Mantell – Overture, 2010

Mantell translates from Welsh to English as ‘mantle’. In turn, the meaning of ‘mantle’ is given as;

  • A loose sleeveless cloak or shawl.
  • An important role or responsibility that passes from one person to another.
  • The region of the earth’s interior between the crust and the core.

All three definitions are resonant within the context of this film, in large part inspired by the fabulous Mold Gold Cape (in the collection of The British Museum, London) and which explores the role that each new generation has to play in observing and respecting the cycles of cultural and physical universes – as well as the notion that culture is itself intertwined with landscape and therefore geology.

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It was made in collaboration with five primary schools in Denbighshire (north-east Wales) as part of the Cauldrons and Furnaces project, itself a part of the Cultural Olympiad in Wales. The film explores the unique and beautiful landscapes of the county – the Clwydian Hills in the east and the uplands of Brenig in the west – and the rich prehistoric story of the region, centred as it is on the Bronze Age.

The Mold Gold Cape is the largest prehistoric gold object yet found in the British Isles and was made over 3,500 years ago. Contemporary with the monuments that once formed a ring of protection around a settlement on the Alwen (but which are now perched overlooking Brenig Reservoir), it is suggestive of a vibrant culture founded on strong trade and cultural connections with the wider British Isles and Europe beyond.

In each of the five schools a time machine, made from materials indigenous to the Brenig landscape, is carefully unfurled and assembled. Both armature and map, it is powered by the energy generated by a circular dance performed by the young people in the schools. Orientated by the rising and setting sun – in relation to the Clwydians in the east and Snowdonia in the west – and the movements of the heavens, it provides a portal to the ancestral world; a place that is at the same time exotic and familiar...

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