MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh
(Mussel Gathering | Precious Fragments)
Redruth, Cornwall June - December 2022
A project by Sovay Berriman
MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh yw ragdres kavadow dre vedia divers ow kul devnydh a ravya hag a geskows dhe hwithra honanieth wonisogethel kernewek kevos dre hweljiow, podkasts, kestadhel ha diskwedhyans.
An ragdres a elow tus dhe gevrenna aga frevyansow a honanieth ha Kernow, aga breusow ow tochya gonisogeth kernewek ha’y heskowethyans gans ertach, tornyaseth, tir ha diwysyansow-estenna, ha dhe brederi a’n fordhow mayth yw kelmys agan omgussulyansow dhe gettestennow efanna – istorek, kenedhlek hag ollvysel, ha dhe savleow Kenedhel Geltek ha Minoryta Kenedhlek.
An keskowsow a hwither testennow kepar ha gwiryonses, gonisogeth felsys, trevesigoleth, yeth, lavur, linyeth, longya, kenwertheans, hag akordyans UNESCO ow tochya ertach gonisogethel antavadow. Gwiys yw an testennow ma y’n gravyansow – gwrys a atal ha devnydhyow daswaynys – a wren ni aga gwruthyl ha ni ow keskewsel.
Devnydhyow daswaynys, dhyworth pannweyth koth ha fardellans pasbord, bys dhe bayntys dres edhom ha darnow jynnweythel po tredanel dres nivera, oll anedha kevys y’n ranndir leel, yw usys y’n hweljiow ha’n diskwedhyans. An diversita ha digomposter a’n devnydhyow a dhastewyn an wolusogneth ha komplegeth y’n wonisogeth kernewek, ha provia chonsyow meur rag awenekter ha gorthyp personel. Ow kul devnydh anedha a afydh may hallo gonisogeth kernewek treuskynna romansogeth ha bos a vri y’n eur ma hag y’n termyn a dheu.
MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh (Mussel Gathering | Precious Fragments) is a multi-platform project using sculpturemaking and conversation to explore contemporary Cornish cultural identity through workshops, podcasts, a symposium and an exhibition.
The project invites people to share their experiences of identity and Cornwall, their views on Cornish culture and its relationship with heritage, tourism, land and extraction industries, and to consider how our discussions relate to broader contexts - historically, nationally and globally, and to Celtic Nation and National Minority statuses.
The conversations explore subjects such as authenticity, fractured culture, colonialism, language, labour, ancestry, belonging, commodification, and UNESCO’s convention on intangible cultural heritage. These topics are woven into the sculptures - made of rubbish and reclaimed materials - that we create as we talk.
Reclaimed materials, from old textiles and cardboard packaging, to unwanted paints and redundant mechanical and electrical parts, all of which have been sourced locally, are used in the workshops and exhibition. The variety and irregularity of the materials reflect the richness and complexity in Cornish culture, and enable great scope for inspiration and personal response. Their use emphasises the potential of Cornish culture to transcend romanticism and be relevant in the present and the future.
Mussel gathering, is a longstanding tradition, with the huge rocks on Cornwall’s beaches offering an abundance for seafood foragers to pick. It is a slow, repetitive activity that requires attention, to the tides and to the mussels themselves. While the mussels are the motivation, the act of gathering can often be done communally, where the experience of the gathering, and the conversations had while doing it, become just as precious as the mussels themselves.
Much like the process of mussel gathering, for Berriman, the communal act of a group of people focussing on the hands-on making of sculptures, enables conversations to meander and flow. Throughout MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh, Berriman has invited members of Cornish communities to join her and make ‘Rubbish Sculptures’ from low-fi, recycled and discarded materials, while sharing their thoughts and experiences of identity specific to Cornwall.
Spoken while making, these conversations have been absorbed into the fabric of the sculptures, which are
not only extraordinarily tactile, emotive and sometimes humorous forms, but are also physical repositories for shared dialogue, laughter and experiences of Cornish identity.
Alongside the Rubbish Sculptures, Berriman has created a series of ‘pocket sculptures’ which are offered to those who participate in the communal sculpture making. The small and tactile nature of these objects of reclaimed copper are just right for keeping in your pocket or in your hand, acting both as a reminder of the reflections shared, and as prompt to keep the conversations going.
Conversation, language, time and making are central to MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh. Much as the mussels themselves are precious fragments for gathering, for Berriman, all aspects of Cornish culture and identity, contributed by the conversations, memories, reflections and creativity of members of Cornish communities, are precious fragments to be gathered and celebrated through this durational sculptural artwork.
You may well be reading this in a World Heritage Site, the gold standard of heritage designation, awarded by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. “World heritage” is contested, with its implication that humanity might reach a common shared outlook on the past. Nonetheless “WHS status” is a powerful, mustering, and sought-after tool. The Cornwall and West Devon Mining landscape was inscribed in 2006:
The substantial remains…are a prominent reminder of the contribution Cornwall and west Devon made to the Industrial Revolution in Britain and to the fundamental influence the area asserted on the development of mining globally.
Extraction and innovation are highlighted, the migration of both people and things, and the prospering of both: “the movement of mineworkers who migrated to live and work in mining communities grounded in Cornish traditions”. Cornwall is framed as centre-of-the-world, as global innovator, as diasporic culture-maker: Cornwall as extracted.
