Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Through the Needle's Eye - Updated Edition Aug 2017

“Francoise too had a dream. Her dolls began to speak: they speak of the people’s everyday lives; they speak from the margins; they offer their pain, their poverty but also their celebration, their hope; her dolls speak of the many faces of violence; of exclusion; of hunger; of homelessness. There is a rage there, but it is offered gently, evocatively, inviting the viewer to think, to feel, to cross the lines, to break new ground; to leave the straight unilinear path of what is dominant and to search in the forest for old wisdoms, ancient paths, forgotten knowledges, to find new ways of survival, to listen differently; to hear the cries for justice. Another world must be possible!” ~ Corinne Kumar

“The dolls are my language, visible symbols woven into the context of everyday life of everyday people. They present the lives of ordinary people of India…”   “…They tell us that ordinary people are still resourceful and have vitality, still struggle for life and dignity, still hold on values of sharing and compassion. They tell us about the beauty and love that throbs beneath their lives of endless struggle for survival.  The joy of life pulsates within their wounds and tears”.  ~ Francoise

Friends encouraged me to bring out an updated second edition of the book ‘Through the Needle’s Eye’. The task was challenging because all the pictures taken on slides had to be re-taken on digital camera. I took the opportunity to include the very latest creations on burning issues not only of India but of the world at large.

It is not yet decided if there will be a printed version of the book. The book will be an online publication under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Excerpts of poems and pictures from the book:

Children Listen with a Lot of Attention 

Children listen with a lot of attention.
Children see with a lot of attention.
They have just come into this world
And they have so many questions to ask like:
Why should guavas be always
drawn round in pictures?
Why isn't the death of a goat an accident?
Why are there firings across borders?
Why are there firings?
Why are there borders?
They are ignorant
They do not know that it is more important
to brush your teeth in the morning
than to give clothes to someone
who doesn't have them.
The system is threatened if too many questions are asked.
If the answers are not approved,
so deploy a parent behind every child,
and for further caution,
open schools.

~ by Satinath Sarangi – Sathyu

We Refugees

I come from a musical place
Where they shoot me for my song
And my brother has been tortured
By my brother in my land.

I come from a beautiful place
Where they hate my shade of skin.
They don't like the way I pray
And they ban free poetry.

I come from a beautiful place
Where girls cannot go to school.
There you are told what to believe
And even young boys must grow beards.

I come from a great old forest.
I think it is now a field,
And the people I once knew
Are not there now.
We can all be refugees,
Nobody is safe.
All it takes is a mad leader
Or no rain to bring forth food.

We can all be refugees.
We can all be told to go.
We can be hated by someone
For being someone.

I come from a beautiful place
Where the valley floods each year,
And each year the hurricane tells us
That we must keep moving on.
I come from an ancient place.
All my family were born there
And I would like to go there
But I really want to live.
I come from a sunny, sandy place
Where tourists go to darken skin
And dealers like to sell guns there.
I just can't tell you what's the price.

I am told I have no country now.
I am told I am a lie.
I am told that modern history books
May forget my name.

We can all be refugees.
Sometimes it only takes a day.
Sometimes it only takes a handshake
Or a paper that is signed.
We all came as refugees,
Nobody simply just appeared.
Nobody's here without a struggle,
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?

We all came here from somewhere.

~ Benjamin Zephaniah


No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.
You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well,
Your neighbors running faster than you, breath bloody in their throats.
The boy you went to school with, who kissed you dizzy
behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body.
You only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
No one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet, hot blood in your belly.
It’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into your neck.
And even then you carried the anthem under your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets,
sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear
that you wouldn’t be going back.
You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.
No one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages.
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
No one crawls under fences.
No one wants to be beaten, pitied.
No one chooses refugee camps or strip searches
where your body is left aching,
or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire
and one prison guard in the night is better
than a truckload of men who look like your father.
No one could take it, no one could stomach it,
no one skin would be tough enough;
the go home blacks, refugees,
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers,
sucking our country dry, niggers with their hands out,
they smell strange, savage, messed up their country
and now they want to mess ours up.
How do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off,
or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs
or the insults are easier to swallow
than rubble, than bone, than your child body in pieces.
I want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark.
Home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore,
unless home told you to quicken your legs,
leave your clothes behind, crawl through the desert,
wade through the oceans, drown, save,
be hungry, beg, forget pride;
your survival is more important.
No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice
in your ear saying- leave, run away from me now.
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere is safer than here.

~ Warsan Shire

I Asked Nothing from Thee

I asked nothing from thee; I uttered not my name to thine ear. When thou took’st thy leave I stood silent. I was alone by the well where the shadow of the tree fell aslant, and the women had gone home with their brown earthen pitchers full to the brim. They called me and shouted, “Come with us, the morning is wearing on to noon.” But I languidly lingered awhile lost in the midst of vague musings.

I heard not thy steps as thou camest. Thine eyes were sad when they fell on me; thy voice was tired as thou spokest low – “Ah, I am a thirsty traveler.” I started up from my day-dreams and poured water from my jar on thy joined palms. The leaves rustled overhead; the cuckoo sang from the unseen dark, and perfume of babla flowers came from the bend of the road.

