Holy Family

I guess like other educated white males I haven’t understood the the accusation that came out so often last year in the Black Lives Matter campaigns, that people like me are “privileged”. Especially in the sense that there are things we may never be able to understand, such as the sense of global outrage and solidarity that briefly swept the world last year,triggered by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It took me a while to try and understand why black women in particular have felt so strongly in “enlightened places where no such behaviour has occurred or is likely to”. In this town there is a significant population from the West Indies and Africa and a high proportion of mixed marriages. I’ve never noticed Karleen being disrespected in any way, apart from one occasion when she’d first arrived in England and a job agency doubted her ability to type and told her to get proof she was entitled to work here. It turned out it was the agency’s responsibility to establish that and not the candidates. When I showed my face there, they changed their tune. We could have reported them, but it was enough to walk out and never “darken” their doors again.

What Harmonia—who’s not particularly dark-skinned herself—shows me is that religious iconography over the centuries has claimed God for the white man, not to mention other dirty deeds done in the name of Christ. Her paintings depict a fictional world where black skin and womenfolk rule in their own domains, defining their strength, beauty and connection to the divine.

From the art of Harmonia Rosales

New World Consciousness 2018

The backgound represents a mosaic with the inscription IFE ENITAN ALKEBULAN ASAASE YAA. This can be translated from the Yoruba language to mean LOVE, FABLED STORY OF AFRICA, EARTH GODDESS

This exhibition explores the duality between The Virgin Mary and Eve as a point of departure in the deconstruction of a dominant ideological narrative rooted in Eurocentric conceptions of beauty and superiority.
During the period of “Christian Colonization” women were put into two distinct categories; The Virgin Mary and Eve. The Virgin Mary is a woman who has been set on a pedestal so high that she is impossible to emulate. She is obedient. She is pure. She is long-suffering (and silent). In a patriarchy, she is in a word, ideal, the woman no modern woman in our society ever could become. And even should be made to want to become. And then there is Eve. Disobedient. Sexualized. The woman who dare to question, to challenge; the woman whom we are taught had Adam (and, thus, all of mankind), kicked out of the Garden of Eden as a result of her nonconformity. Both women have been judged by male standards of acceptability and respectability. Revered, or reviled. Commended, or condemned.

The Creation of Eve
The Annunciation

3 thoughts on “Holy Family”

  1. Blake too was an iconoclast. Here are some lines from a poem in his notebook:
    ” Was Jesus Born of a Virgin Pure
    With narrow Soul & looks demure
    If he intended to take on Sin
    The Mother should an Harlot been
    Just such a one as Magdalen
    With seven devils in her Pen

     Or what was it which he took on
     That he might bring Salvation
     A Body subject to be Tempted
     From neither pain nor grief Exempted
     Or such a body as might not feel
     The passions that with Sinners deal
     Yes but they say he never fell
     Ask Caiaphas for he can tell
     He mockd the Sabbath & he mockd
     The Sabbaths God & he unlocked
     The Evil spirits from their Shrines
     And turnd Fishermen to Divines"

    (E 677)


  2. Perhaps “The Little Black Boy” might be relevant also:
    From Poems of Innocence

    My mother bore me in the southern wild,
    And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
    White as an angel is the English child:
    But I am black as if bereav’d of light.

    My mother taught me underneath a tree
    And sitting down before the heat of day,
    She took me on her lap and kissed me,
    And pointing to the east began to say.

    Look on the rising sun: there God does live
    And gives his light, and gives his heat away.
    And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
    Comfort in morning joy in the noonday.

    And we are put on earth a little space,
    That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
    And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face
    Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

    For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear
    The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.
    Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
    And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

    Thus did my mother say and kissed me,
    And thus I say to little English boy.
    When I from black and he from white cloud free,
    And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

    Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear,
    To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.
    And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
    And be like him and he will then love me.


  3. Are you familiar with Blake’s ‘Europe Supported by Africa and America ?’

    Thanks for using ‘Little Black Boy’ as a comment. I find it to be Blake’s most moving poem.


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