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Artist Statement



ECLOSION | ɪˈkləʊʒən | noun: 


“The moment the butterfly leaves the cocoon is called eclosion. The moment in-between being fully formed yet not completely unfolded.”


Mottled porcelain forms with wings straining against the confines of clay are dedications to the process of eclosion: the emergence of an insect from a cocoon or egg. Eternal hatchlings breaking the pupal wall, Barker’s forms are objects of the threshold (Olivia Barrel, CLAY FORMES 2023)’


This award-winning vessel (2021) focuses on the in-between, the transition between what was and what will be. That moment when you come out of the cocoon, the eclosion. Fully formed and beautiful yet still in the process of becoming. 


This too has relevance to ancient society life cycles, whereby the archaeologist excavate the various strata of an ancient landscape. The layers of these societies, closely mimics that of the life cycle of a butterfly, where there is a period of abundance, destruction, rest and lastly, incubation - a period of eclosion when a new society starts again. 



When I was asked to participate in African Gold Exhibition, I was intrigued. African gold. What does this even mean for me? The concept of African Gold conjures up images of historical African artifacts, masks, rock art, bright colourful textiles, traditional pottery or wild African animals. 

This work is dedicated to my Grandmother, who raised me. She is my role model, a brave, strong and generous Boer woman.


I remember the early mornings on the farm, as an infant, waking at dawn, always finding my grandmother outside feeding the chickens. It was my task to collect the eggs so that we could feast on dubbeldoor eggs for breakfast. I loved and hated this job as the rooster would chase me from the chicken hutch, back to the farmhouse. Once, the rooster caught me and injured me. This prompted my gran to serve him up for Sunday lunch! When you live so close with the land, you see things a bit differently.


I learned many things from my gran. We would spend hours walking around on our farm, and she would show me where the best soil is to plant the corn, or where the cows love to graze. We would wash our hair with stream water because it made my hair feel like silk. She taught me how to knit, cook bobotie and tomato bredie, bake Christmas cookies and taught me how to fish. We spend hours at the Marico dam because the old folks loved to fish and where the children were never allowed to be noisy because you would chase away the fish. It was during these times, when we would walk for miles and miles on the river edge looking for the best clay to play with, initiating a life-long love of clay.  My grandfather loved boere music, and even played the trek klavier, he was not really good, but he loved it. I had a simple happy childhood on the farm. 

The vessels are made from wild foraged farm clay, which I harvested, coiled and coloured with natural ochres and then pit fired. They are fragile and the large one is cracked. The ensemble, for me, represent the current fragility of farmers. 




The driving force behind this work is rooted in my graduate studies in Mesopotamian archaeology, which focuses on the Yale Babylonian culinary tablet, formally known as YOS 11 25 and Bronze age cooking pots. My extensive knowledge of Mesopotamian material culture, as well as my experience of working with ancient ceramics, greatly influences my vessels.


My research is based on a constant search for the best way to interpret and re-create the ideas I have about ancient cooking and the pots and cooking systems ancient people used to cook in and on. In order to do this, I cannot limit myself to one medium, style or concept. Each piece I create is simultaneously an extension to the ancient past, as well at the same time, it is also a preview of where we are going in the future, a full circle in a way. In order to facilitate this connection to the Ancient past, I picked up special stone shaped tools during my last excavation at Hazor, Israel. These stone tools were used extensively in shaping the cooking pots, as I imagined this was done in the past.

I created the cooking pots and stove, during a six-week ceramic residency at IMISO studios, co-owned by Andile Dyalvanne and Zizipho Poswa. During this time, I not only made the cooking system, I also recreated and cooked one of the recipes found on the ancient cuneiform tablet, called Tuhu lamb stew.


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This body of work was first conceptualized during my  recent international art residency in France 2020 with  Dr. Wendy Gers. It mainly focuses on ancient beehives  and the Bee goddess. I have created this body of work  to explore the mother goddess and the connection  between women and the role of the queen bee. Some of these vessels formed part of the 2021 ‘Nature Morte-Still from life’, Rupert Museum in collaboration with Eclectica Contemporary.

The relationship between humans and bees goes back  to prehistoric days with the oldest reference to  gathering honey dating from 10 000 BC, where honey  was the first food offered to the gods. The Bee  goddess brings together mythological symbols and  sacred meaning from across the world. She is a creator  a giver of life, the creative source, wisdom, beauty,  power and grace. I believe that women are ‘queen  bees’, essential to creating children, families, and  friendships. Like the hives houses the Queen bee, so  too does the female body house the creator spirit. Each unique to the Queen bee, no two the same.

These metaphoric beehives reflect the diversity of  female figures. Each vessel is traversed by a void, that  for me references a sacred umbilical cord that  connects us all. This ongoing body of work consist of  multiple elements. It includes porcelain vessels that  may allude to ancient hives. These are in dialogue with  delicate porcelain leaves of floral imprints that were  collected during springtime in France and South Africa.  The vessels are a mixture between unglazed and  glazed porcelain, formed by pinched layers of coils that  simultaneously evoke strata and traps the human  imprint that renders the gesture of labor indelible. The  ceramics are a marker of civilization that is often  associated with cultural prowess and progress.



In 2019. she was also awarded the Ceramics South Africa (Western Cape) - New Signatures Award. Judged by Kate Malone.

The vessel is marbled terracotta and porcelain clay.

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