Afra Eisma (1993) is an artist living and working in The Hague.
The Penis Tree
The penis – or Phallus – is a symbol of fertility, good luck and the world of nature. But the Penis Tree is something completely different. In medieval murals and books one can find depictions of ‘innocent’ nuns plucking the ripe fruits of the penis tree and putting them in a basket. In another image, a man hands over his penis to the nuns, coupled with donkeys riding baskets full of penises to the monastery.
The images above originate from Roman de la Rose, a manuscript drawn by the French medieval artist Jeanne de Montbaston. The Roman de la Rose is a poem, an allegorical reflection on love with the ‘rose’ of the title symbolising female sexuality
Following this is an image of a mural in Italy where citizens are shown standing below a Penis Tree. At first glance, the Massa Maritima mural looks like any other mural of its time. But a closer look reveals that the branches carry a dozen penises. This tree has nothing to do with fertility but is a considered piece of political propaganda. It’s a message from the Guelphs telling that if the Ghibelines take the power they will bring witchcraft with them.
It appears that the penis tree is still a beloved subject. For example this overexcited woman. Touching the Penis Tree with one hand, the other hand is still searching for grip to another penis-shaped root. Is she pretending to be the nun, trying to get a grip on the ripe penis fruit to put them in a basket?
Tints, Tones and Hues
The Absence of Green
Walking past a traffic light in Larkhall reveals a hatred for green. While in other cities the red light would turn to green, in Larkhall it changes to clear when the cars rush off. There is no option for green since the lights have been smashed. Again.
The first time I was confronted with this – most likely – urban myth I was shocked. But a little research reveals that everything in the city is about blue and the hatred of green. Hatred is revealed itself in many common phenomena, and in Larkhall it’s green that provokes so much revolt. The city of Larkhall is situated close to Glasgow. It is the only city where the sandwich chain Subway doesn’t have a green front but a black one, where the pharmacy doesn’t have the usual green sign and the fences are blue. Not to forget that they “pish” on the grass due to it’s green colour.
So from where does this hate actually originate? The main reason lies in football. When the blue protestant football club ‘The Glasgow Rangers’ play against the green catholic club ‘Celtic’ – ‘The Old Firm’ - riots always ensue. It’s the moment where hooligans fight against the green in Larkhall and traffic lights get smashed.
I managed to get in touch with a ‘wee’ Scottish woman that used to work as an english teacher in Larkhall. When asked, she told me that everything in this town revolves around sectarianism. When students find out your Celtic preference they often are outraged and sometimes even throw chairs at you. However, that’s not the worse thing that can happen. A fellow colleague was evenstabbed because of this sectarianism. No wonder there is a uniform fear within the town, with companies also following the colour preferences and attempt to eradicate green, possibly in fear of being stabbed.