Witch Hunt is a multimedia project comprising installation, performance and new music
"Distorted Ideologies and contemporary colonialist language continue to this day to extinguish the true inheritance of The Romany people," Delaine's work unashamedly confronts the rhetorical benchmarking by those who have chosen to define our understanding of 'The Real Gypsies' but "This is not a lifestyle choice, it is real life steeped in a cultural history that spans time as well as continents, and that has a language which maintains roots from it's original homeland."
Witchcraft was built around words: as much dependent on lost ways of speaking as on particular incantations. A witch, like a Gypsy, was known by the words she spoke, and for centuries this has provoked unmatched levels of hysteria, excitement and persecution. Their tongues may not be forked, but they threaten invisible borders as outsiders camped within.
Linguistic difference has long been a source of conflict and suspicion, as well as pride, in the British Isles. Welsh children were made to wear shaming knots if they spoke their ancestral tongue at school and, to date, the language of Britain’s hundreds of thousands of Romanies gets no mention on the National Curriculum.
The Gypsies, often tried for witchcraft, fared better at preserving their language in Wales than in England. But the grim accusations of witchcraft were made in all of Britain’s languages: "Witch wyti, a myfi a’th profia di yn witch" or "You are a witch, and I will prove you a witch." Political scapegoating may be today’s equivalent of the spiritually bigoted finger-pointing once reserved for those suspected of dark magic.
Witch Hunt is a project comprising a meticulous installation of sculpture, painting, embroidery, textiles, performance and film. The intricate detail of Delaine's embroidery and textiles, and the high level of attention to every corner of the gallery forms the locus for an examination of what it feels like to be on the 'outside' when you may well be on the 'inside.' Mythology and truth wrapped together so tightly and delicately that they form a new membrane of fictionfact.
As part of the UK Romany community (Roma being the largest ethnic minority in Europe), Delaine Le Bas explores many of the experiences of intolerance, misrepresentation, transitional displacement and homelessness that the community continues to face.
Witch Hunt has been shown across England, Northern Ireland and Germany since 2009 and continues to tour – most recently as part of Reconsidering Roma, Berlin, November 2011.
The Making of Witch Hunt (Interview)
by the Aspex Gallery
Witch Hunt - Delaine Le Bas
by Angela Kingston & Damian James Le Bas
Published by the Aspex Visual Arts Trust
Available at Cornerhouse Publications