WHS status means that that mining landscape will be maintained in its perpetually ruined state. From it was extracted the copper, tin, and arsenic that enabled rapid industrialisation and the extremes of the imperial project: metals for protecting ships’ hulls, for enabling communication, for domestic wares, for canning food, for the ugliest trades. Cornish copper – sometimes adulterated by the British traders – was used in the manillas traded for enslaved people as early as 1524.
The heyday of copper extraction and its place in shrinking the world, painting it red, occurred simultaneously with what Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger called “the invention of tradition” (1983). As the mines were delivering their richest offerings, the granite monuments of Cornwall were being carefully logged and drawn and designated Celtic by antiquarian William Borlase (1754). The first published pasty recipe appeared in 1746. Dolly Pentreath, proclaimed the last native speaker of Cornish, died in 1777 and the operation to record the “lost” language began. The last Cornish Stannary Parliament was held at Hingston Down in 1753. As the premature deindustrialisation began in the 19th century, the construction – and reality – of a Celtic culture began. It at once boosted traditions and identity, while positioning the Celtic nations on the “fringe”, othering them from an imperial centre, and placing the age of Cornwall in the past. A Cornish tartan was invented, other elements of the Celtic smorgasbord brought up in line with the other Celtic nations. This “invention” has been variously celebrated as emancipatory Celtic nationalism and as reactionary and nostalgic.
However, the Cornish had long been seen as different: the 12th-century historian, William of Malmesbury expressed relief in his Gesta Regum that the AngloSaxon king Aethelstan had forced “that filthy race” back over the Tamar, and that border remained. The border demarcates the Duchy of Cornwall – before that an Earldom – a money-spinner for princes in need of an income, but also a tight networking of land, gentry and people in a place that maintained elements of its independence, not least through its wealth of natural resources and its short hauls – by sea – to near-and-far neighbours. The arms of the earldom, and the name Cornubia, feature alongside those of England on the Magna Carta.
How has this difference changed and shifted over time? Cyril Fox and the St Ives artists argued that the difference was grounded in the landscape – that geography sculpted body and soul. The Marxist historians centred the work of mining as shaping both Cornish workingclass cultural identity and the physical settlements of inland Cornwall, while fishing constructed the coast. Since the 18th century, the tourism industry has traded off romantic nostalgic tropes because, well, capitalism, and second homes have become another source of extraction. Culture custodians within Cornwall continue to build a platform of Celtic background – around language, music, literature – while heritage professionals and academics, not to mention consumers, have been problematising the notion of “Cornish culture” for a while. They ask that living cultures, the everyday life of now, be included too – surfing, lithium mining, humour, the granularities of neighbour-to-neighbour interaction. Can culture be more than preserving things that are almost gone? What does it mean that a place so implicated in the colonial project through extraction has itself been crushed and isolated by that project, while remaining central to it?
And what of futures? Can a Cornish deep map of place and vista that includes moorlands, farmlands, granite towns, coastal villages and nightclubs, roads, and bus stops, and the messiness of being in this place present a more progressive set of possibilities? It’s this Cornish speculative futurism that Sovay Berriman’s work with reclaimed plumber’s copper and collective “rubbish” sculptures occupies. Once extraction has moved on, how might we bind together precious fragments to craft culture and identity, meaning and belonging, traction, from the leftovers? Jam on first, of course…
Heritage Mussels ButCH/*
MESKLA | Brewyon Drudh Contributors
Podcasts: Pol Hodge, Jenefer Lowe & Mark Trevethan; Libita Sibungu, Georgia Gendall & Liam Jolly; Dr Hilary Orange & Prof Emma Gilberthorpe; Dr Stephanie Pratt & Jowdy Davey; Ellie Allen, Becky Bordeaux & Luke Passey; Dave Beech; Kayle Brandon & Angela Piccini - Association of Unknown Shores; Joanie Willett & Natasha Carthew; Amanprit Sandhu; Angeline Morrison.
Symposium: Libita Sibungu, Shelley Trower, Angeline Morrison, Francesca Rowse & Angela Piccini.
Rubbish Sculpture & Conversation Workshops: Emma & Ben Wood, Susy Ward, Vicki Aimers, Brenda Aimers, Vanessa Penrose, Mike Hindle, Hannah Andrews, Josh Brown, Kerry Louise Tomlins, Adrian & Hirona, Rachel Jakeman, Roger Towndrow, Julia Rowlands, Ross Williams, Catherine Cullen, Alice Mahoney, Auburn Indiana Stone, Jess Polglase, Helen Trevaskis, Drashta Sarvaiya, Frankie Nichols, Mati Ringrose, David Earl, John Thorne, Yvonne Warner, Caroline Pedler, Christian Berriman, Lotte Norgaard, Sarah Marie, Kate Milan, Emma Jenkin, Robin Dowell, Iris Dowell, Kat Elks, Claire Tripp, Fran Rowse, Faye Dobinson, Robin Knights, Pat Parry.
Production, Evaluation & Support: Sovay Berriman, Tonia Lu, Kath Buckler, Sefryn Penrose & Angela Piccini - BuTCH/*, Emma Underhill, Joanne Tatham.
In-Kind Sponsorship: Liam Jolly of Auction House, Ellie Allen of Splann, Jowdy Davey & Lowender Peran, Falmouth University Falmouth Campus, Kresen Kernow, Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek, Gorsedh Kernow, Cornwall Neigbourhoods for Change, Kath Buckler, Alice Mahoney & CMR, ButCH/*, and Cornwall Council Cornish Language Office.
Get in touch and join the conversation
Instagram: @mesklabrewyondrudh Facebook: @mesklakernow Twitter: @mesklakernow www.sovayberriman.co.uk