Thursday, 7 April 2011

Man and the World of Stars

Man and the World of Stars (2005)
(Mixed Media, Martin Wenkidu)
Martin Wenkidu, the artist who created “Man and the World of Stars”, the painting at the centre of my cover, is a deeply spiritual man. His work reflects that. Each painting is redolent with mysterious symbols and ancient myths.

The artwork used for the cover of Dancing in the Shadows of Love is no different. When Wenkidu and his wife Rae (a talented artist in her own right) delivered the painting, he took time to explain the painting to us. Below is an edited transcript of the recorded conversation.

JUDY (J): Could you explain what some of these images mean?

WENKIDU (W): To do these San Bushmen paintings I have to enter into something of the state of the people who did these early paintings.

J: Do you ever remember anything?

W: Unless I’m working on it, it can be quite a puzzle. When the San did their trance dances there was lots of clapping and chanting from the women, the feminine/creative aspect. It took those in the dance circle into a different state of consciousness and that’s where I go when I paint these.

J: Where does the name “Man and the World of Stars” come from?

W: Since the most ancient times, mankind has always looked to the heavens – the world of stars – for answers, for the meaning to life. This painting represents that relationship.

J: What do those three dominant figures mean?

W: The first figure on the left, is a kind of dreaming, a pure God. You can see the streaks of light raining out from the head, into the oneness of being. Light is the original creation. I take the images from the original San forms, but this head form doesn’t have an animal or bird head; it carries the phallic symbol. In one way it could be shocking, but it’s very pure, very elemental.

J: You’re saying it shows the life force that springs from the phallus?

W: Exactly. There is something of the baptism of Christ by St John in this figure. Maybe it’s St John speaking “…and I saw the spirit of God descending.”

J: So this figure is the primal God entity? And you're saying it's male?

W: Primitive people, the loving simple souls who can sacrifice unto God, live in complete union with God and this figure is that of complete union. An androgyne, there is both the male phallus as head and the female breasts on the body: yin and yang combined into Divine oneness. This is the world of the ancient San, where they were one with the animals and the earth and God and each other. Do you see all the animal shapes in the spaces?

J: I see the eland head coming out of the white spiral.

W: The Eland was the most sacred animal to the San Bushmen. Through it they went over into the other worlds, the spirit world.

J: There are a lot of other animals roaming around the painting. I can see several antelope; an elephant, and a giraffe.

W: This is Eden before the fall: man and nature and god were whole, unfractured and unquestioning. If you look, you can see the leg of the right hand figure has the shape of an antelope drinking at a waterhole. That is man and animals sharing one consciousness; both as one with the water of life, with God.

J: And the middle figure?

W: Ah. This figure is much more knowing. There is the almost triangular shape of the chest and shoulders, they’re square-ish, more logical, and with less gentle flowing than the first figure. This figure is all male; reason is masculine.

J: The age of reason overwhelming the age of faith?

W: More like the time of Classical Athens, Ancient Greece and Rome, when intellectual knowledge and patriarchy began to ascend over emotions and matriarchy. There is still harmony between Man and God, but man is beginning to have an intellectual understanding of good and evil, light and dark.

J: What’s that comet-like image between the middle figure's arms held upright?

W: That is a porcupine. In Nigeria, to the Ekoi people, the porcupine is closely linked to the spirit realm and here it rains the spirit of knowledge into mankind. This is also linked to the Prometheus myth; the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya traditionally regarded the porcupine as the discoverer of fire; Plato and the Classical Greeks discovered the fire of knowledge; Prometheus stole the seed of fire from the gods. Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge and man began to understand that there was both good and evil; light and dark in the world.

J: Is that modern skyscrapers or a city behind the head of the third figure?

W: The third figure is definitely female – the breasts are well-formed and large, her hips have the rounded shape of the San female; her waist is slender. She has more to do with our own times, the modern world. In the background, is the city, the New Jerusalem. Returning to the feminine consciousness, the creative, feeling, emotional side of us that was lost to reason for millennia, since the rise of intellectualism, will take us back to the perfect union with Divine, with God. Do you see how the head of the middle, male figure head is turned to the past, while the head of the female figure turns to the future. In our world, today’s world, mankind must find the answers through the feminine energy of creation and compassion.

