Following on from my discussion of lockdown landscapes, I want to present one of two lockdown ‘shrines of gratitude’ to the NHS and key workers I’ve encountered during my government-sanctioned daily exercies. These are a subset of one of the three main material manifestations of the lockdown I’ve encountered: emotive art and material cultures.
This first shrines is demonstrably the initiative of Cubs, and the painted pebbles are lodged into almost every crevice of a broken tree stump beside a path in Moss Valley Country Park, Wrexham County Borough.
These might be seen as one manifestation of modern-day ‘votives’ – placed in the landscapes, as are love-locks and coin-trees, as well as floral and other offerings at sites of death, to remember and reflect. Yet the fundamental contrast with these examples, and indeed the next ‘shrine’ I will present, is that this is clearly a designed assemblage, not a gradute accumulation.
With rainbows, ‘NHS’ and ‘thank you’ predominating, key workers generally and postal workers also get a shout out. There are also expressions seeking to make sense of the disturbing and frightening times children have been experiencing over the lockdown: ‘everything happens for a reason’ states one. Most are stone, but there are some mobiles and hearts of wooden and two in plastic. Flowers have also been placed on the tree stump.
Some bear the names of the creators, and one states the 1st Moss Cubs, hence my inference regarding who created this distinctive colourful expression of thanks and love in the Welsh landscape, a material negotiation of affinity to place and public expression of gratitude to workers and hoping they too stay safe.
And of course, hidden behind these messages are the untold stories of those families and individuals who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.