From The Ecocreative Cluster Nettle Circle (International) Exhibition At Oban Library (17.02.2024) Credit CHARTS

Naoko Mabon | Ireland

Naoko Mabon | Ireland

Through Growing Global Networks, curator Naoko Mabon was supported in working with international collaborators in Ireland and connecting communities in Oban, Argyll, and Malin Head, Ireland.

‘To me, the hierarchy that has existed historically in the curatorial process, seeing the curator as the ‘boss,’ ‘decision maker’, or ‘employer’ operates only one way from top to bottom and follows a colonial mode, hence is extractive rather than generative. As one of my aims is to work through a de-colonial perspective that is more equal, diverse, and inclusive, as much as I can, I am constantly aware of and working against hierarchies that ‘flatten’ roles and relationships.

To achieve this, I invite collaborators into processes that include consensus-based decision-making in the curatorial process; in the case of the GGN project, my role was alongside co-leads Deborah Gray and Lyndsey McDougall. 

International working enables us to find our local issues internationally.

This enables us to learn/gain insight/understand how the small concerns that our small locality has are related to wider concerns at the global level and vice versa; how the big global problems are related to each of our everyday lives; and crucially, we can learn how to tackle these on a small scale, locally.

At the same time, this enables us to gain insight into our contribution in global contexts and how we can grow allies and act accordingly—alone or collectively—towards a more sustainable world. 

Within our specific GGN project, we started to learn how Oban/Argyll is positioned in relation to Ireland, both geographically and culturally. For example, Oban/Argyll has been connected historically in many ways, notably through Gaelic culture and language, such as during the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata (or Dalriada) in the 5-9th century; St Columba and Christianity in the 6th century; the plantation of Ulster by people from Scotland and England in 1609-1690; migration due to potato famine in the mid-1840s, and so on.

Scientifically and practically, I learned about the nettle plant’s enduring relationship with the landscape and people’s lives - it grows so abundantly that it is often classed as a nuisance in our decorative/ornamental gardens; yet the nettle has been a prolific, accessible and nutritious food source from ancient times. I also learned how fibrous the nettle plant is and how it can be applied for use in textile, natural dye and paper-making production.

Our GGN work enabled us to grow and enrich our existing international network further by building a base of trust through our working relationships. We achieved this through a focused period of communications, face-to-face meetings, and in-person visits.

By planning and sharing tasks, I now have better working relationships with my collaborators, which is crucial for successful future collaborations.

Through workshops, exhibitions, webinars and social media posts/communications, we also widened the contacts/networks of many of the people who participated in our work: community members (in Oban/Argyll and in Malin Head) interested in the textile-related subjects who are potential participants of future activities. 

We deepened relationships with galleries, venue managers, and funders, some of whom have connected us with more potential partners (in Oban/Argyll and Malin Head). All of this expands our access and scope to benefit from the positioning and opportunities these bring, in effect, new markets.

GGN generated an impact in the growth and development of my practice in a practical way by attaining a physicality to the virtually developed networking weaving of the EcoCreative Cluster (since 2021, ongoing). This sustained the continuation of the EcoCreative Cluster. At the same time, despite their cultural and physical proximity, this has populated an otherwise under-populated/-represented channel of cultural dialogue between Oban/Argyll and Ireland.

This has boosted my self-confidence and sense of my role as a curator and its potential when curating activities across international locations. 

Another benefit is increased future scope for cultural exchanges and collaborations for myself, the two artists I collaborate with, and the participants/community members in both of the international locations.

Importantly, we have enabled our Irish collaborator to work in Argyll for the first time, therefore promoting insight into our place.

My next steps have not changed, as I am even more committed to growing the network internationally by working with the connections I have already established and remaining grounded locally.

This is my method of working collaboratively, sharing organisational processes, and dismantling hierarchies to make practice generative, equal, diverse, and inclusive while strengthening decolonial perspectives.’

Naoko Mabon