Head: Derek
2010 Bronze

Three of Derek’s shirts were used in this sculpture, as well as some feathers collected by him. Feathers were, and still are used as a symbol of status; the Tahitians before their conversion to Christianity used red feathers within the wrapping of their sacred sculptures called to’o. The largest of these represented their principal god Oro. As a result of this contact with the god the feathers became infused with ... ‘mana, a word used to describe the divine power, which was seen in the gods and transferred as an ability of kings, chiefs and warriors to be effective. Power is how it can be interpreted, as, if a person is effective, they appear to have the power to provide for their people’… (*Hall 2009: 17).

The process of burning out the shirts and feathers has fused the different elements together to make a bronze sculpture. It is therefore not a true portrait of Derek, but rather a representation that holds his trace from the original materials. The bronze medium together with layers of clothing are, in West African society, a sign of high status whilst ‘representations’ rather than ‘portraits’ can be seen in the Ife and Benin sculptures of this area. This particular way of casting is similar to the lost wax process seen in these areas and results in one unique sculpture. However, the vagaries of the process are evident in Head; Derek, in the random holes which have exposed the inside of the head. This is where the bronze has not run and for me they represent the marks that life leaves on a face and exposes the inside to the outside.

And lastly, the sleeves of the three shirts are drawn tightly back in line to end in three large knots at the back of the head, one for Derek’s wife and the other two for his identical twin sons. These symbolise the everlasting ties of a family – they are like arms entwined around his neck.


*Hall, Jennifer (2009) Wrapping: an artist’s view. MA dissertation, Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, School of World Art Studies and Museology, University of East Anglia.