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Judith hits back one more time

The debacle that is the latest racist/sexist Trump attack on female democrats Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib yesterday seems a good context in which to explain my recent woodcut: Judith as Coatlicue:

Judith as Coatlicue

This story (thought to be non-factual) of a woman decapitating a potential assailant has been used by artists throughout history from Lucas Cranach to Artimesia Gentileshi and Klimt. I based mine loosely on this Nuremberg Chronicles illustration – thought to have been worked on by a young Albrecht Durer:

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I did a large, hand coloured cut back in February- casting Ocasio -Cortez partly as Judith and partly as the Mexican goddess Coatlicue (meaning ‘Skirt of snakes’ – simultaneous creator and destroyer) in anticipation of her potential as someone who could help impeach Trump.  I  listed some of the groups raising objection to his foul policies: Me too, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock ( as well as UK organisations such as SUTR) down the side of the cut.

Judith and Holofernes has been used through art history as a metaphor for female resistance to male dominance. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez has rightly pointed out that Trump is attacking ethnically -diverse Congresswomen  to distract from his toxic policies. Apart from keeping Latin American children incarcerated, he is eroding the rights of the LGBTQ citizens and trying to make abortion illegal throughout the US.

He and his friend Boris Johnson must be stopped.

 

 

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We can’t forget Grenfell

Swansea turned out on Friday night to remember the seventy-two people killed in West London two years ago. Kensington and Chelsea Council were more concerned with cheap cosmetic facades (to improve the view of wealthy residents) than safety for all:

Grenfell Protest

Some in Castle Square took the chance to say something or to read poetry. I found it too difficult to say how much I loved the area when I lived in London – I worked with disabled children from Notting Hill throughout the 80’s and spent many happy hours at the carnival.

To date, seventeen of the families affected by the fire have not been re-housed and 200 high-rise buildings in England are still covered with cladding similar to that used on Grenfell.

Another guest (& window protest)

Fellow artist and long-time friend Viv popped in yesterday to experiment with her unique style of printing and mark-making.

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A fair amount of time was spent chatting but I find this always leads to the sprouting of great ideas….I imagined the rapper Stormzy and Moira Samuel demonstrating together about the treatment of Grenfell survivors and put them in the window (it’s the 2nd anniversary of that preventable disaster today with vigils in Swansea and London.

Moira bub

Guests at The Bubble

I’m here at Creative Bubble for two weeks with the intention of stretching out creatively and collaborating with other artists. My first guests came round yesterday – old friends Annalise & Rachel (from those hectic Swansea Mas Carnival days):As we made plans to work together again (on a dance project) I had to get a sketch of them (although it’s impossible to capture their incredible enthusiasm).More guests are expected tomorrow; I will have the kettle on and lots of cake at the ready…

Who was out against Trump on Saturday?

The simple answer to the above is- everyone. Or rather representatives from every group he has ever offended (as shown by the banners depicted in these occasionally rain – spattered sketches from the day)….

We approach Parliament Square!

To name but a few: LGBTQ activists, anti war, Stand Up to Racism, Black Lives Matter, Disabled People Against Cuts, Anti fascists, Feminists of all ages, Eco -warriors, Latinx and Refugees were all there despite the rain. Some of these were grouped into blocs and announced in advance to enable protesters to find their milieu…

Protestors in Whitehall

There was the peace and anti-war bloc. Others included the student bloc, abortion rights women’s bloc, a Jewish bloc and a Palestine bloc. Basically though, we all had a huge party and had fun! I struck up a rhythm with this woman (from Swansea, say no more) having a great time playing a metal colander:

One of the most striking moments for me though was seeing a group of women dressed as Handmaids (referencing Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale in which women are reduced to baby-making slaves); about 15 of them moved silently past the National Gallery holding cautionary quotes from the novel (warning of incremental erosion of human rights):

This is one of a series of protests in Solidarity with women in Alabama where abortion has been made illegal via a Republican bill even in cases of incest and rape (N.B. doctors performing this operation face life imprisonment). We need to remember that the rights we enjoy were fought for by our antecedents; they could very easily be wiped out by Trump and his friends in the UK unless we defend them.

The Penlan Cavalry rides again….

This legendary (and seldom- seen) group of young men on horseback are as elusive and rare as orchids.

I spot them sometimes riding bareback down High St but as quick as I reach for my sketchbook they vanish….

Luckily, they put in an appearance down Oxford St, Swansea the other day. There were quite a few, some of them with pony & traps; this beautiful ‘Palomino’ Welsh Cob was parked up in Western St:

For the first time ever I also managed to sketch one of the 6 strong Cavalry riding bare- back in the same street behind another carriage:

Does anyone from Swansea know anything more about them?

The White Rose Saboteurs

The following story from just before WW2 affected me so profoundly that I did a woodcut of one of the main protagonists. Shortly afterwards a poem /song almost wrote itself on the same subject. 

But a little background first….

The White Rose group consisted of 5 students and 1 tutor from Munich University. Between June ’42 and February ’43 this group made and distributed 6 anti Nazi/war leaflets. The penultimate leaflet was titled To the fellow-fighters in The Resistance (written just after the German defeat at Stalingrad) and it was this that Sophie and Hans Scholl were caught throwing over the atrium at Munich University. They confessed immediately, maintaining they were the only members ( in order to protect the rest but the Gestapo eventually arrested all 5). Three of them were tortured, tried and guillotined immediately- Sophie, her brother Hans and Christopher Probst.

00schollS3 Hans & Sophie Scholl (left & centre) with Christopher Probst in 1943 – photo courtesy Spatacus International

 This is my poem/song:The White Rose (which I performed for the first time last night!):

Such a fine sunny day and I have to go

I can’t type any more, and the guard’s at the door.

We could not stand the sounds

We could not stand the sights

So we tried telling others

About Kristallnacht

Tell the world that we tried

Fighting fascists with words

Say it soft

Pray it slow

The White Rose, The White Rose

Angel- headed students we took on

The Wolf

Tried strafe-bombing Hitler with

Paper and Truth

Now the cold Lady Guillotine

Waits in the yard

But I’d rather her kiss

Than this ghastly -charade

Tell the world that we died

Fighting fascists with words

Say it soft

Pray it slow

The White Rose, The White Rose

So how from my grave

Can I hear them again?

Are their jackboots still shiny?

Are they still spreading pain?

Well you’d better be ready and fit

For this job

Please sharpen your poems

And silence this mob.

Tell the world it must try

Fighting fascists with words

Pray it soft

Say it slow

The White Rose, The White Rose