Sunday, 9 October 2011

strumpets and anchorites

ellen lindner has kindly asked me to contribute to the first issue of whores of mensa’s new guise the strumpet. the theme for this issue is ‘dress up’.

 sketch for 'suster bertken'

for many of us how we dress is a large part of how we define ourselves and others. suster bertken, the subject of my contribution to the strumpet, was not defined by what she wore (‘rough hair cloth’, barefoot) but by the space she inhabited. in 1457, when she was 30 years old, bertken had herself enclosed in a cell attached to the buurkerk in utrecht. she spend the next 57 years, until her death in 1514, confined there, accepting food (no meat or dairy) through a small window and following mass through another small opening looking into the church. she used her time to write religious prose, poetry and songs, to pray, to meditate, to counsel and to craft. she was dependent on people for food and for the disposal of waste, but in turn the local community sought her out for counsel and they adopted the songs, prose and poetry she wrote.

sketch for 'suster bertken'

suster bertken’s choice to confine herself allowed her the freedom to live a life of devotion. devotion to a god maybe, but maybe more so to herself and to her works. it is a choice i have always admired. as i admire it in those around me who are able to choose their art above most (if not all) else.

the dutch composer robert zuidam has written an opera using some of bertken’s poetry.  
go here to listen to extracts from the opera.

if you are so inclined (and i hope you are) you can pre-order the strumpet on kickstarter.

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