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Pickle Me This

October 25, 2010

El Anatsui and Margaret Drabble, via Heather Mallick

Photo courtesy

When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, the retrospective of Ghanian sculptor El Anatsui now on at the Royal Ontario Museum, was one of the most exciting, beautiful and powerful exhibitions I’ve ever seen. So you can imagine my delight upon reading Heather Mallick’s column last weekend, as she draws a parallel between the show and Margaret Drabble’s ideas as expressed in her latest book The Pattern in the Carpet. Marvelous worlds colliding!

Mallick writes of the exhibit:

I visited this weekend for the second time, for the pleasure of being shocked by beautiful acreage. The possible meanings leap out at me, what El Anatsui is saying about the way we live now.

I like to tell fellow ROM visitors (strange how they back away from me) about my theory, borrowed from the novelist Margaret Drabble, about why people are so angry and unhappy now. Suffering from the illness known as “affluenza”, they are told to view life as an economic ladder, a vertical clamber to success. But people are falling off the ladder now, or are stalled mid-rung, and it hurts.

Drabble says life is not a ladder but a jigsaw. It moves sideways and around, no one event knocking you into the abyss. Suddenly a job loss or a sick child or a bad divorce is just another piece in the broad jigsaw, part of a pattern in the carpet. No section of the jigsaw is more important than any other. This is a comfort when the wheels come off.

That’s what El Anatsui’s metal curtains say. The bigger ones do look like Canada, well-assembled and prosperous, with random wrinkles representing our national miseries.

One thought on “El Anatsui and Margaret Drabble, via Heather Mallick”

  1. gordon phinn says:

    As usual, Margaret is right on, and Heather is smart enough to quote her.

    gordon phinn

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