becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street

Michael Chase

When I was fifteen years old, I was sent to a criminal juvenile institution for possessing drugs while being out of school and under age in South Africa.

After having been there for a term, I ran away while being escorted by a guard to a holiday camp. As I was being chased by station guards, I made my way to a nearby dual carriageway where I hid in a ditch. I thought I was safe and free. As I lay there, I began to feel that rather than being safe I was actually in an abyss, a place of abandonment and isolation both inwardly and outwardly. In that dark place I realized I had a choice to make: to stay there and keep running or to go back to my prison on my own terms. I chose to go back and I recommitted myself to the institution. From that moment I began to draw. I drew faces, faces with every possible expression, the myriad selves of my soul life, both creative and destructive. This was the beginning of my journey to my present work as a mask practitioner. I walked back to my prison in order to learn that freedom was an inner quality, and that it is not about doing what you like but doing what you really wish to do. I didnít want to wreck my body with drugs or risk my life on the edge and I needed to get hold of my own inner world, to be the director of my soul, rather than driven by it. It is this process that is now the central theme of my own work with masks.