The Pilgrimage of the Prodigal Daughter

e on backLast summer, I walked 50 miles from mine to my mothers house, carrying my baby on my back. This may be one of the oldest reasons to walk somewhere. Like the performance of pilgrimage, the walk refers to rites of passage, acknowledging all those who have trodden this new and daunting path before, and questioning the pseudo-religious sanctity of motherhood, too. During my walk it struck me how rarely we notice quiet footpaths as we whizz by on our way to work, which seemed an apt metaphor for the job of motherhood.

I told (and recorded) stories of my life from my mother’s point of view as I walked, as well as documenting the journey in mediated (via GPS and on twitter) and organic ways (collecting flowers, leaves and the light of the day itself on photographic paper). I am currently transcribing the recordings, which I plan to present both as installation and a second, studio-based performance.

“Walking then is a spatial acting out, a kind of narrative, and the paths and places direct our choreography. This regular moving from one point to another is a kind of mapping, a kind of narrative understanding… Walking is like a story, a series of events, for which the land acts as a mnemonic.  To travel across such a landscape is to remember it into being, it is sedimented with human significances. And the pathways are songlines, long narrative excursions which remember places in song. To travel the land is to sing the world into being again…”

Pearson, M and Shanks, M. (2001, p138)

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