Bag Lady: Vessel Of Value

How many bags do you have? What do you use the bags for? What do you think of bags? Have you, in fact, ever given any thought to the bags in your life? What is the purpose of the bags in your life? What is your bag of tricks?

I have bags for many aspects of my life – the pink travel suitcase (no one else wants it!), the khaki small back pack, the bag with work stuff, the journal bag(s), the shopping bags, the vacuum cleaner bags, the rubbish bags, the bag with my walking gear, swimming gear, dancing gear, the bag with the shopping bags in it, the empty bags to pick up rubbish or treasure, bags with things for the City Mission, bags to drop something off to someone, bags of clean washing, bags for dirty washing after a trip, food bags to contribute – maybe fruit for my son and lots of bags that I have bought or been given with presents inside and so on and so on!

For many years my consolation around living was that if ‘push came to shove’ I would do fine as a ‘bag lady’. That is, a woman who lived, by choice or necessity, on the street with all her belongings in her bag. One simple bag, exposed to the elements of life, homeless, possibly useless; usually an old bag (both luggage and woman). I am grateful that this is not my personal reality thus far. However, when I was asked last year to state my value as a woman I was stuck for an answer – I might as well have been a bag lady! I felt homeless, useless and quite bereft in my inability to respond.

So what is the link between Kerry-Ann as a potential bag lady and Kerry-Ann as a potential vessel of value?

I was recently on a creative process and meditation retreat. During meditation I felt compelled to give new meaning to being a bag lady – to deepen my experience of myself and my life. Concurrently, another thread of fascination for me has been the exploration of ‘waka huia’ – the beautifully carved wooden boxes used by Maori for storing precious Huia feathers – that can be regarded as ‘vessels holding valuables’ or a vessel of value. I was drawn to playing with integrating bags and waka huia as I integrated myself.

I had taken a range of material to play with during the artwork in case I didn’t want to draw or paint. Amongst this was a number of small bags, beads, embroidery threads etc.

Grabbing all the bags I set about reframing bags as vessels of value and this bag (myself) as a deep, simple and connected woman with an intrinsic value simply from being alive.

What emerged was a seven bag ‘creation’. Each bag contained an assemblage of beads or cotton or whatever – mostly drawn out and worked with intuitively. This assemblage was connected to its bag by a cord or thread and each bag was connected to the next bag similarly. It was really important to me that each bag and its contents were connected and that they fitted one inside each other. Each bag was in its own way valuable – even if I couldn’t explain why.

When I shared my completed artwork it was the innermost bag – the small, simple white bag with the beads of seed, glass, metal, bone and the floral heart button – which I responded to most. Here was the simplicity of Kerry-Ann in elemental connection with spirit, at home in peace and light. A true vessel of value symbolised by a little light bag!