Marlene Dumas

Man Kind

(or here’s to those who inspired me)

This is not the times
for The Family of Man’s smiles.
We travel in disguise,
so how would you know
friend from foe?

The devil is back, as two-faced
and as polarizing as ever.
Who’s side you are on
depends on where you’re from.

But for those of us who like Edward Said,
the tension between
the first names and last,
determines what comes to pass.

Here is to the popular culture
of image suppliers,
the embedded journalists, the media managers,
the hotel warriors and the airport artists.

Here’s to portraiture, more or less,
used by politicians, martyrs, murderers,
the military…be my guest.

Here’s to the skull of Charlotte Corday
who assassinated Marat, quite calmly they say,
and faced the guillotine without rage
at twenty four years of age.

Here’s to the posters that Ad van Denderen
photographed in the region of the West Bank.
Here’s to the Israeli soldiers who refuse to fight
in the occupied territories.

Here’s to Amos Oz who spoke about the fact
that Jews and the Arabs are both
former victims of the same oppressor.
This makes their conflict harder not easier.
They have both been humiliated,
discriminated against and persecuted by
European Civilization.

Here’s to the guys that took a trip from Birmingham
to Pakistan and then on to Afganistan, but met the USA,
and ended up in Gauntanamo Bay.

Here’s to the actors of Shouf Shouf Habibi.
Here’s to the boys in the streets of Amsterdam.
Here’s to the difference between forgetting and forgiving.
Here’s to the distinctions between, freedom, fate
and destiny.

Here’s to where we start and where we go from there.
Here’s to the fact that life is round
and what comes around
stays around.
And for better or worse
we are part of the same kind.

Man Kind. First published in Marlene Dumas. Man Kind, (cat.), Galerie Paul Andriesse, 2006, p.3-4; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.