top of page



Night Winds

  • The idea for the work came about when I observed a small gust of wind carry around dry autumn leaves of beech trees in Sonsbeek Park, Arnhem, in the Netherlands. I have used the idea of the wind in previous works and here it struck me that wind needs the large trees and leaves in order to be heard and 'seen'. Wind is the breath or spirit of the physical world and the objects through which it 'speaks' are its 'vocal cords'. In Zulu, the word for wind is moya but it is also the word for 'spirit' and 'breath'. I am predominantly a language artist and I found words for the wind in other languages where its meaning denotes the physical phenomenon as well as an abstract or even spiritual essence.


    Wind is air in motion. Languages are likewise constantly in a state of flux and movement. They tend to come and go in the history of the world and the ideas they convey are kept relevant with effort. Usually we preserve meaning by repeating our thoughts orally, but with the advent of writing and lately, of cyberspace, it has become easier to make knowledge permanent. Just like the wind needs the anchor of trees, buildings and leaves to be heard, so too are languages and thought dependent on text, speech and our will to share for their preservation.


    In Latin the seeds of plants as well as the seed of man and beast are all indicated by the word semen. When we have a seminar we are sowing the seeds of ideas. Without wind, pollination cannot take place. Without the seeding of words, semination and semiology are not possible. My work alludes to seed and text in the form of colourful plastic sewn together in lush wordings. It further alludes to wind in the form of shapes that look like paper or leaves blown about. Finally it performs above an anchor in the form of two slabs of granite related to permanency and rootedness in the earth. These granite slabs are optional.


    The wind is transient, fleeting, vulnerable and its capture is only possible poetically. Autumn leaves are equally transient and vulnerable. In their prime they exist as tokens of virility, growth and life, but in seasonal time, they crumble to dust and are integrated into the earth. Beliefs and values are also at the mercy of our resolve and our determination to publish, broadcast and share them - to speak and sow them so they may be heard and take root.


    Alles van waarde is weerloos (All things of value are vulnerable)
    Lucebert (1924-1994)



    The work consists of six light-weight banners, also called 'leaves,' strung up in mid-air from trees in a forest or from pillars, posts and the walls of buildings. Each of these 'leaves' is roughly 1100mm X 1000mm to 2000mm. The 'leaves' are kept in position on strong, almost invisible steel cables. The 'leaves' and what is affixed to them can form a line, a circle or can be hung at random, depending on the surrounding structures. They aim to bring to mind vulnerable text on crumpled paper or autumn leaves flitting about in the wind.


    Each leaf contains a word for the wind/spirit/breath, carefully woven as recycled plastic into synthetic Hessian. The BaPedi people stationed at Mogalakwena in the far northern region of South Africa used craft skills to make the leaves. The stitching resulted in a nodular visual effect that alludes to a sowing/scattering of seed on wind and paper. The Mogalakwena group also sewed seams into the banners that make ribbing in aluminium rods possible. This makes them look like framed kites and adds stability when they are strung up in the air.


    There is one wind name written on each leaf: Lumuya, Chelidonias, Vãyu, Zonda, Wagnark, Mana. These names are chosen from the six main continental areas: Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America, and Oceania.


    Installation on the ground


    Two heavy slabs of black granite are placed beneath the aerial. The size of each granite slab is 30mm by 800mm and 1200mm. The two slabs are installed end to end with a seam in the centre. Together they occupy an area of 2400mm X 800mm. Each weighs approximately 100kg. Visitors are allowed to walk on the granite slabs. Inscribed in Dutch on the granite blocks are the six words for wind and what they mean - three words per panel.


    The granite slabs are optional and can be replaced by any other suitable label.


    The texts read as follows on granite slab 1:


    AFRICA LUMUYA In Venda, a language spoken in South Africa, a soft breeze that airs the home or blows gently on the cheek. Sweetness and sensitivety from a friendly visitor give a sense of lumuya. In the Zulu language the wind is umoya, also spelled moja which means spirit, intention and breath. The Umoja Gospel Choir sings inspirational songs.

    EUROPE CHELIDONIAS An old Greek name for a west wind believed to bring the swallows into Europe from Africa. The wind and the swallows announce the arrival of springtime. Chelidonias also signals the opening of the sailing season and the arrival of scores of fish and many fish species consequently carry aspects of the name Chelidonias


    ASIA VÃYU A Hindu name for the wind and air. Vãyu is primarily taken to be the cosmic breath of the world, It facilitates the way we inhale and exhale and therefore provides our dynamic energy and inspiration. It is the underlying principle in meditation and is key to the enjoyment of good health and a fulfilled life.


    Also on panel one will be an acknowledgement to the Mogalakwena crafts group.


    The texts read as follows on granite slab 2:


    SOUTH AMERICA ZONDA In Argentina, a hot and humid wind that blows strongly across the Pampas plains. Although unpleasant in spring, the wind melts the snow when it reaches the higher regions of the Andes mountains. This in turn brings a welcome source of irrigation to the farming area of the Pampas that would otherwise suffer from drought.


    NORTH AMERICA WAGNARK An Eskimo word for the north-west wind - a favourable wind to travel in and to have around whilst going about one's tasks. Eskimos can tell whether they are slow or fast, hard-working or idle by comparing their pace to that of the Wagnark. The first Malamute dog from Alaska to arrive in Europe, in Switzerland in 1965, was named Wagnark.


    OCEANIA MANA Wind in the languages of Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Maori. In some parts mana means authority, control, influence, prestige, power and psychic force, but in other parts it is a diffused supernatural power which has no will of its own and does not exist as a spirit, that may be present in living as well as non-living things.

bottom of page