Sitting on the bus traveling to the studio I read in the paper the sad story of the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni an Italian pacifist and peace activist he had been based in Gaza for three years working to promote the rights of Gazan fishermen. You can read the article here.
There is video footage of Vittorio where he speaks of his love for the Palestinian people and his desire that they have freedom. While some of what he says seems a little naive I couldn't help but be moved by his sincerity, his passion and his openness.
I arrived at the studio with a painting in my mind and in my heart. Initially I had pictured a peace tree in honor of all the peacemakers who work for the betterment of all humanity. What emerged instead was a tree that seemed to pulse with blood drawn up by its roots from the blood soaked earth, blood that coursed through the trees limbs and then dripped out from its branches back into the soil where the blood would be drawn up again continuing an ongoing cycle.
In the article Vittorio's mother Beretta is quoted as saying: "Vittorio always said: "Let us remain human, even in the most difficult moments". I would ask him "How can you stay human at certain times?" And he would answer: "Because, despite everything, there must always be humanity within us. We have to bring it to others". (The Guardian ¬†Pg. 17, Saturday 16th April 2011).
The Blood Tree is about sacrifice and suffering but it is also an expression of my belief that these things are not necessarily in vain. Such examples of meaningless violence including the murder last week of Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis, who ran a theatre in the West Bank city of Jenin grant us obvious choices, to ignore or to remember. To ignore is at the cost of our own humanity. To remember is also costly and at times painful but to remember honors what Vittorio said we must do which is to bring our humanity to others. By sharing our humanity we share ourselves at the deepest level, a state of being that not only reveals our interconnectedness, our blood ties, but also our rootedness to the earth to which we all belong and ultimately to the heavens which we yearn for and reach out to.