How does the traveller see it?
(Fragment of a post from a Facebook page)
My trip was coming to a close and I still hadn’t bought a painting. I wasn’t seeing what I deemed to be interesting stories in the works I came across. Then, at a market in the city of Omdurman, my friends saw one. Leonya, we found what you’re looking for! The work, by artist Hassan Elhdi, features a Sudanese woman weaving, and it didn’t initially strike me as telling an intriguing story. But I decided to inquire further: what exactly is it that she’s making? As it turns out, she’s weaving a birish made of palm leaves. A birish? I just heard that word ten minutes ago! The arts and crafts market we were at in Omdurman – formerly the capital of Sudan – is 20 kilometers long. On the way there, a round piece of woven material with a hole in the middle had caught my eye. It was for sale. What’s it for, I asked our guide. It’s a bridal birish, he said. Before getting married, girls prepare themselves for their wedding night. A hole is formed in the ground by placing a hole in the birish, and acacia wood is placed inside. A fire starts. The acacia wood burns slowly with a weak flame, and produces a fragrant smoke. The girl sits in this hole and wraps herself in cloth, creating the effect of a sauna. After this procedure, according to our guide, a person’s skin becomes softer and can even change color. Women from the Himba tribe Namibia do something similar – they just do it on a regular basis, because they don’t wash themselves using water at all! How could I not buy a painting with a story like that behind it?