The so-called “fair sex” and nature have always suffered from the brute force of man.
Ages ago, when tribes constituted civilized clusters of the human population, women were the undisputed leaders of the clan for their natural and developed powers in connecting with the spiritual world. However, at some point in antiquity, man’s greed and lust for corrupted power forcefully usurped women from their positions of supremacy as nature’s fore-most healers and communicators. Hence, the gifted qualities of women were largely ignored, and worse, still suppressed in the battle for supremacy to give way for the rise of patriarchal power.
My reason for the slightly over-bearing (if at all) feministic shop talk is evoked by a recent exhibition held at Jeddah Atelier last Monday by artist Mahdih Al-Talib from Dammam. The theme of the entire collection of her paintings and wood carved sculptures was strung around the various moods of women and their relationship with all of nature’s elements.
Al-Talib’s affair with colors began, as she divulged, at the tender age of five when she would steal colors from her brothers and draw on the walls. “I was happy at school because I had the colors of my choice to paint with,” she said. Obtaining her father’s permission to draw on the roof of their home, Al-Talib ventured early on with sketching her family’s pictures and their “shadows in the sun.”
Having realized she possessed the necessary talent to draw and paint, she then took art classes and began participating in exhibitions from the age of 21.
On close inspection and moving from one work to another, there seemed to be a progression from the strength in her use of bright aquatic color palettes to an almost dreamlike surrealism in the mood of the women: mystical and brooding. Also quite evident is the presence of calligraphic touches and geometric patterns consistent in almost all the pieces.
“Artists are like seasons of the year. They are different in each period trying to draw with all kinds of colors,” she explained. It’s perhaps why her schemes in artistic endeavors range from paintings to dabbling in mediums of sculpting and photography.
It’s difficult to miss the strong depiction of women with nature in this particular collection. There is a tender association of the female forms with domestic animals and sea-creatures, and at times, a super-imposition and unity with each other. “The greatest creation of God is the human and the most beautiful creatures of God are women. They represent beauty, peace, sacrifice and tenderness without borders,” she says.
The entire array of wooden sculptures is carved in the shape of doves with a woman at its heart, perhaps a metaphor for freedom in a fleeting sense of flight from the shackles of societal and cultural restrictions. She mentions, however, that it was her childhood dream to build a house in the form of a large bird carved in wood.
“Here, the injustice in society is clear for women. I try, through my drawings, to show all the characteristics of vulnerable women.”
She says her reason for exhibiting in Jeddah is due to the presence of a far stronger interest in visual forms of art in the western region.
“The entire series was designed to send the message of saving people from environmental pollution and pollution of the intellect,” she added.
Women (save the fortunate ones) have always been forced to assume passive roles just as nature. Women and nature have also found organic metaphors in relation to each other. In understanding and appreciating the historical connection that has existed between women and nature and their subsequent oppression, we cannot help but take a stand on the war waged against nature itself. By allowing ourselves to participate in environmental protection against those who are assuming the right to destroy the ordinances of the natural world, our actions will most certainly help in creating awareness against forced domination that is seeping in all levels of society.
Building on this perspective, a very interesting eco-feministic stand taken from an artistic view-point.
I will conclude with a quote by the famous writer, poet and critic, Samuel Johnson: “Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them very little.”