The backbone of any civilization can be traced to its stories. They contain lessons of moral, spiritual, ethical or practical knowledge conveyed and presented by an Aboriginal elder or by books, movies, paintings, bronze sculpture, etc. Without the ability to receive and consume these stories, an individual or culture is doomed to the constant replaying of its mistakes.
As a storyteller himself, with this piece John M. Soderberg pays homage to the grandfather of the arts, the verbal storyteller. John received a considerable amount of material on the Teysha Indians, including their history, traditions, influence and stories. Storyteller depicts a Teysha grandfather telling the story of creation, his arms crossed and upraised. The listener imagines the baby in a nutshell as he speaks.
The Teysha believed in an omnipotent deity, a supreme figure who rewarded good behavior and punished bad. There are several versions of their creation myths, but all shared the initial belief that in the beginning there was a woman who had two daughters, one of whom was pregnant.
In one version, the two daughters were washing by a lake one day when a hideous monster jumped out from behind the trees, attacking and eating the pregnant daughter; the other escaped by climbing a tree. When the monster began tearing down the tree, she dove into the water and escaped. The monster tried drinking the lake dry in an attempt to find her, but failed. At home the daughter told her mother what had happened. They returned to the spot and found nothing but a drop of blood on the beach. Sorrowfully, the mother scooped up the drop in a nutshell and carried it home where she placed it in a jar.
During the night, a sound was heard coming from the jar. When they looked inside, they saw a perfectly formed baby falling back asleep in the nutshell, the daughter's son! The mother, overjoyed, left the baby alone.
In the jar the next day they discovered an adolescent boy, six inches tall!
The boy was trained and equipped by his grandmother, and after growing to his full height, he set out to face the monster. After a fierce battle, the monster was defeated, and with his grandmother and aunt, the man went to the sky where they ruled the world.
Aside from the creation myth, Soderberg imparted separate symbolism within the watch worn on the elder's wrist. During a harrowing time in our modern history, the cold war period, a large clock was kept on the wall of the Pentagon in Washington D.C. It was used for the countdown to full scale nuclear aggression between the United States and Russia. The only time that this clock was ever used for its intended purpose was during the Cuban missal crises during the term of President John F. Kennedy. As is the case with the Pentagon clock, the stroke of midnight is used as a symbol to indicate the time of Armageddon or the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. As the big clock at the Pentagon stopped at three minutes till midnight, so has the watch of the storyteller.
This story of our own potential destruction as a people and all that share this world is one that the modern-day storyteller needs to pass on to future generations. John believes that this is not a choice to make, but an obligation we have to our offspring...