Mãgura and its riverscape: a sense of self, place and time
Rivers can transform the local and wider landscape on a temporary or permanent basis. They do this by erosion and movement of soil and sediment around river catchments during floods, and through deposition in new forms such as bars or islands. These landforms are not only aesthetically pleasing but can also be analysed and interpreted to reveal how and when they were created, thereby providing an environmental history. Rivers produce a palimpsest of ‘marks’ in the landscape commonly in the form of abandoned channels (palaeochannels) that display a wide variety of geometrical shapes and patterns. These can be ‘read’ using aerial photographs, satellite images, Google Earth, old maps as well as on the land surface using GPS and field walking. Their 4D (space-time) relationships can also be deciphered by analysing and dating sediment, wood, bone and artefacts that infill these abandoned river courses. These materials record and preserve changes in the landscape resulting from both human activity and climate-related changes in flooding regime.
One very important and potentially controversial issue that the Mãgura intervention addresses is how its inhabitants who live adjacent to and use the Claniţa and Teleorman river valleys for farming and water, perceived change in the river landscape and the factors that control it. Given the growing concern of the effects of global climate change on hydrology, particularly the increasing frequency of catastrophic floods and droughts, it was considered timely to explore with the local children and their relatives:
- How they perceive themselves, and the changing environment, within the context of a particular place and time.
- How they visualize the Teleorman and Claniţa valleys as a resource for farming, leisure and ritual.
- Their memories of great floods and other natural events (e.g. earthquakes) that resulted in changes in the course and form of the river.
- Their views of ownership and environmental conservation.
To achieve this a 4 day workshop was run by Judy Macklin and Mark Macklin from 17th to 20th July 2010 in the Mãgura School of Arts and Crafts involving 40 children and their teachers. The participatory activities that were used to explore these issues and to create a shared cross-generation experience included:
- Identifying characteristics of individuals using willow charcoal to make composite drawings to explore physicality in a particular cultural context.
- A river walk on the Islaz (floodplain-common land) to collect contemporary finds, to view Neolithic artefacts preserved in river deposits and to discuss favourite haunts for work and play.
- Collecting river memories in the form of words and pictures to evoke and provoke a common language of communication.
- Looking at satellite images and making maps to appreciate how river landforms are created and to help read the cultural and environmental histories of the Teleorman and Claniţa valleys.
These activities fall within the disciplines of Art (Land Art and Fine Art), Archaeology, Geomorphology, and History and required some translation of the spoken and written word in both Romanian and English.
The project had three primary objectives. First, to inspire in the children a sense of self, set in a particular place and time. Second, to research and develop with them a greater awareness of the local riverscape and rural environment highlighting links with pre history and human response to environmental change. Third, the design and production of a series of small mosaics tiles (20cm x 20cm) based on this theme using modern and ancient found objects. The mosaics evidenced not only the time spent with the children but also a shared river experience with the workshop leaders Judy Macklin and Mark Macklin and the school.
To facilitate and implement the concept, spin off activities resulted in the making of small clay figurines, concertina sketch books of river drawings and memories, an 8 m long aerial-mapped sound drawing, 12 individual tile mosaics, and the permanent legacy of a large school name sign made from glass tesserae.
The children’s art work wasdisplayed as part of the Mãgura Past and Present exhibition at the Teleorman County Museum. Following the exhibition, all work will be returned to Mãgura School.
Visit the Media-Resources section to read Mark and Judy's chapter in the Interventions: Măgura Past & Present book [pdf, 2mb]