Nora Kovats defines herself as an ‘identity-hopper’ due to her being South African and European. She is interested in the way narrative constructs human identities, particularly their overlaps and boundaries. Identities are infinitely complex and fragmented compositions, often paradoxical, fragile and fluid yet so powerfully definitive – something she attempts to represent visually in the form of complicated, multi-layered structures in her jewellery and drawings.
With this particular piece, titled Poeletjie (Afrikaans for ‘puddle’ or ‘small pool’), she attempted to investigate her own fascination with water and its elusiveness. She describes water as ‘having the paradoxical characteristic of being immensely powerful (both as a force of nature and in its importance for humanity’s survival) yet also incredibly fragile, easily polluted and its systems tilted off-balance. It is mysterious, difficult to quantify. Water harbours some of our most profound fears in its darkest unexplored depths, and it is sheer gushing life and vibrancy. It carves away ancient stone with patient drops – literally shaping the landscapes that form our human stories, our identities.’
She is drawn to enamelling as a technique because of its uniqueness and its ability to create spontaneity, dictated by the firing process. In this way, she can achieve a feeling of fragility, fresh colour and a delicate, spattered texture that visually embodies the emotions water elicits for her.
Her thoughts were circling around different water themes for some time, sparked by news of the severe water crisis currently threatening Cape Town, her hometown, and the contrasting wastage she experienced in Berlin, where dishes are washed under a running tap. She contemplates the links between water and human identities, how we are affected by floods, rain, drought and how we identify as river-people or sea-people or desert-people. Water in itself can be seen as a metaphor for human identities with its perfectly contradictory embodiment of fragility and monumentality: water is an immensely powerful force of nature, yet so easily polluted and vulnerable. And like within herself in her existence – a dance between two countries, two cities – water succeeds in having multiple identities at the same time.
Kovats graduated with a BA and MA Degree in Jewellery Design from the Stellenbosch University. She was the overall winner of the 2013 Thuthuka Jewellery & Product Development Programme Competition. She has participated in a number of International Jewellery competitions including the Berlin State Prize Competition for Applied Arts in Germany.
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