Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Hands, legs and sock

Tapies footI’ve said it before: storytellers enjoy making links and I personally seem to be doing it more than ever. Sometimes the link emerges through thinking what photos to use for this blog. This week, as you can see from the photos chosen, it’s bits of the body that created an association.  

Antoni Tàpies was a Catalan painter. I’d scarcely even registered his name before last weekend when we went to Barcelona for a few days off to celebrate my birthday. On our last day when we went to the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies, a museum devoted to Tàpies work, I found a lot of his paintings hard to be drawn to. But where he focused on simple stuff – wood, windows, doors, eyes, feet, an old sock, a shoe-print in sand, the sand itself – I felt considerably more at home. Tàpies took inspiration in ordinary things and found them of spiritual value. He felt they are evidence of our common humanity connecting  us to the earth and to our selves.

After we got back to London, we looked back at our photos as you do (we’d been allowed to take photos in the Tàpies gallery as long as we didn’t use flash)  and I found myself linking some of the work we’d seen with a story I’d heard some years ago at a storytelling evening at the South Bank Centre. The event was associated with a huge exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art at the Hayward Gallery and the storytellers were two Australian Aboriginal women

Legs, feet, fingers, thumbs: here’s the story that came back to my mind. It’s one I’ve always enjoyed passing on.

An Australian Aboriginal tale: Hand Goes Walkabout

One day, Hand decided to go walkabout. After some time, she came to a hill. Looking up at that hill, she wanted to climb it. But when she tried, she couldn’t do it. Each time she began, the same thing happened: she slipped back.

After a while, Hand called out in frustration: ‘What I need is someone to give me a hand.’ And suddenly beside her was another hand.

Tapies sockWhen she heard the problem Hand One was having, Hand Two said she would like to help and, together, they began trying to climb the hill. They couldn’t do it. They kept slipping back.

‘What we need is a leg up,’ Hand One burst out in frustration. And lo and behold, right beside them appeared a leg .

With Leg joining in, Hand One and Hand Two once again tried climbing the hill. The same thing happened. They couldn’t do it.

‘What are we going to do?’ said Hand One. ‘We must find a way to get ahead.’

That did it! Suddenly beside them was Head. When Head heard the problem, she spent a few moments thinking and then she began to organise. 

Legs on the bottom, hands above, other vital parts like stomach added (for while head gives thought, stomach gives energy): once the various parts were assembled in the right order,  Body managed to get up the hill. And what was even better was that from the top of the hill, Body got a very good view of the world all round – which  provided an excellent opportunity to decide where to go next.

P.S. The top photo is of one of Tàpies’ paintings. I loved the earth colours. The bottom photo is of a large sculpture called Old Sock which was created from the maquette Tàpies made as a proposal for an 18-metre-high sculpture for the 1992 Olympic Games which were held in Barcelona. The 18-metre-high sculpture never got made (bourgeois opposition!). Had it been, you’d have been able to climb inside the wiring with which it would have been stuffed to a place of quiet and contemplation.

 P.P.S.  I’m so sorry – all this stuff about feet and socks reminds me of a children’s joke I heard the other day. Question: ‘Why did the giraffe develop such a long neck?’ Answer: ‘Because he’s got such stinky feet.’


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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Hands, legs and sock”

  1. Meg Says:

    Dear Mary. I do enjoy every one of your posts. This story you tell here I recognise . I heard it told by Maureen Watson, an Aboriginal storyteller who lived here in Brisbane. She created it to tell to kids in school, to encourage them to work together. Thank you for remembering it so well. She was a great leader in the community, and an amazing woman. Kind Regards, Meg Philp

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