Spring Ploughing

Spring ploughing is so named because it depicts the traditional method of how a family would prepare the fields making the soil suitable for cultivation. Many stories were told to me by my grandfather and father of how simple and fun life was in those days. In many respects owning cows was a sign of wealth. If we look back in time we see how cows were sculpted on the top of temple pillars to represent power.

My dad left Lebanon in the early fifties. His family owned 2 cows, the only source of their livelihood. They depended solely on the returns reaped from the crops during the day and the milk in the evening. Anything leftover was sold. Most of the milk was used for dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt. The main portion of their diet was vegetarian.

The man depicted in the picture is wearing the traditional “al-sharwal” trousers. The stick he is holding is called the “misses”, used to guide the cows and clean the blade of the plough. Also shown is the yoke which was fitted to the cows to enable them to pull together when working in pairs.

Illustrated is a typical spring day in Lebanon after the snow has melted and the pastures have turned lush green. Harvested crops are stored for the cold winter months or sold to buy other essential necessities.

As I travelled through Lebanon in the hope of finding someone still using this traditional method, I soon realised how difficult a task this would be. I ended up near the boarder of Lebanon and Turkey in a northern village called Akar before finding a man working in his fields. I dressed him in the traditional attire and took his photo paying him a day’s wage for an hour’s work. He bears the name “khoodr” which translates green.

Around the neck of the cows were 20 or so small bells. I can still remember playing with the bells at my grandparents house (which had been passed from generation to generation) and not knowing what they were for. As a 5 yr old I thought they were for a belly dancer until my dad later explained. When we moved to Australia the new owners sold everything that held any sentimental value. It seems as though people have lost a sense of the past, they see everything old as rubbish and of having no value. One day when I find the bells I will paint them around the cow’s neck. I still feel this painting is incomplete and hope to one day complete it.
Lebanon in is the only middle -eastern country with such high snow covered mountains. The traditional glass water pitcher (brik) is a practical way to have a sip of water without using a glass. It was lifted as far as the hand could reach and tilted to pour water into the mouth. Their lunch was referred to as “zawadi.” Since my travels around the world promoting my chocolate paintings I have recently returned to my oil techniques. I feel quite rusty and the need to polish up.