I stood speechless with shame when my name thou didst ask. Indeed, what had I done for thee to keep me in remembrance? But the memory that I could give water to thee to allay thy thirst will cling to my heart and enfold it in sweetness. The morning hour is late, the bird sings in weary notes, neem leaves rustle overhead and I sit and think and think.

 ~ Rabindranath Tagore

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living,
to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing,
a torch,
a promise.
I choose to risk my significance to live
so that which came to me as seed,
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

~ Dawna Markova

I Wonder Why You Care, I Hear You Say!

I wonder why you care, I hear you say.
We play and win and lose the game together,
because we are friends.
When our classmates are left behind, let them come forth
and we will run and win the race together,
because we are friends.

I wonder why you care, I hear you say!
We play the flute and beat the drum
to the tune of the song of bees and birds,
because we are friends.
We celebrate and dance together,
and share our dreams of joy and cheer,
because we are friends.

I wonder why you care, I hear you say.
Together we say NO to the rage and hate of a bigot.
Our wholeness is the measure of our love and care,
because we are friends.
We say NO to the massive darkness and night.
Our Spirit keeps leaping for dignity and life,
for we dwell in tomorrow’s dream of the Earth’s bounty of life,
because we are friends.

~ Francoise Bosteels

I Too Have a Story

Friends, I too have a story;
My story is of endless struggle.
Hostile accusations and charges are heaped against me.
I hear them say, you are a terrorist!
Where shall I get wings and fly away and find peace?
Friends, I too have a history;
My history is of endless resistance.
Words and assumptions keep me in bondage.
I am not a terrorist!
When shall I get freed from weeping in the corner of my shed?
I too have a story of love and peace,
Taken by surprise a woman asked:
Woman, what do you want, your eyes are sad.
She listened to my heartbroken pleadings and biddings.
Never anymore do I want to wake up with the sounds of riots
and dreadful bombs, the yelling of men and women and the cry of children.
Never anymore do I want to live in fear, the fear of agony and prison chains.
I am not a terrorist. We are not terrorists.
The woman silently came closer to me and whispered:
The charges against you are vanity, bigotry and vicious hate.
Your chains will be broken.
That day my dream rose high and I thought my evil days are over.
Not only mine but of so many of my kind.
We sat down and she bowed over my written memories clinging to my heart.
She said: Your story will not be dumped in the dustbin of history.
We sat musing and wondering.
Passers by laughed at us in scorn.
Reproach and mockery found no response in us.
The Divine Creator became part of our conversation.
She smiled and whispered silently:
Your delight is my delight, your hopes and dreams are also mine.
Touched by our love again She smiled and murmured:
Ours is a history of giving and receiving, of Love and Peace.
From then on my journey has begun to cut asunder all hate divides, claims, and greed.
My thinking unfolded in endless seeking peace and harmony.
Friends, there is no time to be lost. 

~ Francoise Bosteels

These Fabulously Expressive Dolls!

Dear Francoise,

Once again, I’d like to congratulate you on an excellent update to and revision of your earlier book, ‘Through the Needle’s Eye’! As the designer of this book, I feel privileged to have worked alongside you, and be part of your creative vision and mission in how your dolls worked, subtly and not so subtly, for the betterment of society.

Being a cartoonist and illustrator myself, I understand the power of visuals and characters. But unlike my hand-drawn characters, where I have the luxury of using facial features and action poses to convey feelings and emotions, your dolls literally speak volumes without as much as batting an eyelid or furrowing a brow. All the drama and action are being played, within the viewer’s own imagination as uniquely personalised stories. And this is where the real magic and true power of the dolls lie! They are able to create stories that touch viewers at many levels. And their very limitations in terms of expressions or limited body poses suddenly open up newer vistas in storytelling, pushing the viewer to scale new heights of their imagination, while re-living, re-telling, re-creating, re-imagining Life’s realities. They become a tool, a medium, for an experience of catharsis within oneself, exorcising long-suppressed negative emotions from within, leading one to a process of cleansing and self-purification and help bring about a holistic awareness of Life in all it’s intricate complexities and joyful creative possibilities!

I believe a person’s passionately creative work in this world is an extension and expression of their rich inner life and oneness with the Divine. And you prove, by your very special and sacred work, that this is the way forward for humanity. In these troubled times of ours, everyone is searching for ways to go within and find, not just answers, but also shape for themselves a creative, holistic life that is a life of joyful giving and peaceful communion with others. This, I believe, is an innate longing in each human being. And when one experiences your life’s work, vision and mission through your dolls, one comes away with hope that it is, indeed, possible, to create and live a life of divinely inspired creativity and joyful service, even amidst our daily troubles and injustices we see around us. Your iconic dolls truly speak, not just on your behalf, but for each human being and each human longing to be whole once again, and to feel for humanity and be one with humanity.

Closing with much love, and wishing for you and your dolls to continue speaking ever more loudly in your own gentle and silent way!

Dinesh Francis
Cartoonist, Illustrator and Book Designer
June 2017

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