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Welcome to my art blog from Tasmania, Australia. I post a little on my various art projects while also working in plant genetics. For more, please try the links to my various art pages or email me at silvergumstudio@yahoo.com.au. Thank you for visiting!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tricky Mr Hare

Fetching water in the morning - 'When I was a girl in Sudan'
Happy New Year, everyone!  Who's watching the Australian Open?  I fall asleep in front of it every night ... that hypnotic blue court, those five-set matches!  The tennis is the best I've ever seen, but I can't seem to go the distance.

By day I'm working on illustrations for 'When I was a girl in Sudan'.  These pictures show Ito, or Mr Hare – a popular figure in Sudanese folklore.  He’s lazy, tricky and smart, making him both a hero and an anti-hero: clever but amoral.  

Tricky Mr Hare
‘Long time ago, there is a famine.  Everyone must work hard to get food. But Mr Hare is too lazy.  He covers himself in sap – that shiny gum from the tree. It glues his fur together in lumps. He tells his wife Emvozia he has leprosy and cannot be expected to look for food. But he is not sick. He is just very clever.’

Ito sounds like Brer Rabbit, the lazy trickster of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus books.  Did he travel out from Africa to the cotton plantations of North America and become Brer Rabbit? I checked and found that stories of hares, rabbits and tricksters are common to African and native American traditions - so the Brer Rabbit stories are thought to contain elements of both.

The one I remember best is ‘The Wonderful Tar Baby’ in which Brer Rabbit’s arch-enemy, Brer Fox, constructs a baby out of tar and sits it by the road, then hides in some bushes.  Brer Rabbit comes along – ‘lippity-clippity, clippity-lippity, just as sassy as a jay-bird’ and greets the Tar Baby in a friendly fashion.  But the Tar Baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’, and Brer Fox, he lies low.  Brer Rabbit tries to chat with the Tar Baby, but it’s a one-sided affair.  Enraged by this rudeness, he punches, kicks and head-butts the Tar Baby, becoming completely stuck.  Brer Fox emerges, has a good laugh and starts planning how to kill Brer Rabbit.  He would roast him, but it’s such an effort to light a fire.  He’d hang him, but he hasn’t got string.  Drowning would work, but there's no water.  Brer Rabbit humbly agrees to all these fates, but begs Brer Fox not to throw him in the briar patch.  Of course, Brer Fox can’t resist, and Brer Rabbit scoots off, with the parting shot, ‘I was bred and born in a briar patch, Brer Fox!’  (This was my favourite part of the story – I could never understand Brer Rabbit being taken in by a tar baby in the first place!)

Jackrabbit sculpture, Santa Fe
I’m not sure if Brer Rabbit is a rabbit or a jackrabbit, but I did notice a national fondness for jackrabbits when I crossed the USA on Route 66 recently.  You can find stories about Brer Rabbit here: http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/brer-rabbit/.
Me at the famous Jackrabbit Trading Post on Route 66

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