Saturday, 18 June 2011

Long roads, winding roads

Funny how very few things in my life happen in a purely binary fashion. Very seldom do I get confronted by a clear problem which has a clear solution. Noooo, "moi" has to travel long and winding roads to get to a maybe/sort-of answer.

My painting is one such an example.

I have told you how I have started painting (in recent years), but there is still another sub-plot, which I have to tell you about in order to describe my inspiration for a painting that SO many people like! Before I show it to you, I have to tell the story ...

While I was working on my PhD, there were loooooong times that nothing happened and that I had to wait and wait for people to respond. During one such an excessively frustrating lull - it was June or July - I attended a writing course presented by Riana Scheepers at the homestead of her stunning wine farm, called De Compagnie, in Wellington.

Never before in my life had I been so inspired! I loved it!

A few months later, Riana held a harvest festival on the farm, to which I was invited. It was such a memorable evening, with the incredibly talented Niel Rademan and Petronel Baard performing music.


Anyway, during one song, Petronel danced on the red tiled stoep of the homestead, with her long, dark hair, head thrown back, arms above her head, bare feet, and flowing red dress, enraptured by the music. I wanted to paint it.

As I am not too confident about figure studies, I browsed the internet for a picture which could serve as a model.

And then the road started wiiiinding again ...

I found some really nice pics, mostly of belly dancers. Yip, I became interested in belly dancing, and actually danced for two years. I still miss it.

Belly dancing is not a dirty thing done by strippers. Well, that is not what it was originally about, although it turned "dirty" in our Western hands. Originally, it was the dances performed by women in a harem to amuse themselves and also to prepare them for child birth, as it strengthens the abdominal muscles like you wouldn't believe!

Pretty, isn't it? Obviously, my level of skill wasn't even 1% of Viktoriya's. But what I lacked in skill, I made up for with enthusiasm.

By the way, a "harem" also is not at all what we were lead to believe.

"The word has been recorded in the English language since 1634, via Turkish harem, from Arabic ḥaram 'forbidden', originally implying 'women's quarters', literally 'something forbidden or kept safe', from the root of ḥarama 'to be forbidden; to exclude'. ... The 'harem' does not refer to a sanctuary for the wives of a polygynous person. It is simply a resting quarters for women. Female seclusion in Islam is emphasized to the extent that any unlawful breaking into that privacy is ḥarām "forbidden". A Muslim harem does not necessarily consist solely of women with whom the head of the household has sexual relations (wives and concubines), but also their young offspring, other female relatives, etc.; and it may either be a palatial complex, as in Romantic tales, in which case it includes staff (women and eunuchs), or simply their quarters, in the Ottoman tradition separated from the men's selamlık. It is being more commonly acknowledged today that the purpose of harems during the Ottoman Empire was for the royal upbringing of the future wives of noble and royal men. These women would be educated so that they were ready to appear in public as a royal wife."

Thus according to Wikipedia, (which  I will not quote in a thesis, but which does give a concise description of most things).

And so I danced. I even took along my daughter, who enjoyed it just as much as I did. It is such a girly thing, done by women for women. I loved spending time with women who love to dance and who, like me, did it without wondering what people would think of their less-than-perfect bodies. I loved the colourful costumes ... [sigh] ... I miss those days!

My husband quoted the South African entertainer Nataniël and said "I don't understand anything about it, but it is beautiful - just keep on doing what you are doing!" 

The snake in Paradise came in the form of a teeny tiny woman who made comments about me being a "big girl". It broke that safe bubble, where I could enjoy myself with other big girls, old girls, ugly girls, unco-ordinated girls, girls shaped like caterpillars, grubs or toothpicks. It was a sad day, and it was the beginning of the end of my belly dancing career.

Wow, now I am wandering along memory lanes that has very little to do with my painting!

Back to my painting ...

One photograph of a dancer captivated me: long, dark hair, head thrown back ...



One day, I'll paint that picture of the singer dancing under the vines ...

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