The Real Folkestone Mermaid

Acrylic on found Board, oral story

Folkestone’s Sunny Sands beach is famous for its sculpture of a mermaid, designed by Cornelia Parker and unveiled as part of the 2011 Folkestone Triennial. The statue has become an icon of Folkestone, but what most residents don’t know, is that there have been stories of mermaids in Folkestone for hundreds of years.

This artwork is designed to draw attention to Folkestone’s forgotten history of the ‘Dogfish Mother’. The earliest written account of the creature comes from a medieval bestiary (a kind of encyclopedia of animals and myths). It tells the tale of two babies that were found on the beach in Folkestone. It is not clear whether the foundlings we abandoned or survivors of a shipwreck. But the story goes that they survived a harsh night outdoors because they were nursed by a half-woman and half-dogfish creature until the morning. In the morning the babies were discovered and taken in by the local abbess, having been kept safe and nourished through the storms of the night.

According to the legend the Dogfish Woman of Folkestone saved the lives of these children, and local folklore says that seeing the dogfish woman of Folkestone is a good omen. Sightings of the Dogfish Woman have not been reported recently and the ancient folk history is not known to many current residents.

The painting is a re-imagined version of the Folkestone Mermaid statue, designed to pay homage to the original mermaid of Folkestone’s folk tradition.

When exhibited the artistwould be present and prepared to share the above story with visitors, as part of the telling of the story the artist discloses that he has been known to fabricate things in his work. An exploration of the function and generation of myth.

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