With Our Ancestors Watching Over

Artists Print Totems onto table cloth for celebration

This month, families from one of the NPA communities are hosting a celebration to mark the tombstone unveiling’s of their loved ones who have recently passed on.

The families have asked the artists from the NPA Arts Centre to screen print the family totems onto tablecloths to be used at the ceremony.

“It’s our first screen-printing project,” says Arts Centre coordinator Agnes Mark, “we are really nervous to get it right, this is a big event for the families.”

The precision and care with whhich the artists have hand cut the stencils, and the perfection with which they align the screen to replicate the prints is breath taking.

Though they have completed over 13 cloths, each with 3 replicas of the three totem prints, their precision and concentratin does not falter for even a second. The energy within teh room is high, as any twitch or flinch could drop a sprinkle of paint onto the cloth, or could set the print askew.

“We know that the spirits must have been with us this whole time, says artist Susan Kennedy, wiping the dribbles of gold paint from her hands, “the first time we did a trial print, the screen wouldn’t work and we couldn’t see why- but then we realised that the letters would have printed backward. So we know that the spirits were watching over us, they want this to be perfect too.”

With each printing session, the stensils had to be redrawn adn re-cut, as the paper would have torn and perished in keeping over night. So before each intense printing session began, they would each have to re-create their stencils.

After being taped on to cover precicely the same area as the last session’s, the team would place the screen on the centered cloth and lower as one, then they would take turns at dragging the wipe across the screen, determining which angle would create the perfect print.

“It’s been a lot of fun working together on this,” said artist Vincent Babia, “we are looking forward to doing some more screen printing projects now.”