3453 – Skeklers Photographs
- 3 x A3
3 x monochrome prints of Gemma Ovens' photographs of a recreated Skekling ritual from Fetlar in Shetland.
Gemma's website describes the project:
"Skeklers of Shetland
Whilst visiting the island of Fetlar in Shetland, I stumbled across curious old photograph of straw-clad children. I was intrigued to find out more - what were they? What were they doing? With a bit of research and help from local historians, I discovered that they were 'Skeklers'.
Skekling is an old Shetland folk tradition. A Skekler is the name for a type of disguised person dressed in a distinctive straw costume; it is a variant of the term 'guiser'. Skeklers would go round the houses at Halloween, New Year, and turn up at weddings in small groups performing fiddle music in return for food and drink. It is believed that this fascinating custom had all but died out by 1900 and the children I had seen in the old photograph were actually part of a 'squad' dressed as Skeklers as part of the Up Helly 'A festival.
In recent years, Shetlanders have been trying to revive this ancient tradition and I managed to get in touch with a local band (Fiddlers Bid) who regularly dress in Skekler outfits made by local craftsman Ewan Balfour. I borrowed these authentic costumes to recreate scenes of Skekling as there is almost no real photographic evidence.
My aim for this project was to 'resurrect' this ritualistic custom and to create a surreal world; a fusion between the fantastic and historical documentation. I wanted to find out if there was still a place in our contemporary consciousness for Skeklers – the primordial need to adorn fancy dress and disguise ourselves. I am currently documenting a similar folk tradition – the Whittlesea Straw Bear, and hope to compile a body of work tracing the straw related, pagan and folk traditions of Great Britain and Europe."
- Foamboard prints
- Copyright ownership:
- Images Copyright Gemma Ovens. Used with permission.