Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Man and the World of Stars

"Man & the World of Stars"
Wenkidu. Mixed media. 2005.

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 Loveis 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?
Martin Wenkidu can be contacted at


J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Judy, came over from Nas' blog. Amazing the amount of detailed work/information contained in that one painting. Didn't even see the animals in the background. Had to make the painting bigger to see the additional details. Awesome!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

JL: And the photo doesn't even do the painting justice! In "real life" there are so many fine details that you can spend hours hunting them down -like a treasure hunt for Easter eggs!