‘A sensitive, allusive photo-essay about the interactions between landscape, memory and time’ – Planet
Mametz marks the centenary of the Battle of Mametz Wood, the most significant battle in World War I for Welsh troops.
Over 4,000 soldiers of the 38th Welsh Division were killed or wounded there in July 1916. For the past five years photographer Aled Rhys Hughes has visited Mametz each July to make images that are entirely about Wales even though they are located in France. The result is a series of 49 striking colour photographs divided into seven sets of seven images. They cover images of actual trees from the war (some ‘embracing’ artillery shells), battlefield detritus, and military mementoes. Also included are images of places of modern pilgrimage and remembrance (including some poignant contemporary expressions of grief), place names and an evocative section on ‘twilight: the dangerous time’.
This artistic commemoration is entirely fitting for a battle recorded by artist Christopher Williams and authors Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, who fought there. The battle was also recorded in detail in Up to Mametz by Llywelyn Wyn Griffith and In Parenthesis by David Jones, who was wounded in action.
And It is commemorated locally by Welsh memorials in the church, a Welsh language road sign in the village, and David Petersen’s dragon sculpture at the official memorial. Aled Rhys Hughes has discovered intangible connections to the battle, a hundred years later: in a landscape which still retains a memory of the offensive.
His photographs are accompanied by a ‘timeline’ of the battle, a period map, and an essay by Jeremy Hooker on the photographs and their relationship with the landscape and the men, now long gone, who took part.
Mametz is a moving and inventive act of commemoration.