A charismatic intellectual, Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano knew how to make history photogenic. His “Mirrors” is a series of snapshots that are easy to read and generally no longer than half a page. The stories are like concentrated dish soap—just one drop makes lots of bubbles. Below are a few examples:
“Women Against The Plague”
Long ago in Russia, men had taken nature’s gifts for granted so the land, offended by their lack of gratitude, retaliated with a plague. The women, also victims of thanklessness, well understood the problem. Naked, barefoot with hair hanging down, they began lovemaking with the earth and celebrated life by laughing and banging pots and pans to make music. And this Love for Life scared the plague to the point that it went away.
The Monastery of Pedralbes was founded in 1326 by Queen Elisenda and was home for the Poor Clare nuns. Elisenda probably had good intentions since she wanted to give an option for women with little possibilities of suitable marriages. In fact, families paid large dowries to send their daughters there to marry Christ. But not all of these brides were happy. Near a Ferrer Bassa fresco in the chapel, there are these words furtively written on the wall: Tell Juan not to forget me.
Who knows if Juan remembered.
On May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago fought to form unions. What began as a peaceful protest ended in bloodshed. A newspaper claimed that laborers had been bitten by a tarantula and were dancing mad.
The tarantella is an Italian folk dance with origins in the southern town of Taranto. Taranto is also home for a spider commonly known as a “tarantula”. It was believed that if you were bitten by this spider, you would hysterically start non-stop dancing. Because it was only by dancing that you could sweat out the spider’s poison.
How wonderful it would be if, when angered, instead of shouting and shooting, we would start dancing until the anger went away! Yes, dancing in the streets!
“Origin of modern art”
In 1910, Leo Frobenius discovered some statues in Africa that were so lovely he thought they had to be Greek.
European artists, already burned out on the Industrial Revolution, embraced these statues and began a new movement, Primitivism. Europeans, “colonializers” at heart, quickly appropriated the talents of the “primitives” and presented these concepts as their own.
It seems Gauguin put his name on some sculptures from the Congo. Picasso, Modigliani and others also saw no harm in copying the Africans. So maybe one can say that the origin of modern art was a kind of Copy & Paste.
Originality is in the eyes of the beholder.
(see, too, Inspiration or Appropriation?)