About  Crucible-  Eva Sallis ( Eva Hornong)

Dr. Eva Hornong, born in 1964 in Bendigo is an Australian novelist and human right activist who has written many literary books and short stories and has won several literary awards. The Internet abounds information about and insights into Eva’s life and literary work; therefore, I will concentrate on my encounter with her which lead to my painting of her portrait.

I met Eva in 2003 in an art exhibition opening in Adelaide. Later, I curiously, searched information about her, and found that she is very knowledgeable about art, literature, and Middle Eastern culture. Since Eva was familiar with my Persian cultural heritage, I asked her to open one of my exhibitions. While many Australian art teachers and art critics identified my work as being decorative, Eva could easily understand that apparently decorative contents of the work are indeed expressions of the culture within which I had been born and raised. She made a brilliant speech that made the opening a memorable event for many especially for me.

Gradually I got to know her more through reading her books, and meeting her at her book launching and other public events. I painted the portrait of her son to be included in my Multicultural Children Portrait Project .  She also introduced three other children for my portrait project. During this time, I was fortunate to have the chance to discuss about children, multicultural affairs, refugees and the human conditions.  She was insightful about these matters and brave to reveal unsatisfactory conditions in which minorities in Australia were living.  I admired her for all of these qualities; however, my interest in painting her portrait grew from my sudden feeling of, for me, indistinguishable circumstances in which she was mentally preoccupied.

Her house yard was a native home for many birds, most of them she had found on the street, injured. There was a rather mysterious, strange-looking, and sick Galah bird in her house. Eva had found the bird on a road and had brought it home to take care of it.  The bird was losing its feathers and with incurable disease which would have resulted in the bird’s death within few months. Most of the time, Eva carried the bird around on her shoulder and took care of it with lots of love and attention.

Around the same time, Eva and her husband had ended their 26 year long marriage. Her co-founded “Australian Against Racism” had encountered, as I felt at the time, with complications including political backlash. The sick bird, as she told me, was a reflection of her life at the time. She said to me that “If you want to paint my portrait, paint this bird and call it Eva”. So the bird was a mirror reflecting her own self. However, for me Eva was not that bird. She was an agent of resistance  ”Crucible”, as she suggested for the title of the portrait,  resisting the destructive power of an internal fire, a powerful energy that was seeking an outward channel of expression, demanding questions, answers and resolutions, while being inhibited and suppressed by the external elements. The sick bird became, for me, a symbol of her burdens of social injustices, racial discrimination, and inhumane and destructive human actions. This was the condition in which I found Eva at the time - fractured, but holding together.

Eva had a plan to write her new book. She wanted to have a residency in Russia to investigate the location for the story which would be called Dog Boy. This book now has been published by in 2009 and has won the 2010 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for fiction.

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Thank you

Abbas

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