A giant leopard prowling gingerly amongst multi-coloured blocks. Two rats operating pulleys, moving them into place. The leopard pawing it’s way around as if experiencing it’s new world for the first time. The work of Hama Woods, a stencil artist from Norway. She creates these giant works which serve to highlight the loss of habitat for species of the wild.
Painting as part of the Nuart festival in Aberdeen. Woods work should be seen in a positive light. The animals she depicts are lost in some ways. Part of them has disappeared, a nod to the fact that their natural environment is shrinking. Yet there is hope in the work. The rats operating the pulleys are working behind the scenes to make things right. Not necessarily able to re-create what was lost exactly, but doing what they can to make it better.
Woods is at pains to point out that her work isn’t political. She has a passion for the natural environment and a concern that it is disappearing. Her concern is expressed through her art. The creatures she portrays are still strong but living in a world where they need to adjust. There are people there to help though, these are the rats. “It might sound a little naive” she tells me. “But they are creating a positive environment and maybe this is something that endangered animals need today.”
The choosing of the Leopard for her piece in Aberdeen was a nod to the city. The animals were originally presented to the city by King James I. A gift, after the city had underwritten his expenses whilst being held in captivity in England. The symbols stuck and now they form part of the coat of arms. Two Leopards standing either side of three castles. Themselves representing the three buildings which stood on the three hills of medieval Aberdeen.
Dance and Street Art
A break dancer by background, she credits the cultural environment in which she was working with the creativity she now expresses on the street. “You’re in a community and you meet a lot of creative people not just in dance but different artists from different scenes” she told me. Starting to cut stencils for fun back in 2008 it started to take over. Eventually the art would triumph over the dance.
Art though wasn’t something that Hama had particularly considered prior to suddenly becoming aware of it as a dancer. “I felt like something was missing early on but I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was” she told me of her early years. Telling me that before the dance she spent her time trying to find her way and trying to conform though not really feeling comfortable with the path she was on. “Now I’m older I feel that I have found my spot in life, my thing to do” she told me.
Street Art in Norway
Part of a growing street art scene in Norway, Woods is one of a group of artists making waves. Urban art scene having certainly benefited from the Nuart festival held in Stavanger for a number of years now. The forerunner to the festival in Aberdeen it has put the town and the country on the map as a destination for street art.
“Artists from the country are now regularly getting their work seen” Hama tells me. “People get inspired and when that happens they grow more”. Indeed Hama’s own giant Leopard now prowls the walls of Aberdeen. A symbol of the city painted by an artist from over the sea. It is a gift, just like those original animals to the people of the silver city.
Nuart Aberdeen took place between 18-21 April 2019. Hama Woods was interviewed at her mural on Saturday 20 April 2019. You can see all the murals and street art created as part of the festival by clicking here. You can also read and watch an interview with another of the festival aritsts Jan Vormann here.