John Berger and Nurturing Walls
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 25th October, 2008
Animals were the first subject of Art, drawn on the walls of caves in France and North Africa with astonishing vigour. Through them, early men felt they could enter into a new level of communion with the spirit world, as the venerable art critic, painter and writer John Berger reminded us this evening, when he opened an exhibition of animal art from the Meena women of Rajasthan in India at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery in Bloomsbury. The Chennai-based publishers, Tara Books, simultaneously launched their beautifully produced, handcrafted volume of the same name (£14.99). John Berger has been supportive of Tara Books’ output for some years now and gave attendees at the private view an inpromptu mini-seminar on the theme of Nurturing Walls. Would one expect less from the author of the seminal work, Ways of Seeing?
A sprightly octogenarian, Berger has lost none of his radical edge. He lamented how walls which used to be built between countries are now built within communities, to keep rich and poor or different ethnic groups separate, citing Israel’s ‘security fence’ as a flagrant example. Such walls are excluding and threatening. But the walls of the Meena villages in Rajasthan on which the local women paint their animals in white are welcoming, homely and also sometimes comical.
The profits from both the book and the exhibition will go to community development projects in Rajasthan.