Monday, 31 January 2011

Le Ciel Etait Rouge by Néjib Belkhodja

I arrived in Tunis at 23.30 on June 12th 2007 and was met by Najet, Néjib's wife and a beautiful young woman called Nadia. The energy around the house was surprisingly superb. So much love for this brilliant man. I was and still am shocked that the western world knows so little about the history and works of this great man. Allow me to introduce you to him via his Masterpiece about the first Iraqi War in 1991, Le ciel était rouge, 91. The red sky. Najet told me that whilst Néjib was painting this Masterpeice he had a nightmare. He spent months trying to work out the right colour for the central space. He tried out numerous ideas and the nightmare was that if the central space was any other colour than white then the walls would crumble and fall. So sensitive was Néjib about his art that he would wake in morning and tell Najet he was busy opening doors and later in the evening he told her he was busy closing windows. He really was the door opener and the window closer and in this time of trouble over Iraq no other man could have given the world such a clear and sensitive message. The Red Sky.

I read from his collection of books in his front room and was introduced to the Chilian poet, Pablo Neruda who was an inspiration to Nejib throughout his life. This painting will mean so much to you if you see it through the words of Neruda.

In Spite of Wrath

Corroded helmets, dead horseshoes!

But through the fire and the horseshoe
as from a wellspring illuminated
by murky blood,
along with the metal thrust home in the holocaust
a light fell over the earth:
number, name, line and structure

Pages of water, clear power
of murmuring tongues, sweet drops
worked like clusters,
platinum syllables in the tenderness
of dew-streaked breasts,
and a classic diamond mouth
gave its snowy brilliance to the land

In the distance the statue asserted
its dead marble,
and in the spring
of the world, machinery dawned.

Technique erected its dominion
and time became speed and a flash
on the banner of the merchants.
Moon of geography
that discovered plant and planet
extending geometric beauty
in its unfolding movement.
Asia handed up its virginal scent.
Intelligence, with a frozen thread,
followed behind blood, spinning out the day.
The paper called for the distribution of the naked honey
kept in the darkness.

A pigeon-house
flight was flushed from the painting
in sunset-cloud-red and ultramarine blue.
And the tongues of men were joined
in the first wrath, before song.

Thus; with the sanguinary
titan of stone,
infuriated falcon,
came not blood but wheat.

Light came despite the daggers.

Taken from "Selected Poems" by Pablo Neruda

Also I would like to include the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."


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