The fabulous folks, Jen and Gough from Wowie Zowie came over on Wednesday night to buy some West German Pottery for their wonderful shop. They had very kindly brought us a gift:
It’s actually signed by Tretchikoff himself and has a good little back story to it. Wowie Zowie bought it from an old woman who comes into their shop often. They described her as being a bit of a ‘scenester’ back in the day. She bought the print and had it signed by Tretchikoff when he visited Manchester in the 1970s to do a signing at, what we think, was Fenwick’s Department store. Very often with these pictures, we have no idea who or how many people owned it before we did, so it’s lovely to have the story of the original owner with this one.
Like all of the retro and vintage things we own, I did the usual quick internet search to see what I could find out about the ‘Melon Boy’ print before posting it. It seems that this particular picture is one of Tretchikoff’s more controversial. See here and here for two sides to the debate. In a nutshell, this painting, and others by Tretchikoff, has been criticised as a racist piece of work. The connotations of a young black boy with a watermelon are possibly lost on a white woman from England, but many people in America – where the associations are the strongest it seems – find this picture and its peers uncomfortable viewing. The curator of the Tretchikoff exhibition in South Africa, Andrew Lamprecht, argues that these associations are not apparent in South Africa (as in England), and if anything, Tretchikoff ‘was accused of critiquing the government’s policies’ (http://www.mahala.co.za/art/deadly-serious/, 5th July, 2011) through his paintings.
It’s an interesting debate.
I see a fantastically joyous child and the picture makes me happy; as I’m sure it does many other people. Part of me thinks if you see anything more than this in it, read into a racist undertone or something similar, what does that actually say about you? Or is a stereotypical image that has been perpetrated within fairly recent history to the detriment of some people, and therefore should rightfully be abhorred? Art is meant to provoke discussion and debate.
“I am interested in people thinking about that and, if they wish, taking pleasure or not in his work. I do want them to talk and discuss and argue, just as they did in his day.” Andrew Lamprecht, mahala.co.za
What do you think or feel about this? Let me know via the comments. Either way, I’m happy with our fantastic gift and it will take pride of place next to our other beautiful Tretchikoff prints.