Handmade paper, feathers, scales and synchronicity ....

I was back to my childhood house this summer, on the countryside, near Nantes. Every summer, I try to make the best of the sun and its heat and I  experiment with techniques that are far less enjoyable in damp winters. Making paper is one of them. This time, I decided to recycle some books that had been waiting to be transferred to my house in the UK but were still there, 16 years later ....
I picked "Onitsha by J.M.G Le Clézio" (Onitsha is a city in Niger). I vaguely remembered it as being a sad and upsetting novel. I stopped reading novels years and years ago. I prefer autobiographies or specialised books. I don't find pleasure in entering someone else's emotional and imaginary worlds, I've got enough to deal with my own, I'd rather watch a movie. It had been offered to me by my mum, as we were going to Sénégal for a holiday.

As I started to cut the pages to make the paste, I realised I had put a lot of myself into this book at the time, adding some illustrations to it ....

Onitsha by J.M.G Le Clézio
"Pâques 91 - Sénégal", offered by my mum the year of its publication in France, 1991.

This was a very special family trip for us all. After having discovered the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe when I was 15, we were now visiting Africa for the first time.

One thing I remember from that trip was that I felt I had been born on the wrong continent : I had straight away felt a very strong connection with the place and the people.

I'd like to tell the story of this connection, but it is going to take me time ..... A story that seems to have started even before I was born, maybe with a great-great Spanish grand-father who may have had some mix heritage .... It is a story full of synchronicities, where the imaginary crosses the real world. Dreams and stories, signs. And the History. And identities, DNA and appearances. And love stories, marriages and children.

... and my Winged Mermaid, a character who appeared in my drawings 2 or 3 years ago and who seemed to be developing her own narratives through me, showing me what to draw, image after image. She is directly linked to Africa, as a water spirit, usually without wings, but she appeared in my life a very long time ago, before I knew anything about this at all .... actually, as I am writing this, I am remembering that  my first mermaid drawings appeared on the same year than our trip to Sénégal. The year where I moved in with my soon-to-become-best-friend until now, Ahoefa, an Italo-Togolese science student. And the year when I had a Gabonese boyfriend, Roger.

Well, the Mermaid appeared in my life just the same year when Africa took space in my life ... and never left !

A4 ink pen drawing - 2019

So, this summer, my paper would also include some natural elements. Feathers came as an obvious choice, since the Winged Mermaid had feathers and I had started collecting them to represent her in monoprints ..... but what about some water/sea elements ? What could I choose ? And as I was walking in the garden, I suddenly saw hundreds of fish scales in the grass, white and shiny and rather large. As I asked why there were fish scales in the grass, I heard that my dad had been cleaning a fish in the garden, a few days ago ..... The chances of finding scales in a countryside garden, exactly what I needed, when I needed them, this is what I call another synchronicity in my life ....

Paper paste made out of the book "Onitsha"

Seagulls feathers and fish scales

Final hand made paper sheets

Final hand made paper sheets
detail with feathers

Final hand made paper sheets
detail with scales


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