J: My husband Beric is strong alpha male energy, and a highly intellectual person; his reason always wins out over his emotions. Are you saying we must abandon reason?

W: No. Look at how the leg of the female figure – the one that becomes an antelope drinking – crosses over, joins with, the leg of the middle male figure. Reason and emotion must join into one consciousness. Unfettered emotion can be destructive, separating us from the real, physical world. Undiluted reason can be oppressive and separates us from the spiritual world. They must join together in equal parts; they must become one; one with each other and one with God, through a balance of both male reason and female creativity.

J: I’m going to write a story about this painting one day.

W: I want a signed copy.
  
Wenkidu has had to wait a while for his signed copy, but finally the story inspired by this painting has taken on its form. Whenever I got writer’s block when writing this novel, I would put on the Aum chant and breathe this painting in and soon I would be writing again.

Now that you've learned more about the painting, do you think of the cover reflects a story that explores one of mankind's oldest and most complex questions: what is the relationship between man and the unknown world?
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Martin Wenkidu can be contacted at wenkidu@mweb.co.za
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Dancing in the Shadows of Love” will be released as an e-book by Aztar Press in May 2011.
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If you're a follower, don't forget to leave a comment for another chance to win one of those four copies of the brilliant anthology of short stories "Notes from Underground" that are up for grabs! Competition details HERE.
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22 comments:

Judith Mercado said...

I already thought the painting was terrific. This discussion only enhanced my appreciation of it. It also whet my appetite for your novel. Well done.

Bish Denham said...

Oh Judy, I knew I liked that painting, now I know why! I love they symbolism, the energy. Thanks for sharing.

Damaria Senne said...

Thanks for sharing. Now I understand the painting better.

Helen said...

I think the painting is amazing. I would not have gotten all that from just looking at the cover, but I do find it very interesting to hear the thoughts of the painter.
Helen

Anita said...

The art is beautiful and the post refreshing, inspirational!

Marilyn Brant said...

Wow.
Judy and Wenkidu ~ what a fascinating and insightful interview. I truly appreciated learning more about the images, symbols and philosophies that went into the creation of this beautiful painting.
Thank you both for sharing!!
And Judy, YES, I do think the cover reflects that age-old question about man's relationship to the unknown. How wonderful to have such a great connection between story and cover design!

Judy Croome said...

Hello everyone! I’ve been quiet because I’ve been working on my book trailer (SQUEEE!) and I’m thrilled with it! I’ll post it on the blog on Monday (with some Amazon giveaways!)

Now, onto your always lovely comments:

JUDITH: I thought, with your spiritual background and your Dad’s legacy, you’d find the interview interesting.

BISH: I love sharing this painting and what it means – it’s always such a good talking point!

DAMARIA: I knew I liked the painting when I first saw it; but once Wenkidu has explained it to me, I understood it better too!

HELEN: These blog images and cover don’t really do painting justice: the colours are more vibrant, the blue a rich indigo and all the little fascinating animals bring it alive, and there’s also lines of Wenkidu’s poetry written amongst the background images). Husband and I love to hear Wenkidu talk about his work – it’s so fascinating!

ANITA: Thanks, it is a beautiful painting. Another of my favourites by Wenkidu is called “Turn Turn the Wind and the Rain” The flautist has the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen, and yet the painting is all about as one world ends another begins – such a positive image!

MARILYN: It’s an absolute pleasure! And as far as the connection between the painting and the cover goes, from the time I wrote the first word, I knew this was the cover I wanted for my story, that’s how closely they’re related in my mind (although I don’t think my story is as profound as Wenkidu’s art; it’s much “smaller” in scope!

Well, I still need to catch up on visiting everyone’s blogs, but as my big sister left to return to her UK home today (sob sob) I’m now 100% in charge of the parents, and my blogging time will be even more limited. I may be a bit slow in my return visits, but I’ll get there as soon as I can!

Helen Ginger said...

They way you describe it, it's probably amazing in person.

Claire Robyns said...

