Yellow Submarine to Taliwood: 2/10/21

In his third letter from Afghanistan, George Gittoes considers the concept of Samsara, reflects on the possibilities of the tourism video as a form, and introduces us to the people of the SS Club, where he and Hellen Rose have been painting a mural.

I don’t accept things the way they are because it is more fun to make them something new. Picasso rearranged form; I rearrange the realities I enter.

A few nights ago we went to visit Shah Jehan who is the leading intellectual Professor in Peshawar. I ended up losing it with him . . . but that is another story – we walked out.

His wife is a Chinese intellectual who he has kept as a kind of prisoner in their huge and luxurious home. She explained that she sees all of life as just a dream – she really believes in the Buddhist idea of samsara

When his wife spoke about life being a dream, for a moment I felt guilty. For me, life is not a dream but very real and I care intimately about those sharing my life but I do reshape reality. It is tough, hard work making reality fit a vision and it has a touch of samsara about it, but the dream thing is madness as it negates any reason for action.

Tonight I painted a huge work on the wall that the reception desk of the SS Club looks out on. If you come to the SS Club you will experience how it has been infected by the Gittoes’s presence and memory. Other visitors can come and go here and nothing changes – but when I leave it will have been reshaped into a new vision which I have concocted. The staff have been changed to fit it, as well. They were all out watching the wall take shape last night, and will have to live with it once I leave. The big wall in the lane, where you enter by car, has the huge Yellow Submarine mural – with two smiling yellow subs about to kiss.

I told the staff they are the crew of the Yellow Submarine which is the SS Club. They love the idea and will stick with it. They have no choice as this new signage tells them they are entering the Yellow Submarine Zone when they come to work.

Today, I did a portrait of Shaheed (Shahid), who is the owner, and told him he is like the Postmaster who helped Vincent [van Gogh] and was painted by him many times. He does not know who Vincent is, but he knows I think he is very very special. I portrayed him with the kind, gentle face of a Buddah. In the process, as I painted Shahid and the big mural, Wawar made a tourism video in which I tell people to come and stay at the SS Club. Thousands of people will see it around the world and, no doubt some of them will come here. When they arrive they will see the big murals and Shahid will have his portrait hanging somewhere.

The new mural shows a happy rabbit being chased by a hungry fox. There are birds, trees, snakes and fish in its fairytale forest. It is a kind of soft Guernica with the message that if a God created everything, it was a God that implanted necessary violence into his creatures. Carnivores need meat as do spiders and snakes. No samsara!


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