"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, March 12, 2012

From Mali, with memories

What's her story? This little  11-inch tall sculpture out of one piece of wood came from my trip to Mali four years ago, and reminds me every day of what is not important.I bought her in the open air market in Bamako, the capital of the country on a 100 degree March day--and it wasn't the hot season yet in this sub-Saharan country in Africa. What I learned from the trip was that we Americans are spoiled and fortunate. We get up every morning and turn on the tap water and brush our teeth...most people in the world can't do that because the water isn't safe. We have untold wealth, including things like deodorant, toothpaste, air conditioning, indoor cooking, and electricity that works virtually all the time. This woman does not, and is closer to the earth and therefore her gods--thus the offering. Every day is a struggle, and you're dependent on family  and hard work, and powers beyond your control. 
    I also bought other art while there. I don't know the symbolism, but the 13- inch by 4-foot cloth hanging from my studio door provides a trip into another world, every time  I look at it, wondering what hands wove it. I do notice the masks on the top and bottom figures, and I find it interesting that in our country, we don't put on literal masks much anymore, except in our Native American societies in ceremonies. Yet we wear lots of masks in our jobs and social lives but don't call them that.  I bought the thin decorative mask, 13 inches tall,  in Bamako, and later when some Malian friends visited here, I bought the larger, actual Dogon ceremonial mask.
But they're not evil to me. I also bought the round leather container which Susan uses as a jewelry case. I think it is camel leather. As with the cloth, I wonder at the hands and creative spirits that made these, where they were made, how long they took, where they sat, and what they're doing today. To me, the leather art contains more than jewelry. It overflows with stories. I think all art has stories.

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