Blodeuwedd

Owl

I really liked this owl painting when I saw in an art gallery south of Tiananmen Square. The price I was quoted when I first saw it was equal to a month’s rent, but I decided it was worth it. So, yesterday afternoon, I went back, pockets filled with red 100-Rmb notes. When I walked in, the manager remembered me. “Have you come back for the painting? I told you 5,000 RMB, didn’t I? You can have it for 3,800”.

Well, I wasn’t going to say no to that, or to try bargaining! There were other people there, though, so he asked me to come back in an hour to give him time to wrap the picture up. OK.

To kill the time, I strolled around the historic alleys of Dashilar, which are filled with arty shops (and tourist tat). On impulse, I went into a shop selling Tibetan folk art and crafts. Lots of beautiful things, but nothing of particular interest until… what was this? A small metal sculpture of… two owls, one large, one small, perched on a flowering branch. Sticker price 800 RMB, offered to me for 500, bargained down to 450.

It’s as if the world was trying to make it easy to get owls and flowers into my home. Or perhaps Blodeuwedd is trying to get a point across…

Blodeuwedd stands for rebellion; for a revolt against oppression; for finding one’s own identity and freeing oneself from those who would be exploiters and rulers.

It’s a spectrum, though.

She’s the battered wife finally freeing herself from the abusive husband; she’s the colony seeking independence. But, she’s also the revolution that overturns a system only to become what it replaced. She’s Marilyn Monroe and Emma Goldman and Rosa Luxemberg.

She’s the fair lady of flowers; she’s the silent and remorseless killer of the night. Is she freedom fighter or terrorist? It depends which side you’re on. She takes up arms for her freedom (by proxy in the tale, of course), and is punished and reviled for it by the powerful.

Blodeuwedd is complex. There is a lot to be learned from her.

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