Tag Archives: massacre

The Suspension Bridge between the Provinces of Hida and Etchu

Katushika Hokusai  Nishiki-e  1830

Today, January 21, 2017, would have been Kip’s 44th birthday.  If you didn’t know him or me, you can read a little about him here.  Who is reboArts?  His artwork of choice was Japanese prints, particularly Hokusai and Hiroshige.  So this post is in honor of him today.

Nishiki-e is a form of blockprinting originally developed in Japan in the late 18th century.  The technique involves carving separate blocks for each individual color.   Printed calendars became popular during this time, and colored prints were highly sought after.

Hokusai is one of the most popular Japanese artists of all time, most well-known for his 36 Views of Mount Fuji, specifically the The Great Wave.  To call him prolific would be a bit of an understatement.  It’s believed he produced more than 30,000 works, including paintings, drawings, and woodblock prints.  This print comes from a series of prints of famous bridges.

I believe many can relate to this traveler.  The bridge over the great chasm of life is long and difficult.  The burdens one carries are heavy and make your journey sometimes nearly unbearable.  The bridge bends and bows under the weight.  If you take a misstep, you fall so far.  Look, those are the tops of trees in the foreground.  There is always some one or something behind you, making the crossing harder,  never letting you rest.

But just in your view is the end of it all.  There is a serene bliss, if you can just get there.  If you’re able to look up, you can see the grazing deer and the birds flying.  You just have to hang in there, and do the best you can.

 

 

 

 

The Slave Ship

J.M.W. Turner  Oil Painting  1840

On November 29, 1781 and the days following, 133 Africans were jettisoned from the slave ship Zong in attempt to lighten the cargo load.  Men, women, and children, some of which were still shackled, were dumped into the Caribbean.   They were alive.

Captain Luke Collingwood became ill, along with a number of crew and slaves.  His crew made a series of navigational errors, and neglected to properly resupply the potable water. In addition, they were carrying more than twice the number of slaves typical for that size ship.

In the 18th century, Africans were nothing but cargo.  The “cargo” was sick and they were low on water.  If they died of natural causes the insurance would not cover their losses.  If they made it to land but were too ill to sell, it would also be a loss for the ship owners.

Money spoke louder than humanity, which isn’t overly surprising as it was a slave ship.  They found a loophole to exploit in the insurance policy.  A loophole that was nothing short of a massacre.

They used the law of General Average, a maritime law stating that all parties share any losses resulting from  a voluntary sacrifice of part of the ship or cargo to save the whole in an emergency.  They were low on water.  The crew later claimed the rest of the cargo couldn’t be maintained unless some were sacrificed.  For 133 people, this human sacrifice was not voluntary.  Ten others saw their sacrifice and jumped overboard in what was later described as an act of defiance.

A number of trials followed after the arrival of the Zong in Jamaica.  The insurance company wouldn’t pay, and the proceedings dragged on for years.  One important point to note, the insurance company actually stated that the use of General Average did not apply as it could never justify the killing of innocent people, slaves or not.  They went on to say that the actions of the crew were nothing short of murder.

Whether the legal team of the insurance company was just looking for a way to not pay, no one can be sure.  However, historians do believe they were swayed by Granville Sharp, an abolitionist.  The story of the Zong Massacre, although not widely reported at the time, became a horrific example of the treatment slaves faced and influenced the abolitionist movement for years to come.

Slavery was abolished in England in 1833.  Not until Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 were slaves freed in the United States.

JMW Turner is one of Britain’s most beloved and highly treasured artists.  His Romanticism style landscapes gained as much popularity as the historic paintings of his time.  His later works, The Slave Ship included, are often seen as the precursors to Impressionism.

I’m such a fan of Turner’s earlier Romantic works, that when I first saw this piece I had the same reaction that many of his contemporaries had.  What is this?  Where are the beautiful masts with the wind blowing them like his other sea paintings?  Where are the rolling clouds and delicately detailed waves?

Maybe he had lost it.  People talked that he was loosing his eyesight, his patience, his mind.  But then I learned the story of the Zong.   Turner painted The Slave Ship after reading The History and Abolition of the Slave Trade by Thomas Clarkson.  It was painted for  a meeting of the British Anti-Slavery Society, of which Turner was a member.  He may have hoped Prince Albert would see it and would be inspired to enforce tougher anti-slavery laws.

This painting is difficult for me.  I like things orderly, deliberate, beautiful.  This is anything but.  It’s dark and furious, ominous.  You can see the ship in the background, but the light across the bow almost looks like fog.  But what you can see in the forground of the painting are limbs reaching from the water, some still shackled.  It even appears that there are a group of fish and birds attacking the flailing bodies.

As with so many other paintings, it’s the history that makes this painting beautiful to me, not the color, the technique, the brushstrokes.  The passion Turner felt, the horror, the sense that the story needed to be told.  And although it’s not the beautiful Turner style I would have chosen, it did its job.  It caught my attention.  It inspired me to learn and to share the story with you.

 

Guernica

Pablo Picasso  Oil Painting  1937

Today we remember one of the first ever air raids of a civilian population in world history.  On April 26, 1937, the Spanish Civil War reached the Basque town of Guernica.  This wasn’t just a town, it was the cultural center of the Basque people and a symbol of their freedom.

