Known as the ‘Tibet of Africa’ for its roots in old medicinal and visionary ceremonies, the everyday of Gabonese life is deeply connected to nature and the natural world. It is this very quality which prompted Melissa to live and explore her interest in shamanic rituals and practices in Gabon. Through the time spent immersing herself in the cultures and traditions of the Bwiti, Melissa came to appreciate the references and symbolism performed by natives as they unfolded in her everyday. They inform her senses through her exposure to color, forms, gestures and ceremonies so deeply intertwined in the culture.
Having lived and known a fast-paced city life so informed by the advancements of technology most of her life, Melissa considers the lack of introduction from childhood into adulthood in which she had experienced – one such ceremony that is considered the most important within the Gabonese community. Having embraced the constant desensitisation fuelled by a growing appetite for technological advancement within a hegemonic capitalistic society, Melissa sought to recalibrate and appreciate the traditional rituals in a place also known as the world’s Last Eden, for its ancient rainforest – this allowed her a total immersion in a belief system embedded and in harmony with nature.
Through First Light, Melissa attempts to record her insights and sentiments acquired through this journey on canvas instead of her usual medium of watercolor on paper. Her interiorscapes, often boldly sliced through the middle and flattened out in composition, depicts private and public spaces in which she had immersed herself in rumination, they are her reflection of within and of her surrounding depicted through a symbolic use of colors which heavily informs African culture.
Published in April 2018.
Melissa Lin – First Light