Blog by artist/printmaker Dawn Cole
Resting Place seems to becoming a project developing through connections and connectedness. My connections with the archive and research, Clarice’s connections in her archive and my connection to her past, the connections I am making through the project and connections with things associated with the project. It feels like I am solving a puzzle of my own making, and one that doesn’t really need solving as there is no end and no solution, just a whole load of clues that nobody set that I seem to be finding answers to. And yet there are no definitive answers, only possibilities that lead to more connections.
I recently bought two very skillfully embroidered pillowcases from Ebay. Not significant in itself , as I have been buying lots of pillowcases recently (I think the total so far is 35) and my most reliable source has been Ebay, after exhausting all my local charity and secondhand shops.
I have tried to limit the maximum amount I will bid for a pillowcase and try not to bid on any that already have bids from others as I am not interested in getting in to a bidding war over a pillowcase and usually just put on a bid and then walk away.
As you will see from the pictures , the pillowcases in question are both embroidered with text written in a language I was unable to read. The person selling them also had no idea what they said or what language the text was in. But there was something about them that made me determined to buy them. I was the first bidder and was resolute in my determination not to lose these so watched the sale right to the very moment the sale ended just in case someone came in at the last minute.
When the pillowcases arrived I felt compelled to solve the mystery of the text and enlisted the help of my Facebook friends for a translation or even just some suggestions as to the language. Several ideas were posted – that it might be Nepali or Ahmaric, and Danielle Creenaune offered to send images to a Nepalese friend of hers to see if they could translate it.
Two days later and I had a translation. The text was Bengali.
This first one says ‘Shuker Nidra’ which translated means Happy sleeping or Sweet sleeping
The significance of the connections with my project and these two pillowcases made me catch my breath. The first hospital that Clarice was posted to was called ‘Rawal Pindi’ and was in Wimereux.Clarice writes
Arriving in my ward I was introduced to Miss Heale the head sister who came from India. She is very nice and made me feel at home at once (a great many of the head sisters are come from India). Hence the name of the Hosp and also the matron is Indian. They all wear red capes over their uniform.
More information about the Indian Nurses and Doctors can be found here http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/18.html
The fact that these two pillowcases have an Indian connection was a wonderful feeling as it seems as though they have somehow reached across the years and found their way in to my possession. However, it is the wording on them that really sent shivers down (and up) my spine. Particularly the second one. Modhur Milon – sweet meeting! Maybe this was embroidered to welcome home a loved one after a long absence, a war maybe. Perhaps they never came home and the pillowcase represents a meeting in an afterlife. Even now, writing this blog I am choked by the possibilities that these pillowcases suggest. They seem to have a special significance to the project and will demand a very special representation.