Sekai Machache’s tapestry, Lively Blue, commissioned by Dovecot Studios for the upcoming Scottish Women Artists exhibition, was cut from the loom in a ceremony in April 2023.
Based on an ink study by Machache, the piece was selected for the exhibition due to its richness, subtlety, and the challenge it posed for the weaver. Lively Blue is a reflection on the challenging colonial history of indigo and the dye processes used in Mali. The title comes from one of the twelve stages in the indigo dyeing process. These are as follows: Blue of Nothingness, A Hint of Blue, Milky Blue, Lively Blue, Azure Blue, Blue of the Horizon, Ultramarine, Assertive Blue, The Divine Sky, and Light Divine Sky. The tapestry was handwoven by Dovecot Weaver, Ben Hymers, in cotton and linen with a cotton warp. While he wove, Ben listened to Indigo: In Search of the Colour That Seduced the World by Catherine McKinley, a book suggested to him by Machache.
Sekai Machache is a Zimbabwean-Scottish visual artist and curator based in Glasgow, Scotland. Her work is a deep interrogation of the notion of self, in which photography plays a crucial role. In recent works, she expands to incorporate other media and approaches that can help to evoke that which is invisible and undocumented. She is interested in the relationship between spirituality, dreaming, and the role of the artist in disseminating symbolic imagery to provide a space for healing against contexts of colonialism and loss. More recently, she has expanded to other media and approaches to create work that explores pre-colonial African spiritual practices, as well as Scottish culture and Black Scottish identity. Sekai is the recipient of the 2020 RSA Morton Award and is an artist in residence with the Talbot Rice Residency Programme 2021-2023. She is a founder and member of the Yon Afro Collective, works as an Artist Policy Officer for the Scottish Contemporary Arts Network, and is a board member of the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.
Featuring in Scottish Women Artists are three other pieces by Machache. Light Divine Sky II and Deep Divine Sky I, which have recently been acquired by the Fleming Collection, are still images taken during a film shoot for a series titled Light and Deep Divine Sky, captured by Antanas Budvytis. The film depicts a series of rituals and gestures exploring the importance of Black bodies reclaiming rural landscapes from a pre-colonial perspective. The dress featured in the piece was created using indigo dye on calico fabric and the pattern and structure of the dress was created in collaboration with Fiona Catherine Powell. Also featuring in the exhibition is Sekai’s A Hint of Blue II which is a reconstruction of the traditional still life. The fabric from the Divine Sky series has been domesticated and utilised as a tablecloth for this photographic series.
Light Divine Sky II, Sekai Machache
Upcoming exhibition, Scottish Women Artists - 250 Years of Challenging Perception, celebrates the work of women artists who have challenged and shaped the contemporary art scene in Scotland. In an era when women lead Scotland’s government, galleries, and art schools, it is easy to forget the prejudices and barriers their predecessors have faced.
Embracing key artistic movements and developments, the exhibition is organised with The Fleming Collection. It features significant ‘firsts’: Catherine Read (1723–78), who was the first formally trained Scottish woman artist in the 18th century; The Glasgow Girls, the first generation of Scottish women to be formally and professionally trained in the arts and Dame Elizabeth Blackadder (1931 –2021), the first woman elected to both the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy.
20th-century highlights include the radical post-war artist Joan Eardley (1921–63); Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004); and Anne Redpath (1895–1965). These outstanding painters are widely recognised today. Yet, the story of Scottish art is incomplete without the innovative and experimental art of women working in design, illustration, applied, and decorative arts. Dovecot’s ground-breaking artworks with 21st-century artists Christine Borland (b.1965), Victoria Crowe (b. 1945), Sekai Machache (b.1989), Rachel Maclean (b.1987), Alison Watt (b.1965) and Alberta Whittle (b.1980). Scottish Women Artists is running from 28 July 2023 – 6 January 2024 at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh.