working with clay since the early nineties after completing a degree in fine arts at the university of the witwatersrand majoring in photography. i came to clay through an immobilizing depression and took to it immediately. ever since then it has continued to be a safe and healing practice for me.

i have in my life defended myself in a capsule of destructive behaviour, the most damaging aspect of which is not only the behaviour itself but my own lack of self acceptance and forgiveness.

while carving this series of bells, i was in a particularly bad cycle – shamed by what i was doing to myself. at the same time, while i was making them, i was attempting to hold within them the idea and the feelings of forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance and dignity.

the ringing of the bells is about awakening, making conscious, not hiding, because if i can be exposed, and be seen and heard, then i can live without shame.

it is for this reason that i felt these bells needed to be in a public, safe space that is formal and dignified – a space that is about respect and responsibility.

the bells of forgiveness were accepted to be a part of the constitutional hill’s art collection and hang in the courtyard outside the judges chambers.