Monday, 21 October 2013

Magnificent Ndebele Art

The Ndebele woman does not paint for acclaim or money. She paints because her house is her shrine, and she desires to beautify it. What set a woman apart from the others is her style of decoration and her choice of colours for the walls of her mud dwelling. But when asked about their art, these women merely say, “I learnt from my mother” or “It is the law of the Ndebele.” For generations the women of the Nedebele of Southern Africa have produced an art of remarkable richness and vitality.
                When the current generation of painters was young, its palette was limited to earth tonnes – browns, Ochres, red and black. But today commerical tints allow the women to create all the hues of the spectrum. Brilliant colour, enhanced by the Transvaal light, is as much a part of Ndebele decoration as composition, texture or any other factor. Ndebele painting is composed freehand, directly on to the wall surface, in one of two prinicipal styles; traditional and contemporary – with both sometimes present within the same dwelling. In the traditional style, the designs are bold, linear and abstract, becoming more complicated on the front of the house. The contemporary style is more representational, symbolizing courtyards, doors and windows and striking diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines echo the forms of support structures beneath the mud walls. The Ndebele artists choose the most graphic and geometric shapes from everyday life to use in their compositions. Flowers and trees, which can be broken down into well-defined components, are common motifs. Ans as western aspirations replace African culture, the women have begun to include light bulbs, street lights and television aerials perched on thatched roofs in their murals.
          The Ndebele women take as much pride in their bead work as they do in their mural painting. After completing daily tasks around the compound, they gather under the shade of a tree to sort, string and stitch colorful glass or plastic beads for personal adornment. In ceremonial dress women wear gala blankets with beaded trimmings, long beaded strips attached to headbands, lavishly beaded skirts, along with beaded hoops studded with glittering tacks. The Southern Transvaal Ndebele today 400,000 strong have survived as a nation because so many have adhered to their culture. Despite terrible social, political and economical upheaval, these women have stubbornly pursued their own distinct aesthetic path.

Monday, 14 October 2013


The Novel and other Forms
The germ of the novel lay in the mediaeval romance, a fantastic tale of love and adventure, itself derived from the ballads and fragments of epic poems sung by the wandering minstrel. In 1350 Baccaccio wrote a world-famous collection of love stories in prose, entitled the Decameron. Such short stories are called in Italian ‘novelle’. The term originally meant a ‘fresh story’ but gradually came to signify a story in prose as distinguished from a story in verse, which continued to be called a romance. When prose became almost the Universal medium, the term ‘romance’ implied a story or series of stories of the legendary past, of which Malory’s Morte d’Arthur  is a famous example. It is often used to-day to describe a historical novel which is intentionally picturesque and exciting rather than scholarly, and still more frequently for a piece of light fiction of an emtional type, somewhat remote from the facts and probabilities of everyday life. F.Marion Crawford, a popular American novelist, once described the Novel as a ‘pocket theatre,’ containing as it does all the accessories of drama without requiring to be staged before an audience. It is more formally defined as “a long narrative in prose detailing the actions of fictitious people.” Meredith called it “a summary of actual life,” including both “the within and the without of us.” Fielding loosely characterised it as a comic epic in prose. It is the loosest form of the literary art, but its very freedom from all limitations allows it to give a fuller representation of real life and character than anything else can provide. Many hundreds of new novels appear every year, but their literary standard is not, as a rule, a high one, for , as W.H.Hudson remarks, “any one can write a novel who has pens, ink and paper at command, and a certain amount of leisure and patience.” It is none the less a very effective medium for the portrayal of human thought and action, “combining in itself the creations of poetry with the details of histroy and the generalised experience of philosophy, in a manner unattempted by any previous effort of human genius.”  

Thursday, 3 October 2013


It cannot be said that we have no will to control the mind. The very fact that all of us have our own inner struggles indicates that we have the will. But in most cases this will to control the mind is not very strong. Out will to control the mind can never be strong until and unless we have deliberately and irrevocably renounced pleasure as one of the main pursuits of our life. The canker which eats away the vitality of our will to control the mind is the pursuit of pleasure. It is like this: if you have a servant who is aware that you depend on him to procure you illicit drugs and if you both enjoy the drugs together, you cannot then control that servant. The same is the case with the mind. The mind which is use for seeking pleasure and enjoying pleasure, we can never control until we give up seeking pleasure. Even after giving up the pursuits of pleasure it will not be easy to control it for the mind will always have past incidents to cite to embarrass us. The strength of our will to control the mind will be in proportion to the strength and intensity of our renunciation of the pursuit of pleasure. Unless the pleasure-motive is overcome, no matter what else we do, we can never perfectly control the mind. The derivative of this truth is that those who are reluctant to renounce the pleasure-motive are not sincere enough in wanting to control their minds, whatever their professions.
                By renunciation of the pursuit of pleasure is not meant renunciation of the pursuit of joy or bliss. By pleasure is meant the enjoyment of sense-pleasure or the gratification arising from what Shri Ramakrishna calls the “unripe ego”, both of which obstruct the attainment of joy or bliss. It is by going beyond pleasure and pain that one attains joy our bliss, which is the very goal of life. There is no question of giving up  the desire for joy or bliss, for it is integral to us, our real nature being Existence-Know-ledge-Bliss. About the methods of overcoming the pleasure-motive something will be said in the next section.
                Opposites sometimes look alike. Two types of persons do not have inner struggle; those who have become unquestioning slaves of their lower nature, and those who have completely mastered their lower nature. All others have inner struggles, which are the result of inadequate or unsuccessful attempts at controlling the mind. Inadequate attempts are indications of weak will and of lack of knowledge as to how to control the mind.
                The most important thing is to strengthen the will to such a degree that even in the face of repeated failures we are not deheartened; rather, that with every new failure to control the mind we are roused to fresh endeavours with new enthusiasm. Now how do we strengthen this will to control the mind? We have to remove the causes of weakness of will. And we have to inject strength into it by ensuring the presence of suitable causes.
                Not doubt some of us have struggled with our minds but have faced repeated failures. So we have come to believe that controlling the mind is not for us. Another reason for the weakness of our will is not the most of us have perhaps not clearly thought what exactly is at stake in the control of the mind. If we had, the sheer instinct for survival would have driven us to strengthen our will to control the mind, we need not be unduly exercised. It has never been an easy task even for the noblest of men, the nature of the mind being restless. Shri krishna says in the gita:
                The turbulent sense, O Arjuna, do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man, striving after perfection.
                For the mind which follows in the wake of the wandering sense, carries away his discrimination, as a wind carries off its course a boat on the waters.
The Buddha teaches:
                If one man conquers in battle a thousand men a thousand times, and if another conquers himself, he (the latter) is the greater conqueror.

From this we can understand that controlling the mind is the most difficult task in the world. It is indeed a hero’s task. Hence occasional or repeated failure to control the mind should not be taken too seriously. Failures should be taken as spurs to more determined, sustained, and intelligent efforts, for we are assured by the great teachers that perfect control of the mind is possible. All thoughts to the contrary must be eschewed like poison.