Digitised 16mm film (10:24)
Screened at: *Cube Cinema, Bristol, Nov 2022 *Stone Club Social, London, June 2023
This film explores the relationships between human and animal, land and sea through the wanderings of a therianthrope, (or shape-shifter) at a transitional time of the year.
In the north of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, a seal is known as a selkie. Scottish folklore tells that when a female selkie comes to land, she sheds her skin, and becomes human. A human male therein discovers her naked upon the sea shore, and compels her to become his wife.
The ‘Selkie Wife’ is a version of this tale from Mainland Orkney, whereby the Selkie woman’s husband locks her seal-skin away in a sea-kist (chest) and hides the key for it is "better tae keep her selkie days oot o' her mind". But the woman spends her time in captivity longing for the sea, and is often seen gazing longingly at the ocean. The tale tells that the seal-woman finds the key to the chest, reclaims her skin, and heads back to her home in the waters.
Here, we witness the Selkie wife who having escaped her captor, and put her skin back on, is now heading back out to the ocean at spring equinox - known in the Orkney’s as Vore Tullye - the struggle of spring. During this day of equal light and dark, the spring Mither ‘o the sea fights with Terran - the spirit of winter, to stake her claim of the seasons.
This film is a meditative drift beneath the wide expanses of Orkney skies, and a mythological quest to get under the skin of the place through connecting with the more than human, and spirit world - in search of a shape-shifting selkie.
Shot mainly on 16mm film in Sanday; the largest of Orkney's north isles, with additional footage of the Standing Stones of Stennes on Mainland Orkney.
The film is accompanied by a written travelogue of the ten day overland trip from the south west of England to the Orkney Islands in March 2019, and can be read in full HERE.
Supported by WEVAA and Arts Council England.
Edit - Sam Francis
Edit support - Oliver Sutherland
16mm to digital film scanning - James Holcombe
spoken words are excerpts from the Orkney travelogue
Additional sounds created during the CUBEEF residency at Cube Cinema, Bristol, November 2022
----Special thanks to
Rosey Priestman & Brendan Colvert for generously hosting in Sanday; my inimitable travel companion Snoozie; the Cube for all the eternal magic; Hoppo & Miles for the loops; and women of BEEF for your voices.