“If we follow the ancestral line of our umbilical chord from our mother to her mother’s mother, and so on down the line, we’ll reach our primal mother – the one we all share.” Ilchi Lee
For the most part, whenever I post a statue it’s the kind that’s meant to last -if not for all eternity- but certainly for centuries. That’s why many of the statues or monuments I usually seek out are carved from stone, like granite or marble or etched out of heavy metals such as bronze or silver. Enduring, long-lasting, sustainable are words to describe them. Yes, I’ve dabbled a bit with performance art, puppetry and busts that are more fragile and have a shorter shelf-life, but the premise is always the same; we erect a statue of a woman so we can memorialize her and continue to remember and honor her, long after the 21st., 22nd or even the 23rd centuries have ended. I’m oddly comforted by the seemingly immortality of monuments. I know that eternity is not mankind’s gift to bestow but I’d hoped the monuments could dot the landscape and thus change its direction, far into the future. A sort of men vs. women competition with scorecards and prizes. Then I met Umi.
Let me tell you about her. Umi was created by Daniel Popper, a well-renown multidisciplinary artist from South Africa whose work can be seen across the globe in such places as Florida, California, Chicago and Mexico. Mr. Popper specializes in larger than life human-like sculptures made of natural fibers like wood and fiberglass, then cast in resin. Umi means many things in a variety of language; in Swahili, Umi means life; in Arabic Umi means mother; and in Japan the word means ocean. According to Mr. Popper’s website, he based Umi’s origin on Gaia, from Greek mythology. Gaia can be seen as the personification of the earth, the ancestral mother, the mother of creation and the parthenogenic creator of all life, often known as the virgin creation (considered unnatural in humans).
Wow! The more I learned about Umi the greater my fascination grew. It’s said that the goddess Gaia oozed from Chaos, the primordial god of nothing, and then, by herself, Umi birthed all of mankind, including the earth or Terra Mater, and all its descendants and natural wonders. When I first found Umi, a 21-foot art installation, standing alone in a ravine in Aurora, Colorado in a new art park amid a huge housing development that was only 2% completed, I gasped. First because of her beauty and secondly because I worried that since she was made of wood and other perishable fibers, she’d one day wither away or burn like the rest of us. Yet Umi stood her ground. The longer I looked at her, the word endangered flew out of my mind. Tall, and fierce she depicted the convergence of woman and tree. Mother Earth and Mother Nature run amok, but in a good way Embraced by branches, which gave the impression of hair, the roots formed a dome-shaped empty space that could be viewed as her womb, which she appeared to be holding, like the way a pregnant woman often rests her hands on her abdomen, as in a protective mode. The statue, considered to be interactive, invites visitors to enter the void and feel the nurturing essence of motherhood and the symbolic relationship between the earth and humanity. Not once in all of this, does Umi, or her predecessor Gaia, separate the men from the women. She refers to the earth and all its inhabitants as humanity. We could all learn a lesson from our ancestral mother.
I remain in awe of her magnificence. She’s bigger than life, yet fragile, empty while being full, and with kind eyes and a warm embrace, she projects peace as well as strength. Honor, cherish and experience her. Word to the wise: Umi is, at least for the moment, hard to find. The best way to locate her is to call the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and ask them to give you the address. Persist. Umi is glorious, everything a goddess should be; and she meets all my criteria for what constitutes a monument of the matriarchy. Even though she isn’t chiseled in stone, she still rocks.
Rock on, Umi!