Zak Ové, UK and Trinidad

Zak Ové is a multi-disciplinary artist working in film, sculpture and photography to reclaim old world mythologies through contenmporary source materials and technologies. His fascination with the interplay between antiquity and the future is inspired by masking rituals and traditions of Trinidadian carnival that is itself rooted in a struggle for emancipation.

Ové’s work is in celebration of the power of play, the juxtaposition of parody and sacred ritual and the blurring of edges between reality and fantasy. His use of non-traditional materials: copper, wood, Victoriana and other scavenged elements, lends endless possibilities, myriad interpretations and unexpected identities to his work.

 

ABOUT THE WORK

Jab Jab Molassie, 2016
Crochet cotton and lace
180x120cm

The tradition of ‘jab jabs’ - Carnival participants who daub themselves in colour and dance fiercely to a beat - manifests in several iterations, one being Jab Molassie. Taken from the French patois ‘diable mélasse’ or ‘molasses devil’, Jab Molassie is thought to be the earliest known and therefore the original Devil Mas character. Dressed in chains and donning a pitchfork, wire tail and horns, the original Jab Molassie arose when liberated slaves daubed themselves in molasses from sugar plantations, using the molasses as an accessible, cheap costume for playing Mas. The Jab Molassie costume of today has broadened into a range of colours to include white, blue, red, yellow and green. Many Jab Molassies will also carry and blow whistles and throw their bodies around dramatically in a heightened form of play, designed to strike fear into Carnival watchers, who might then ‘pay the devil’ so that he will pass them by.

 

Blue Devil, 2016
Crochet cotton and lace
180x120cm

Characterised by a head to toe covering of blue paint, Blue Devils voice a babbling, bawling cacophony bereft of recognisable words, all the while beating a tin drum to create further dissonance and racket. As is typical for Mas characters the history of the Blue Devil is complex, but its origins partially lie in a re-enactment of the mustering of slaves that would occur whenever a fire broke out on a plantation. This would be accompanied by a rousing din of banging shells, blowing horns and shouts from the gang drivers. A further strand to the historical narrative lies in the smearing of blue paint on the skin; this was seen as an act of reclamation which took root in the days after emancipation from white masqueraders, who would paint themselves darker to ‘black up’ when performing racist satire.

 

For more information, images and purchase enquiry, please email skene@ruekothari.com 

Instagram: @zakove

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