Although the town was important to the Basque, it had little to no military significance.  There was an arms factory outside of the town that supplied the Spanish military and police, but it was really just a normal town.  A normal town full of an ethnic minority.  A normal town full of a free people during a very complicated civil war, a war which involved powerful militaries outside of their own.

The political situation was complicated.  Like most civil wars, there were two main parties at fight, the Republicans and the Nationalists led by Franco.  Also like many civil wars, these two sides were not fighting alone.  The Nationalists were supported by the Germans and Italians, the Republicans by the Russians and other communist parties.

April 26 was a market day.  Thousands of people were in the streets, as they were every single Monday at 4:30.  Some estimates suggest 10,000 were there.

For nearly three hours the civilian population of Guernica were bombed upon from above indiscriminately.  This wasn’t a single plane or even a single run.  In the end, there were five waves of the raid, including machine gun fire targeting individuals attempting to escape.

Conspiracy theories abound, but it is now widely accepted that while the German Condor Legion carried out the attack, it was under the direct order of the Nationalist forces.  The Spanish General Franco blamed the Republicans, his opposition in the Civil War.  The truth is that Franco, backed by the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, wanted to terrorize and break the Nationalists.  The Basque were a particular thorn in his side because of their autonomy.

The Germans saw this as an opportunity to try out new tactics for the future.  Guernica is often compared to the Dresden bombing of World War II.  This would be the beginning of terror bombings, done solely to break the will of a people, with little or nothing to gain militarily.

The casualty reports from this day vary widely, everywhere from 350 to over 1,600.  It is sometimes also noted that it is believed over 800 people died in the days and weeks following the attack.  Regardless of the number, it was effective.  Franco would continue to lead Spain until he fell ill shortly before his death in 1975.

In 1937, Pablo Picasso was commissioned by the Spanish Republican government for a painting to represent Spain in the World’s Fair.  Although originally from Spain, after his visit in 1934 he didn’t return home but remained in France.

It’s said that after he read reports of the bombing of Guernica he was so moved he thought it was his responsibility to make sure the world knew.  A painting at the World’s Fair was the perfect way to do it.  Guernica is often considered one of the most influential anti-war works of art of all time.  It is also one of Picasso’s most well-known.

I’ll be completely honest, I’m not a fan of cubism.  I actually would have zero interest in this painting if I didn’t know the history behind it.  Picasso intentionally painted no traits that were specifically related to the bombing of Guernica so it would stand the test of time and can be applied to any war situation.

There is a lot of speculation about the symbolism in this painting.  I think the pain and suffering of the people is quite obvious.  The broken sword in the center symbolizes a crushing defeat.  What I naturally think of as a cluttered, over-crowded space is meant to be seen as crushing oppression.

Picasso continued to live in Paris during the occupation.  Needless to say, he wasn’t particularly popular with the Gestapo.  One story is told that during a search of his studio an officer saw a photo of Guernica and asked Picasso if he created it.  His reply?  “No, you did.”

Today, take a moment to consider the innocent men, women, and children lost in the name of war.  When you think about it, they are all innocent.  Children are not born to kill each other, but the reality is that they do.  Those pilots and gunners were not born to massacre, but they did.  Try to keep perspective when someone nonchalantly suggests carpet bombing to make a point.  That point has already been made.

 

 

 

Columbine

Dawn Derman  Watercolor  2011

On this day in 1999, two troubled high school students terrorized their school and changed the way Americans would perceive everything from bullying, gun laws, mental health, and school safety forever.  Fifteen people, including twelve students, one teacher, and the two shooters died. An additional 24 people were injured.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned and perpetrated one of the most deadly school shootings in American history.  When their original plan to bomb the cafeteria failed, they began shooting.  Although according to their journals the plan was to kill  hundreds of people with bombs and explosives and then escape, both would take their own lives before they could be taken by police.

Although 17 years have passed, school shootings continue in this country.  Children are still bullied every day.  Guns are still readily available.  The internet is full of young people screaming for attention.  Mental health is still scoffed at in favor of mass incarceration.  People still suffer.

I combed through hundreds of photos for a suitable painting to stand as a memorial for those lost at Columbine.  However, I found an alarming amount of fan art from “Columbiners” who seek to idolize the shooters.  I found a couple interesting pieces, but nothing that seemed appropriate.

Instead, I opted for this watercolor of a columbine flower by Dawn Derman.  It’s simple in color palette, but I find the composition intriguing.  Maybe I’m influenced by the subject matter, but I see something extra in this little painting.

The blossom on the left seems so sad and dark.  It almost seems defeated.  The blossom on the right, however, is flourishing.  It’s open and bright.  It has movement and flow.  It has survived.

Cassie Bernall                  Daniel Rohrbough               Coach Dave Sanders

Steve Curnow                   Rachel Scott

Corey DePooter                Isaiah Shoels                         Eric Harris

Kelly Fleming                   John Tomlin                           Dylan Klebod

Matt Kechter                    Lauren Townsend

Daniel Mauser                 Kyle Velasquez