Sawney Ha'peth takes their name from an old slur against the Scots, particularly Highlanders. Originating as a nickname akin to "Jock" it is still defined as "fool" or "simpleton" in the dictionary. "Ha'peth" is a corruption of halfpenny implying worthlessness - literally "a worthless fool".
Acting as a "sacred fool" of tartantry they embody the complicated nature of Scottish national identity - a force that has both been oppressed and oppressor throughout its history. Presented as a simultaneous clowning troubadour and terrifying threat. Exploring the numerous contradictory ideas of Scottish national identity including the propaganda which described Highlanders as cannibals well into the 18th century, the drunkard and drug addict, the Scottish Cringe phenomena and the romanticised oppressed hero seeking an abstracted freedom.
Turning stereotypically Scottish symbols upside down by using obscene and sacrilegious actions out of national symbols and associations to subvert the truly obscene dangers of drawing one's identity from one's nation. In a process akin to ceremonial clowning which allowed the critique of the society's structure within a ritualistic framework. Here haggis becomes a beloved pet, bagpipes are a source of meditation, Highland dance becomes a means of freeform catharsis and whisky is given back to the earth.
Sawney draws on my own experience being born and growing up in Scotland, also sharing a birthday with the Scottish Indeendence Referendum. Both sides of my family go back as far as records can tell to Scotland. I grew up in Moray (whisky country) and worked in a shortbread factory for several years to save-up to pursue my practice.