From the Archives/ Not the Final Word on "The Father Ra"
NOTE: This feature was posted on the original Icons of Kemet Blogger blog on Tuesday, Monday, December 29, 2014.
In early September, 2001 "The Father Ra" was born. My husband and I went shopping at an Indian grocery store for ingredients needed for that night's feast, and when we arrived at the front counter to pay we noticed the dozens of flashy, gaudy but attractive prints of Hindu deities hanging on the wall behind. Still half-draped in last year's metallic Christmas tinsel, Shiva and His lingam, Hanuman and Ganesha seemed happy to offer shoppers their otherworldly endorsement. My husband had come originally from the Hindu tradition, almost taking vows as a swami, but had chosen instead to follow his own brand of spirituality until landing in the camp of the Egyptian deities and deciding to settle in permanently. Still, he maintained that there was some genuine connection between the ritual forms and spiritualities of the Hindus and the ancient Egyptians.
"You could do that", he said to me offhandedly as he paid for our things, "but for the Netjeru". He pointed to the Hindu prints in their plastic frames. "Devotees need to see their gods...", he continued. "they need to have that kind of access, things for devotion, visuals. I think that's what you should do".
We discussed this idea on our drive home. To create a series of sacred images, beginning with watercolor, that could be gilded and used to make devotional prints from, just as practitioners of the Hindu faith used. This was the seminal idea, the seed from which my vision for Icons of Kemet grew. Of course, I had always been intrigued with the concept of icons and the study of multicultural iconography. While studying watercolor technique in college I had painted a series of watercolor meditations (as I referred to them then) of Egyptian deities, and had considered using these as "roughs" from which to work up serious and detailed compositions in oils, however, the concept remained dormant until Brent rekindled the idea that September of 2001.
In Egyptian cosmology everything begins with Ra, the dazzling Sun-God from Whose loins creation and humankind sprung forth. It was Brent's idea to begin at the beginning, with Ra; to make a study of Ra in His various incarnations as known to the ancient Egyptians, beginning with the rising of Ra in the ocean of creation from the sacred lotus. The eventual goal would be to work up a very large canvass in oils and gold, but the concept needed exploration and refinement, so Brent suggested starting with my favorite medium of watercolor in order to produce a working "sketch" or "rough" version.
"The Father Ra", a 9" x 12" watercolor, gold and silver "sketch", as published in April of 2002, never became the much larger, more ambitious work that we had planned. As is usual in the life of a very creative, inspired multitasking individual, I was pulled in many different directions after the watercolor "sketch" of "The Father Ra" was completed. Brent adored the "sketch" of Ra, but I remained highly critical. Though aspects of the composition, coloration and detail worked for me, the painting as a whole lacked the kind of detail and gilded magnificence I ultimately had in mind. I decided to move on to other icon projects in order to refine my style and vision for what eventually became Icons of Kemet; however, in the very back of my mind has always remained that larger, more ambitious rendering of this same composition, for which my little watercolor of "The Father Ra" remains the prototype. It remains to be seen whether or not that larger work will ever materialize from the creative ocean that is my iconographer's mind.