Monday, October 8, 2007
Jesus the seed in the lap of his Mother.
(ii) Dalit Madonna Oil on Canvas. 2005. The collection of the artist.
A very different mother-figure. The icon of the Mother has occupied a very central place in human imagination. She is the all-encompassing sphere into which the newly born person is received. As the ‘vessel’ in which the life of a future consciousness is nurtured, on the one hand she enshrines an emptiness, leaving space for the divine to enter the human heart and home; yet she also embodies a fulness that gives form and substance to a new epiphany. In one sense she is like the doorway that leads into the shelter. She is also the inner courtyard, which is both open to the skies above and enclosed by the walls around. The door leads through to an inner world that is at the same time open to the outer world.
The figure of the Mother - in this typical village household - is intimately associated with the harvest, and so with the provision and preparation of food for the household. The feminine embodies a practical wisdom without which the life of the community would not be possible. She not only nurtures and sustains; she also embraces and adores. In this way she is like the household shrine. And yet, she shows an innate humility - from humus, coming from and belonging to the earth. ‘Dalit’ (the term those once called ‘outcaste’ use for themselves, with their newly resurgent identity) can connote something similar: one meaning of Dal being the earth.
More usually, though, ‘Dalit’ is taken to mean broken, torn apart, trodden down, crushed. ‘Mother of Dalits’ is a term now applied to Mary. Though taken for granted, her greatness not recognised, she has become the ‘vessel’ of a new hope for humanity, especially for those trodden on and crushed. She is ‘humble’ and homely. Yet she is the bearer of a new wisdom, a new wholeness, a potential fulness of being.