Thanks for sharing the artist's insight, Judy, this painting is mesmerising and it's lovely to get a peek into all the layers that make it up and the artist's trance method. Now, more than ever, I see why this cover is so perfect for Dancing in The Shadows.
Love the trailer!

Robyn Campbell said...

Judy, you wrote that story too. I bet the artist wasn't a bit surprised.

Loved learning the process between the story and the cover design.

I can't wait to see the trailer. :-)

Nas Dean said...

I also liked learning about the process between the story and the cover design. And it is so tantalising!

Judy Croome said...

HELEN: it is! :) You'll have to come visit to see it for yourself!

CLAIRE: Glad you like the book trailer - and, as always, thanks for your generous advice with both cover and trailer! :)

ROBYN: I think the artist was hugely surprised because it took me so long to finish the book I suspect he (and everyone else) thought it would never be finished. Hope you like the trailer as much (it's up now)Love to C & you!

NAS: Great to have you here! And tantalising is good...hopefully it'll tempt readers into buying the book! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judy .. what an erudite man Wenkidu is .. I couldn't explain myself this well. Loved your questions and his answers - full of imagery, bush understanding, ways of the ancient peoples ... gosh what an extra to the book .. to have this printed out - or even put into the book? for us to continue to learn from.

This is superb .. thank you so much for posting it and what an absolute soul find Wenkidu is -

you really have put together an amazing cover, trailer and now this interview on 'Man and World of Stars' .. a great triumph for the words within your book. Fantastic - Hilary

Judy Croome said...

HILARY: Oh I wish I'd thought of putting this interview into the book!!! That's such a good idea! But I've already sent it off to the E-book convertor, and I don't think I should make major changes now. A real pity that! Thanks for your enthusiatic support - adds to the fun I've had getting this book together! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judy .. next time then!! It'd have been great if you had .. but honestly we all toddle along a path we've set .. that's enough too .. but it will be a great story to do sometime.

Good luck and enjoy the putting together .. looks superb .. cheers - Hilary

Tabouleh said...

What a beautifully written post... I enjoyed reading it and discovering the meaning behind that beautiful painting... Thank you for introducing me to this artist... I feel her is extremely spiritual... you can feel it through his painting.

Judy Croome said...

HILARY: Thanks for the good luck! It's amazing how much there is to do as publication date approaches(Gulp), I'm bound to forget things and miss out on great ideas!

TABOULEH: Wenkidu can hold amazing conversations on spirituality and myths which, of course, is why his paintings carry so much depth.

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Thanks to Hilary, I found my way to this fabulous site, news of your book and an exquisite interview with Martin.

He cites the very message that is being touted around the world through so many different sources: "In our world, today’s world, mankind must find the answers through the feminine energy of creation and compassion."

Thank you for your contribution to this timely and necessary step in our evolution, Judy.

Judy Croome said...

AMY: I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. I hope my book reflects the same message as its wonderful cover: that real strength lies in gentleness and compassion, and that as we evolve as a species, it's finding that Divine Love within that will help us reach our highest potential. Thanks for the visit! :) See you on Hilary's blog!

Hilary said...

Hi Judy .. I just wanted to say .. I showed the painting to my mother yesterday and tried to explain it a little ... but asked if she'd like me to read her your discussion with Martin Wenkidu ... and there was a big nod: 'yes please' .. so I'll be doing that shortly - cheers Hilary

Pamala Knight said...

Thank you for that interview Judy. Can I just say WOW? I love the blended symbolism behind the figures and find the image even more interesting.

And yes, the French Open was thrilling right? I'm always happy for Rafa but sad when he beats Federer. I have a blind spot where both Roger Federer and Venus Williams are concerned, lol. I root for many, many players (especially Rafa) except when they're playing either Roger or Venus. Oh well, on to Wimbledon!

*waves*

Judy Croome said...

HILARY: Hope your Mum enjoys hearing about Martin's art as much as she enjoyed her parcel!

PAMALA: The image is so interesting, Martin managed to capture the ancient feel of the San rock paintings in a very modern way. And my sister also loves the cool and calm Fed (but I prefer Rafa's earthy passion!) (and I wonder what that says about me??!!?) Enjoy Wimbledon (hard to believe it's here again!)