Good evening and welcome to Jo Roets first solo exhibition: Man.tra Mãe , meaning 'mantra mother' in Portuguese.
For the first time, last year the StateoftheART Gallery launched the StateoftheART Gallery Award- a wonderful opportunity for the winning artist to score a solo exhibition and R10 000 to support their creative process. Unusually there was no entry fee - or age limit.
Artist Jo Roets is the very first winner - she wrested the winning position from hundreds of entries and a strong panel of judges.
Jo set very clear intentions for last year - and one of them was to have an exhibition. Her talent, commitment and hard work, the generosity and recognition of the StateoftheART Gallery and the universe all conspired to make her intention a reality.
It is with great pleasure that I give the opening address to Jo’s first solo exhibition Man.tra Mãe, which refers to her Portuguese ancestry. I do this in my capacity as close friend, ex colleague - and of course in celebration of her role as an artist on the rise.
In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, mythologist Joseph Campbell gave us the Hero’s Journey, a 12 step passage to individuation and autonomy which forms the fundamental structure of the narrative.
Jo’s creative process- which cannot be separated from her personal life- subscribes to the Hero’s journey- in her case the Heroines journey.
The 12 steps in the Heroines journey begins with the call . In Jo’s case, the call to sobriety. Whatever the call , it’s very often not welcome. Many refuse it. Its unsettling, uncomfortable because it brings about change . We fight it . We’d rather be safe in the boring old familiar than risk the new. But the curious thing is -once sobriety took firm hold, Jo’s suppressed creativity was liberated.
The Jungian psychologist Marian Woodman explains that addiction involves a spiritual longing- and what the addict really wants is the spirit from the addictive substance. For Jo, creativity was this spirit. She talks about tapping into the creative feminine or anima, being a conduit for it. She describes it as silent knowledge , a secret language- like braille for the sighted. She says its like working with a language you can’t read, but can feel.
Jo’s call also involved giving up a stagnant day job and taking a risk to own her creative mantle, something she has longed for since adolescence. Once the heroine has answered the call she must cross the threshold which is peppered with difficulties. But the curious thing is - when the risk is grounded in integrity, the universe conspires to assist in the form of mentors, allies, opportunities and synchronicity all of which Jo grabbed with both hands .
Synchronicity came through Jo’s medium of air-drying clay. A ball of the clay given to her by a colleague, the task of making a present for a friend and her fascination with how the medium warped - birthed Jo’s approach and output. What makes Jo’s work unique is her interpretation of this 3–dimensional medium.
The heroines journey features both the positive and the negative. Fear is a vital role in creativity. It pushes us beyond our perceived limits. In the heroines journey it manifests as tests. For Jo who was schooled in the film industry, where one is required to copy and follow to the directors specification without deviation, fear came in the doubting of her own originality.
While the subject of her pieces draw from a variety of influences, such as the visual cultures of indigenous South Africans, her Afrikaans and Portuguese roots and sacred geometry - her pieces are not about copying - but the reinterpreting and creating something fresh and new. Interesting that Jo was indifferent to her ancestry until she was in recovery- citing this as the addicts self-absorption.
This exhibition could be seen as the Elixir or the last phase in the heroines journey. The tangible evidence of Jo’s personal and creative journey, her transformation and her success.
Man.tra Mãe celebrates the feminine - women who are the often unsung creators of culture, our common humanity and the different ways we manifest it. It seems fitting that this exhibition is here in the western cape. Given that current archaeology sites the Cape, as home to our shared ancestors homo sapiens.
Man.tra Mãe is a visual antidote against those divisive forces, who wish to emphasize our differences. It is an important pictorial reminder that we share one ancestry, are one people whatever our race or culture.
This is an exhibition that illustrates one individuals transformation, the overcoming of ordeals, surviving crises and metaphorical death through the power of sobriety and the creative force.
And finally - Jo’s creative, personal process and acclaim provides hope for those struggling with addiction. That it is possible, with support and willing to transform the addictive.
Were Jo to answer the famous American poet, Mary Oilver’s question – “Tell me , what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" We know what her answer would be.
Aluta Continua Jo. May this be just the beginning of your success.
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