`Ọṣun (sometimes spelled Oshun) represents beauty, emotion, and civilization. Some say `Ọṣun, as the first to experience abuse, sickness and poverty, understands our emotional needs. One of her tools is the mirror. She challenges us to gaze inside. She wants us to address our own secret hurt and pain. `Ọṣun is remedy, empowerment and healing. This is beauty
Earlier this year, an Olóòrìṣà (priest) commissioned me to create the special cloth for `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò, the quail as messenger (sometimes spelled and pronounced Oshun Ibu Akuaro). This road of `Ọṣun requires a covering with five draped scarves. Her colors are yellow, green, light brown and off-white.
I thought about a top circular motif and central figure. This led me to the quail, `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò’s messenger. I decided on hand embroidery with beads and sequins. To give the piece movement, I surrounded the quail in hand embroidered chain stitching to then lead downwards in the piece to machine embroidered scallops. Since I needed to encase the yellow top circle inside a backing somehow, I decided on reverse appliqué, using gold cloth for structure, texture and contrast.
Next I needed to think about how to construct the five scarves. First I made new cloth by machine stippling glittered netting onto yellow and green cotton fabric. Then, using a strip piecing technique, I cut and stitched long strips of each fabric together to make another new cohesive flat piece of fabric. From there I made a scarf template and cut each scarf.
There are three focus scarves, two in the front and one in the back. These three scarves are machine embroidered with the same scallop stitch as the top central piece. Two yellow scarves are situated in either side and these scarves mimic the curved sequins work from the circular top piece. The scarves were then pinned to the circular top piece and stitched. I purchased double bias tape, but the manufactured yellow tape seemed foreign and out of place against the yellow of the fabric. This led me to create my own double bias tape in the same fabric as the central yellow circle. This helped give the piece another layer of continuity.
Special cloth for `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò
Threads, sequins, beads, fusible web, cotton and synthetic fabric.
Bead and sequin embroidery, machine embroidery, hand embroidery, reverse appliqué, strip piecing, beaded fringe, handmade double bias stripping, machine stippling and stitching.
Accepting the occasional commission allows me to carefully research that certain Òrìsà’s nature, qualities and effects. Long after I am gone this cloth, and other commissions, will survive. In this case, the owner’s great great grandchildren will say, “This cloth covered our great great grandfather’s `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò."
Perhaps my name, cathleen margaret, and Ocha name, Ala Ofun, will survive as well. If not, I’ll know and more importantly Òrìsà will.
Creating art for Òrìsà bring blessings for life and beyond. This is my legacy.
An invitation to visit my art galleries.