Silence (Blood Wedding) by Indian artist Anita Dube comprises thirteen sculptures. Dube used real human bones and meticulously sheathed them with blood-red velvet (a colour traditionally worn by Indian brides), further embellishing them with beads, sequins, lace, and embroidery, and enclosing each individually within a plexiglass case. While the bones are given a new life by the way they are lovingly endowed with artistic beauty, the work is nevertheless haunted by the silence of death. Contradictories are here juxtaposed: both death and (second) life, both physical pain and aesthetic pleasure, both feminine coquetry and female disfigurement. By contrast with the language of ‘happy endings’ that is often associated with weddings, Silence (Blood Wedding) alludes to the complexities of certain traditional marriage customs (Andrews 1998: 84), and can be read as conveying an air of dark foreboding between the wife and the husband.
These embellished bones, when read together with Hosea 2:13, parallel Gomer’s coquetry, decking ‘herself with her ring and jewellery’, going after her lovers, and forgetting the Lord. At the same time, just as Dube lovingly draws the bones into new life through beauty, the Lord now intends to lure Gomer/Israel back to himself, wooing and speaking tenderly to her as he did in the past (v.14), so that she may call him ‘my husband’, and so that he may take her as his betrothed ‘for ever’ (vv.16, 19–20).
The tension however, is that Gomer is allured into the wilderness (v.14). An image is conjured not only of a place of forgiveness and reconciliation but also of a site of cruelty (punishment, abandonment, and death by thirst as in verse 3). The wilderness is the setting for both nightmare and second honeymoon, intended murder and seduction, and an unknown final fate. Gomer is further silenced, responding as though with love to God only in the words he puts into her mouth in this scripted interaction. An ominous tension hangs in the air. It lingers both over this reconciliation, and—as we let this image of Silence (Blood Wedding) accompany our reading of Hosea 2:13–20—over Gomer’s future in such a silenced marriage.
Andrews, Jorella G. 1998. ‘Telling Tales: Five Contemporary Women Artists from India’, Third Text, 43: 81–89
Sherwood, Yvonne. 1996. The Prostitute and the Prophet: Hosea’s Marriage in Literary-Theoretical Perspective (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press), pp.115–149
Sircar, Anjali. 2000. ‘Expression of Inner Power, 17 September 2000’, www.thehindu.com, [accessed 23 November 2018]
2 Say to your brother, “My people,” and to your sister, “She has obtained pity.”
2“Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband—
that she put away her harlotry from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
3lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and set her like a parched land,
and slay her with thirst.
4Upon her children also I will have no pity,
because they are children of harlotry.
5For their mother has played the harlot;
she that conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
6Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns;
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
7She shall pursue her lovers,
but not overtake them;
and she shall seek them,
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say, ‘I will go
and return to my first husband,
for it was better with me then than now.’
8And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished upon her silver
and gold which they used for Baʹal.
9Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season;
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
10Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
11And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.
12And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
‘These are my hire,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
13And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baʹals
when she burned incense to them
and decked herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers,
and forgot me, says the Lord.
14“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
15And there I will give her her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
16“And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, ‘My husband,’ and no longer will you call me, ‘My Baʹal.’ 17For I will remove the names of the Baʹals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. 18And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. 19And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. 20I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.
21“And in that day, says the Lord,
I will answer the heavens
and they shall answer the earth;
22and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel;
23and I will sow him for myself in the land.
And I will have pity on Not pitied,
and I will say to Not my people, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘Thou art my God.’ ”