Spice artist, Amanda Margaretha, explores global and cultural interpretations of persecution in response to Psalm 69:
Lord, the Lord Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.
For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
From the Artist:
Description of the Work:
The whipping boy is digital collage. It consists of several of images of hands (various sizes) making certain hand gestures. These gestures are used through body language, to communicate a specific message that is connected to the theme of the artwork.
The original images are ephemeral installations; created through the use of Sugar, Rice, Food coloring, Cumin, Pepper, Turmeric, Chilli, Sumac, Paprika and Salt. Once the installations were photographed and documented, the imagery were used to create a digital collage which can be printed. The actual print is 84 cm x 60 cm.
The use of Sugar, Rice, Food coloring, Cumin, Pepper, Tumeric, Chilli, Sumac, Paprika and Salt was not a random decision. Each medium carries with it inherent qualities like color and smell as well as history and signifiers that augment the theme of the artwork.
As an artist, I have a long standing relationship with elements such as sugar, spice and rice, as mediums for installations. Over the years I has studied and categorized these qualities, histories and meaning of aforementioned elements and have learned how and when to utilize them in order to convey her message or explore, investigate and interrogate a certain theme. The hand gestures shown in the artwork refer to the body language we often use to convey intent and meaning.
Explanation of the Theme:
The hand gestures used in “The Whipping Boy” explore the themes persecution and suffering as expressed in Psalm 69. The sugar, spice and rice act as metaphors for how different cultures that span the globe, interpret, understand and believe the themes of persecution expressed through Psalm 69.
No one is a 100% sure who wrote Psalm 69. The popular assumption is that David (a former great king of Israel) wrote it because David was the author of a great number of the Psalms. Many of his Psalms describe the problems and troubles David faced. King Saul hated David and wanted to kill him even though David did nothing to deserve such treatment. Others speculate that Psalm 69 was written by the prophet Jeremiah who lived some 400 years after King David. Jeremiah was not a very popular prophet. The message from God to the people of the day was not a popular one because he prophesied that Israel and Judah would be taken into captivity, and the land would be decimated. Both David and Jeremiah faced severe persecution from their enemies.
In this Psalm the author talks about the persecution and suffering he has to endure. It also reminds us of Christ’s suffering as documented in the New Testament. Various passages in this Psalm are applied to Christ in the New Testament.
So what does this have to do with the Title of the artwork “The Whipping Boy”? To understand the phrase ‘Whipping Boy’ one has to understand the meaning behind the term. A prince usually had a special teacher. When the prince made a mistake, the teacher did not hit (or whip) the prince, but instead hit a boy that had lessons with the prince. The boy had done nothing wrong, but the teacher whipped him. He was a whipping boy, someone for the teacher to whip, hit or beat instead of the prince. Today, a whipping boy is anyone that is hurt when someone else has done wrong.
The most important “whipping boy” of all was Jesus. They hurt him and killed him when he had done nothing wrong. Everybody that has ever lived has done wrong, and deserves God’s punishment. But God punished Jesus instead of us. He was the ultimate Whipping Boy. He endured suffering and persecution even though he did nothing wrong.
When the disciples of Jesus wrote the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they remembered the things mentioned Psalm 69 and how that happened to Jesus also. Jesus referenced Psalm 69 verse 4 to explain to his followers they would be persecuted also. Here is part of what Jesus said in John 15:25: “But this happened that the word would come true, the word in the scripture: ‘They hated me without a reason.'”
Some of the suffering mentioned in Psalm 69 happened to Jesus and his disciples. Here are some verses from the New Testament which are connected to Psalm 69:
2. John 2:17 with Psalm 69:9: His friends remembered what was in the scripture. “I am angry for your house and it burns me up inside.” (This happened after Jesus had been to the temple in Jerusalem. He sent out the people there who were selling things. He was angry because they should not have done it there.)
3. Acts 1:20 with Psalm 69:25: In the Book of Psalms it says, “Let the place where he lived be empty and do not let anyone live there.” The friends of Jesus said this after Judas killed himself. Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
4. Matthew 27:29 with Psalm 69:2, 20: They laughed at him (Jesus) and said, “You are the Great King of the Jews!” (The Roman soldiers did this before they crucified [killed] Jesus. The soldiers did not mean what they said. They said it in scorn. You may find more than one verse in the psalms that makes you think of Matthew 27:29.)
Amanda Margaretha was born in South Africa to a Dutch mother and Afrikaans father. From an early age, her life has been shaped by cultural exchange and cultural diversity. She was known in school as “the student in class with the strongest imagination.” Art making and travel became her two great passions. The idea of exploration sparked her desire to travel and discover cultures, food and new ideas. In 1989 she traveled to Europe – it was to be the first of many adventures around the globe.
One milestone was her visit to Cairo in 1996. There she plunged into a spectacular cacophony of spices, patterns and colors that is the Middle East. This marked the beginning of a long term love affair with the Arab world. She explored Morocco, Turkey, Bahrain, Jordan, The United Arab Emirates, Syria and Lebanon. From 2002 – 2010 she was based with her family in Yemen, where the Queen of Sheba once ruled her mighty and wealthy kingdom. Her time in Yemen taught her a tremendous amount about ancient Arab traditions, customs and culture as well as signifiers that represent ancient Arabian culture such as the various spices used for various purposes, frankincense and myrrh. This was also where she first conceived the idea of making art works with spices.
In Yemen she started collecting and categorizing various spices which act as a metaphor to the threads of our ‘Being’. Over the years she continued to study these elements that shape our identities. She employed her knowledge of the history of the various spices to create works for her final year exhibition as an art student. The artworks were spice installations that reference the mark spices has made on the world we live in – through culture, faith, migration and the global economy. In 2015, Amanda Margaretha graduated in the field of Visual Art with distinction from the University of South Africa.
Amanda Margaretha also developed her art making processes to include video installations like spice animations and photography. The use of this technology parallels her conviction that humanity’s evolutionary drive to find greener pastures through modernization and industrialization are predetermined factors that advance the progress of political and technological development, which in turn drives cross pollination of cultures.
Her desire is that her exploration of the the relationship between the outer world (of economic aspirations of which spices and technology are a metaphor), and the inner world (of faith convictions as manifested through cultures), will lead the viewer down a path of exploration, investigation and discovery.
This work was curated by Laurel Justice.
Image and materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.