Shell -- A Poem

(Artwork by Baya Mahieddine)


The artwork is called Femme et orangers fond blanc (Women and orange trees on a white background). It was painted by the Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine, born Fatima Haddad, (1931-1988) and her art was the muse for both Picasso and Matisse. She liked to paint women and would portray them in traditional tribal art. She usually painted them as strong, bold women and used bright colors. For someone who influenced such great artists, she is an artist that is easily overlooked by history. My intention for this poem was to show her artwork while also writing a poem that showed my interpretation of the work without taking away the actual meaning of the art. I wanted to write about the women in the artwork as nymphs who had come out of their trees. They could not coax their sister in the orange tree out because she has died but her shell, the tree, remains. 


They dance

in their dresses of 

twigs and leaves, hair wrapped 

in water as they gather around 

the tree. They search for their 

sister in orange to come out 

and play.  Yet the nymph herself

 is no-where to be found. She stays 

silent, as if her soul has been 

erased but her shell still remains,

blooming and full of life,

unlike the orange nymph 

herself. Her soul had given up,

the tree had become the only 

form she chose. Her tree stood

still, lifeless but it blooms,

robust with fruit.