The Slave Ship

IMAGE OF THE WEEK
The Slave Hold© DURGA YAEL BERNHARD

In honor of Passover, the ancient Jewish holiday that celebrates liberation from slavery, I chose this image of a slave ship for this week.  These illustrations were commissioned several years ago by Core Knowledge, a publisher of educational textbooks.  I was given a half a dozen images to do on the history of slavery in America.

This is not a pretty picture, no pun intended.  How do you depict something so horrific  for young readers?  On the one hand, publishers and teachers want students to be educated.  On the other hand, the horrors of history can be too much for tender young minds to bear.  Where do you draw the line?

I was fortunate to have a child of my own who was around the same age as my targeted readers at the time.  I let that be my guide: how much would I want my ten-year-old daughter to see?  It’s hard enough to take her to a zoo, where she sees animals suffering even in a relatively humane sort of captivity.  To see people being treated like something less than animals, enslaved in utter cruelty – I could not bear to do more than hint at the extent of it.  My publisher agreed.  This was only meant to be an introduction to a complex historical subject.

The Slave ShipOur nation was built on both liberation and slavery.  The same colonists who sought liberation from religious persecution and oppressive monarchies, built their fortunes in the New World on the sweat and toil of African slaves.  It’s easy to look back now and condemn the cruel traders who captured the slaves and loaded them like cargo onto their ships, then sold them for profit in America into lives of misery.  At great cost, slavery was finally abolished, but the prejudices that gave rise to it still exist in our society.  The question to ask on Passover is what enslaves us today?  How do we strive to control others?  What power-hungry leader, what profit-driven master lords over our lives?  What false beliefs hold us captive?

These questions are worth pondering, year after year – and worth expressing in art.  I feel honored to portray history for children.  This assignment was both challenging and rewarding.

I’m working on another history book for children now: The Life of An Olive, about a 2000-year-old olive tree in the Galilee.  It will be published this fall by Heliotrope Books.

Back to work!

Chag Sameach – Happy Passover – to all my Jewish friends.

D Yael Bernhard
Yael

 


http://dyaelbernhard.com

Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
THE JEWISH EYE – 2016 /5776 calendar of art
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!

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Rebirth Our Earth

IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Rebirth Our Earth low res© Durga Yael Bernhard

This Thursday, April 22nd, marks the 46th annual “Earth Day“.  It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since this “holiday” was first instituted in 1970.  Never has the cause been more urgent, as we are facing potentially cataclysmic changes in our environment today.

I don’t normally put words on my images, but on this one, it makes sense.  I was originally commissioned to paint this illustration as a religious image, symbolic of the rebirth of the messiah.  But what is the messiah but a concept and a symbol itself – of rebirth and transcendence over death?

It’s no coincidence that the holy-days of Easter and Passover take place in the spring – a time of renewal and liberation.  Out of the dead leaves that carpet the earth springs new life, miraculously unfolding.  Yet we seem to be in danger of destroying the very ecosystem that enables this harmonious cycle to repeat itself through the seasons.

There’s a positive aspect to this crisis, as I see it: it has the power to unite people, and to wake us up to our common humanity.  Only by working together can we transcend the differences that divide us and threaten our existence.

May this image make a small contribution toward the rebirth of our planet – and our human awareness.

Order Rebirth Our Earth as a POSTER this week, and get a free greeting card (of the same image)!   $10 for the poster and card, shipping included.  Order your poster here.  Your can also order a six-pack of cards for $15.  Order greeting cards by filling in the title here.

Wishing you a good week,

D Yael Bernhard

dyaelbernhard.com

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Heroic Medicine

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

 

Heroic medicine 72dpi© Durga Yael Bernhard

Here is one of my very first published illustrations.  I was in my twenties when I illustrated Susun Weed’s groundbreaking book on herbal medicine, Healing Wise (Ash Tree Publishing, 1989).  About a dozen black and white drawings were needed for chapter heads, and to illustrate the most important plants – and the most intrinsic philosophies – in Susun’s guidebook to the “Wise Woman” tradition of healing.

In her book, Susun enlightens the reader as to the many ways herbs and other natural remedies can be used – or misused.  The “heroic tradition” is one of three traditions of healing that Susun describes.  Heroic healing may employ natural or alternative substances, but because it adheres to a similar philosophy as industrial medicine, it has much potential to do harm.  Susun cites as a classic example the modern propensity for fasts and cleanses that seek to purge our “filthy” intestines.  A perfect balance is perpetually sought in this paradigm in which good and evil, right and wrong, constantly do battle.  Rigid disciplines and self-denial apply.  Such an approach seeks to override and control rather than harmonize with the person as a whole.  By contrast, the Wise Woman tradition nourishes and supports the optimization of the body by use of natural plant allies.  The Wise Woman philosophy is feminine and nurturing in origin, and organic in outlook.

The silhouetted figures you see here were just the first among many that followed.  I continued to work in flat, graphic shapes for many years to come.  Speaking of wise women, my octogenarian spiritual godmother at the time, dear old Winifred, predicted that as I got older, my work would become less angular, more curvaceous, softer, and more subtle.  She didn’t live to see it happen, but she was right.  Were I to do this illustration today, it would be very different.

If you’d like to order 5″x 7″greeting cards of Heroic Medicine, please go here and fill in the title.  Order this week and I’ll send you a few extra cards.  As always, shipping is free.

Wishing you a good week and a happy spring!

D Yael Bernhard

http://dyaelbernhard.com

Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
THE JEWISH EYE 5776/2015 – calendar of art 
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!

 

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