LIFE'S LIKE THAT?

 

Dear Network

 

This is the true story that the world's best kleinhuisie magazine rejected when I submitted it many years ago for their 'Life's Like That’ feature:

 

When my daughter Eva was four years old, we spent the school holidays with friends in Cape Town. She was very intrigued with the fact that Cape schools had not yet closed, whereas Transvaal schools had. After thinking about it for a day or two, she said:

 

“Mommy, we don’t have school, and they do…”

 

“Yes,” I said.

 

“And some places have night when we have day…”

 

“Yes,” I said.

 

“And some places have summer when we have winter, hey, Mom?”

 

“Yes,” I said.

 

“But we’re right, aren’t we?” she concluded.

 

I still think it's very funny, poignant and true. It illustrates our inclination for intolerance, our incapacity for allowing what Rick Andrews calls a wider truth, some greater whole (second M2M, p.18 )

 

…which reminds me of something I read today:

Pollaiuolo (1431-1498) was one of the first serious students of human anatomy. In 1465 he drew figures that seem somewhat stiff and frozen, even though he portrayed them in violent action. He showed all the muscle groups at maximum tension.
http://www.clevelandart.org/exhibcef/battle/html/2403706.html (the link takes you to an image) Decades later Leonardo da Vinci observed the wider truth: only the muscle groups actually involved in any action are tense, while others relax and let go.

 

There must be a parable here… about the stiff and frozen church? To refer to Rick Andrews’ talk again: locked in the doctrinal Puritanism of the churches, Christian artists need to be released for the fight, to be able to get their hinds dirty and make a difference.

 

When I read the above to Izak, he felt I needed to explain what I mean about Christian artists getting their hands dirty. 'Should Christian artists now be free to paint porn?' he asked. No, that is not it. I can best illustrate what I mean by relating what happened to me.

 

I painted a picture of a beautiful forest glade. In the middle was a lovely young woman in a full-length, elaborate gown, facing a tall, naked, handsome young man. They were holding hands and gazing at each other in complete adoration. Huddled here and there, in foetal positions with their backs to the couple, were rather ugly nude women.

 

A church elder happened to see the painting. Soon afterwards I was called in by my pastor (oh, dreaded headmaster's office!) and reprimanded. He had not seen the painting, but assured me that it was offensive (downright sinful!) to have a clothed woman and a naked man in a painting, and I did not make another for many years.

 

As I was trying to think of what I meant when I said that the 'Doctrinal Puritans' should relax and let artists go, I wondered what would have happened if the elder and pastor had relaxed and just looked at my painting, without fear and prejudice. For the first time ever, I then relaxed and really looked at it (at my memory of it. It does not physically exist any more). And an interpretation occurred to me:

 

Christ so loved the church that he gave himself for her. He became naked and vulnerable so that she could be clothed, so that He could present her to Himself without spot or wrinkle. The sad, ugly, nude women are those who have still to accept the bridegroom’s gift and become part of the Bride by re-birth (hence their foetal positions).

 

I still carry around residual hurt and anger and a sense of worthlessness as an artist, which I cannot seem to eradicate (I have probably got some serious forgiving to do before I can be set free). I have been listening to the words of healing and freedom spoken through Craig Bartholomew and others, but I am still grieving for my unpainted paintings, for the years the locusts have eaten - and feeling guilty about being so self-important!

 

Yet - I am listening, and I sense the prison doors opening. Thank God for the Network!

 

Erna Buber-deVilliers

 

Many to Many Issue 3 February 1993

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