From before the era of seafaring until the mid 20th century, Borth, a coastal village in mid Wales, was an isolated community living mainly from harvesting herring and cockles. Borth is built on an exposed shingle bank, flanked on one side by the Irish Sea with its submerged forest and on the other by the marshlands of Cors Fochno.
It was the women of Borth who walked the cliff path to Rhiw Fawr, through Clarach and over the hill to Aberystwyth to sell their catch. Named by the folk of Aberystwyth and the surrounding communities, the Borth women became known as The Black Crows. This was due to their close grouping, their feisty, independent characters and their fluttering black garments while descending from the hills towards the market town.
On ‘The Cliff of Vigil’ – the highest vantage point of Borth – the women often surveyed the wide open sea in the hope that their men would return. Almost all of the menfolk went to sea in order to nourish their families and yet a great number were consumed by the ocean. Many women were widowed – a fact that brought the womenfolk closer together and forced them to adapt to a more self-sustaining lifestyle from where the strong matriarchal spirit is still evident today.
Borth has changed from a seafaring village to a mecca for artistic self-sufficient women who share ecological and spiritual principles within the close knit community. Borth’s communal autonomy and also the strong bond between the old and young generations, which expands throughout the family circle, combine and represent an open minded Zeitgeist reflecting their spiritual and artistic freedom. Many of the women of Borth express themselves through art, visualising their close relationship with the sea and the encircled landscape around Borth. Ranging from driftwood recycling to paintings, sculptures and music, the contemporary Black Crows distribute their art from the sea as did their valiant predecessors. They have decided to establish a lifestyle within the fierce and bleak coastal village, a location which has always been endangered by floods and storms. With the sea levels on the rise Borth’s future is in unknown hands.
The Black Crows of Borth is a photographic composition, with its prevailing roots within the maritime context. It explores the persisting landscape and draws a parallel between past and present to portray a new generation of strong women in the spirit of the matriarchal society of centuries ago. The contemporary Black Crows depend as much on the sea as on each other and their artistic expression as well as their social cohesion is of natural precedence.