Woman on Top’
A heavy shower of rain has subsided and at last I am last sketching a rock onto my large canvas. Not just any rock. She is a slab of granite that towers over the grassland at the base of our hill, upon which our house ‘Tsavene’ rests….
I crouch at her feet, deep in mud and long green grass, between rain falls. I am uncomfortable, plagued by buzzing flies and conscious of unknown presence in the surrounding waist-high vegetation, where this morning a predatory hyena called repeatedly. A lion could melt away here, never be seen until stumbled upon…..so I am pleased that my Jack Russell pups stand guard on high rocks as I draw….
I have been thinking about painting this she-rock for so long….have observed and mused over this rock for years, and in all seasons. She displays the same inner strength year after year but changes her character, her facade, just as the landscape changes with the rains and successive droughts.
She is not one rock, but two, acting as one-a monumental body supporting a tiny head lifted to the shifting skies. The left side of her mammoth body, the windward side, is tinged rust, tempered by the wild fires that rage through these grasslands in the dry season. Her head is held high above any fire, but is whittled from decades, centuries, of rain, wind and baking sun. Serene in her wilderness landscape, she endures all and sees all. She never fails to strike me as forcibly as a Henry Moore sculpture. I am in awe of her.
Why am I here in the mud and scratchy grass?…..because I am under short notice to produce a painting for ‘Woman at the Top’ an EU sponsored exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, showcasing female visual artists working in all mediums.
What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be at the top in your field? Is excellence realistically attainable? This exhibition will go beyond merely looking at the repeatedly stated universal and local challenges that women face. It will celebrate the strengths and accomplishments that women have achieved in spite of various forms of difficulty and diverse experiences. The exhibition is about breaking the glass ceiling and enduring through trials. It is hoped that artists will interpret the theme using their own exploration of their wider understanding of continental interactions, global interactions as well as the personal response. The show will be a fitting tribute to mark International Women’s Day in March 2014.
I have only just received a notification of the exhibition and deadline for submission is two weeks away……I am under pressure. As I sketch I realise how much I relish working under pressure, it lends an edge, a certain adrenalin. Much like being surrounded by long grass….