silence (blood wedding) by Anita Dube

Anita Dube

Silence (Blood Wedding), 1999, Human bones covered in red velvet with beading and lace, 13 elements; dimensions variable, Devi Art Foundation, India, © Anita Dube, Courtesy of Nature Morte, New Delhi

Close Close
Zoom in Zoom in
Zoom out Zoom out
Reset image Reset image

You Will Call Me, ‘My husband’

Commentary by

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.

 

References

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]


Read next commentary