Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann column 56 – Let’s talk about culture and …..Pygmalion and Co.

Cyprus is a vessel full of legends and myths and all the people that have set foot on its shores have added some new ingredients. Among those were gods and half gods and we all know about Aphrodite who is the Lady of Cyprus, born from the foam given off by Uranus’ genitals cut off by Cronos and thrown into the sea….how cruel there were, these Greek gods….

It was she that fulfilled Pygmalion’s prayer, he who was a Cypriot sculptor and had created the perfect woman from marble.  The sensitive artist hated the sight of ordinary women and has therefore created his ideal woman so that he fell in love with her. He asked Aphrodite to help him so that he could marry this woman. From this marriage a boy was born by the name of Paphos.


But this is not what I want to talk about. It is rather the Pygmalion phenomenon which keeps me fascinated since I am painting and writing my own stories, and that is loooong ago.

I was a child and I remember a painting done by my father in Morocco, that hang over my bed and the longer I kept looking at it the more I had the wish to enter it with just a note left for grandma that I would soon return. I often had this wish when I came across a painting that fascinated me or a book that made me want to meet its protagonists. Later when I grew up I created my own world, places where I wanted to be, I never copied what I saw but picked out those experiences which radiated warmth and good feelings.

This is not a phenomenon of my own; it is a phenomenon that exists since humans became creative. Things and events that could not be explained were given a supernatural significance and there you had your elves and forest dwarfs and ghosts, supernatural beings, good and bad ones, aliens later.  Then the humans started to give names to the mystical powers and put them on a pedestal, gods and as intermediaries half gods….Nobody really dared to deny the existence because they said…there are so many things between earth and sky that nobody can explain…we still do, don’t we?


Now, there were the creative writers and artists who were able to create worlds of their own and  populated them with individuals of their own making and it happened to some of them that those became alive and lived with them, or they believed in their existence to be real. There is this danger in all creative processes because to create something you have to become it; if you want to understand the nature of a wooden chair you have to become one. Now, imagine that as a writer or an artist you are all by yourself in your studio and to create a personality with all its characteristics you become a true creator and you will somehow breathe life into the slowly developing creature. A narrow tightrope walk between here and there, madness and reality.

We have fantastic stories in the literature world, Pygmalion by Ovid, as mentioned above, My Fair Lady by B. Shaw, developed on the basis of this legend, or stories in which a lonely poet sits in his cold room and the girl of his dreams steps out from between the pages he is just filling; close to Pygmalion is Narcissus who falls in love with his own image on the basis of which Dorian Gray was developed. And many more figures that were created to meet the imaginations of such creators, but not only beauty was given birth to, but creatures such as Frankenstein or Mandrake became part of the homunculus philosophy, as we have met in films many films of last century; even our well known author of ‘Bitter Lemons’ Lawrence Durell has created one with ‘Nunquam’.


There is the wide world of fantasy for children, a lovely example is ‘Alice in Wonderland’,  ‘Pinocchio’, or for example ‘Gulliver’s  travels’,  and the many animations such as ‘Jungle Book’, ‘Bee Maya’ and the immense Walt Disney World.  However, the mystic world most children create for themselves is unmatched, it suffices that they lie down on their stomach and watch the march of ants that sets off a big space of wonder world that is closed for the adults.  This is especially valid for lonely kids, their world becomes populated with the most weird creatures and events they invent along with them.

A very special kind of phantasy world creators are old handicapped people that are left alone by themselves and in order to fill the empty space that life has left them in, they invent all kind of situations and individuals they can talk to. What a blessing.


It is the time in-between, the generation in-between that is pitiable, when we have to leave childhood behind and enter adulthood and with it the world of ambitiousness and fights for position and profit to fill our world with symbols, dead symbols.

However, if you have a painting in your house you especially love and you would love to get to know the world behind it a little better, you can one day just enter it, that works, under one condition, that you take off your shoes with the dust of this world in front of it. Perhaps we meet some day.



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