The Bandana

It's been a while since I last posted anything about my latest commission, Politics in Print. My last entry spoke about my visit to Devon's Record Office and since then I've been very busy going through my notes, photos and research to see if any political veins could be followed and used to contribute to my proposal of producing a cotton-sqaure or bandana that would form a political journey of Devon's identity with symbols and text around the square print. Well, I can proudly confirm that my research was profitable, and if I'm honest, I had my doubts, especially when confronted with hundreds of thousands of index cards that were my only tools of accessing the vast archives!
With my design now complete, I will be returning to Devon this week to begin screen-printing the bandanas at Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter. Since I'll be blogging all week about my stay in Exeter while I document the process and production of the works I thought I should give you all a brief history of the bandana since I know it's one of those familiar objects in society that holds particular significance and stereotype. Cotton-square, bandana, kerchief or pocket-square are all terms that describe the cloth square that is understood to be invented by Richard II of England in the late fourteenth-century to wipe his nose. Eight centuries later, it has been adopted by various religious faiths and by international cultures as a means of symbolic gesture or identity. Originating from the Hindi word bandhana which means "to tie", bandanas have been the cloth of choice of labourers such as farmers and cowboys to the revolutionaries in political history. With their practical use such as keeping dust out of a cowboy's face; hiding stains on a labourer's collar and concealing the faces of anarchists during protestations, the bandana - commonly decorated with a paisley motif - has been a symbol of identity leading to its most politically charged role amongst gang subcultures during the 1980s and early nineties. Predominantly in California, where criminal gangs divide territory between red cloths (the Bloods) and blue cloths (the Crips), the once practical cotton-square has since transformed into a visually loaded object with it's particular designs and formations that contribute to a complex code which could determine one's life or death. In England, the cotton-square is just as appropriate today in the fields of Devon as it in the bespoke tailors of Jermyn Street in London and I have been interested in the cross-fertilisation of this object that has transcended utility and visual reference through history. Previous examples of my work have used the style of a bandana as a way of recontextualizing themes in my practice onto cotton squares (click here) and silk scarves (click here). So if you didn't think legendary actor, director and producer John Wayne, the late rap artist Tupac Shakur and the West Country's very own 'Scrumpy and Western' band, The Wurzels had nothing in common, the cloth around their heads and necks are what tie them all together.
John Wayne in Stagecoach, 1939
Tupac Shakur 1971-1996
The original Scrumpy and Western band - The Wurzels
Visit jonathanvelardi.blogspot.com for more information about my commission for Devon County Council and Double Elephant Print Workshop all next week. Have a great weekend everyone!