In Epnere’s multidisciplinary practice, encounters with people and places, stories, and ritual expression form the basis of a larger consideration of tradition and collective identity. During her time on Fogo Island, Epnere was struck by the rugged landscape, the immensity of the sea, and the unpredictable weather—ultimately, the sheer force of nature in shaping peoples’ lives. The texture, colour and shape of local stones became a source of material exploration in her work. Equally significant was the differentiation of certain stones by name as place markers and holders of knowledge. (The boundary-drawing Devil’s Rocking Chair was so named to prevent children from falling into the ocean). Local history and insight are thus embedded in the landscape. In parallel to these physical markers are stories told and preserved through oral traditions and music. Epnere incorporates these within the exhibition by inviting local musicians to perform regular concerts in the gallery, honouring a custom that both perpetuates personal experience and creates collective enjoyment.
Having documented the landscape through photography, Epnere had these images printed onto organza and silk. Swaths of fabric showing lichen-covered rock, geological seams and water are suspended freely in the gallery or sewn into articles of clothing. Like wearable landscapes, these costumes make tangible our connection to place as experiential knowledge, an embeddedness in our surroundings. Epnere invited local children between the ages of nine and fourteen to have their portraits taken, some wearing the costumes, and to reflect on their relationship to Fogo Island. She asked them simple questions about their favourite place on the island as well as how they see their future unfolding. Their responses are presented in the gallery as handwritten texts alongside their portraits.
In a final gesture towards community knowledge and creativity, Epnere invited five local artists to contribute a work of their own to the exhibition. Textiles, paintings, and wood and metal objects that draw inspiration from the context of Fogo Island are presented for a month each.
With contributions from local artists, musicians, and children, Epnere’s exhibition privileges participation and acknowledges the formation of community as a collaborative process. On water, wind and faces of stonedraws from cross-generational experiences and stories of Fogo Island, as well as the specificity of life lived in close proximity to the sea, to reflect on tradition and the potential of collective identity in constant evolution.