My 8-Year-Old Daughter questions Modigliani

They say that when a child turns 8 they become a tween. It marks a turning point in their lives and their minds. The challenges of a parent are no longer, prams, bottles, play dates and getting their children into the right primary schools,  but rather we start to see  the implementation of  all the foundations we have laid down for the past 8 years. I’m not speaking about classes, and tutoring but rather, everything else out of school that has shaped the way they think.

Zara, my oldest is turning 8 in a few weeks. She has always been my independent one. At the tender age of 4, she came home and told me that she never ever wanted to wear a dress again. When I asked her why, she said that, “ABCD at school said that I’m not a girl because I don’t wear dresses.” (I confess I used to put her in jeans most of the time, since it was easier for her to run around and play.) Like any protective mother, I went to the phone and started to dial the digits of the said girl’s mother, but something made me stop. I realised at that very second, rather than succumbing to peer pressure, my darling Zara had made an independent decision and had  enough confidence to stand on her own two feet to defy the norm. In her heart she knew that she had more dresses than she could count at the time, and while she was hurt she wasn’t ready for the other girl to belittle her this way. In the meantime, for the remainder of that school year, all the beautiful party dresses I had bought her, went to waste… alas she is/ was a stubborn one. I realised then, that Zara was a determined girl who had a good sense of self-worth. I have since tried my best to nurture that wonderful sense of self-worth, and sought ways to stimulate her interests,  and not necessarily just in activities she excels in. (Gasp, horror, not excel???)  As mentioned in earlier posts she is a competent swimmer so she swims, she loves maths (although chinese maths is hard!), and art and drama are her expressive release.

The Hong Kong Art Fair recently took place, where my children were able to see the works of Picasso, Degas, Botero, Lichtenstein, and Hirst up close and personal, as well as participate in an art programme by Colour My World, that allowed them to learn more about art. They had a chance to emote, describe and digest works of contemporary artists as well as art greats. WOW!

Zara and Zachary at the Hong Kong Art Fair 2012

Zara and Zach enjoyed it. So much so that they insisted that their father take them again the next day. Unfortunately Zach wasn’t able to join  as his social schedule was full that afternoon. Nissim loves art and was happy to have a day with his darling daughter. Zara was fascinated.  I must admit I wasn’t sure if she digested or remembered everything from the art fair, but she was keen to know more about the artists. We have the Picasso Exhibition on in Hong Kong now, and Zara has been hounding me to take her. I will take her before it ends on July 22, 2012.

Recently in her art class they have been learning about Modigliani. Zara has learned how to delineate the body, elongate the torso, paint in a style reminiscent to the artist himself, learned that the “g” in his name is silent and that he was an Italian Artist who lived in France.

Here is Zara’s Modigliani-esque painting. Not bad for a first attempt 🙂

Whilst I was admiring her painting, Zara started to describe Modigliani’s style. How he liked to paint “long” people, and “he painted lots of nude women.” (Luckily she hadn’t discovered his wayward lifestyle yet!) I acknowledged that this was indeed a correct observation (and felt uncomfortable doing so), but was happy to commend her on her findings until Zara took it a step further. “Why did he only paint women?” she questioned. “Why weren’t men also painted nude? Did Modigliani not want women to have secrets, so he made them nude?” Truly, food for thought. This young lady had me stumped. But surely her question was valid. Were the nude portraits a means to expose the vulnerability of women, and all the while elevating the power of men over women? And how in goodness gracious, was I going to translate my own question to my 8-year-old daughter?

Zara continued “Why aren’t women allowed secrets? Why do they have to be nude?” Indeed, I was at a bit of a loss. GULP HELP!! NUDES! WHAT???? “How come so many of the paintings at the ART FAIR were also of nude people?” So she remembered the Art Fair, and she remembered the paintings that had obviously disturbed her. This was not going away, so I tried to explain. “Zara, artists paint, sculpt and draw both men and women as an ode to the human form, just like Modigliani who painted women because he thought that they were beautiful.” I glanced quickly at her from the corner of my eye to see if this answer met with her approval. Fingers crossed she was satisfied. “But mummy,” oh darn another question, “why can’t girls keep private. Why did he (Modigliani) make the girls share their secrets? ” she asked. At this point it dawned on me that she had construed the nudity in the paintings as baring ones soul; being unable to keep things personal and private.  “Yes we are allowed to have secrets,” I replied. I realised at that point that Zara was no longer just digesting and regurgitating facts that she had learned, but rather she was enquiring, questioning and examining. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected her to discuss or ponder the reasons of nude art at this age, but I have to admit, I was impressed by her depth. Yes yes, I’m her mum, I would be impressed by her lack of depth too… hahahahaha

We discussed many things that night, from television media to art and examined the portrayal of young women. Indeed we went from Modigliani to Selena Gomez and even grabbed a copy of Vogue and Instyle (thank goodness I don’t subscribe to Cosmopolitan) … it was a cultural roller coaster of a conversation, but what transpired was that Zara was starting to form her own opinions hard and fast. I didn’t want to condemn the human form as I don’t want her to grow up with a negative self-image. She didn’t like that the women were nude. It brought forth questions that she  found difficult to comprehend and perhaps found the answers unsatisfactory. I marveled at how her mind was developing, and was amazed by how her view of the world was forming. Ultimately I want her to embrace her femininity and understand modesty as a means of self-preservation and self-respect and all the while ensuring that her moral boundaries are concrete.

All this stubbornness and inquiry may or may not bode well for her teenage years but for the time being, she believes in modesty, believes that boys and girls should be able to do the same things, or be put under the same scrutiny.  This is the beginning of the Tween journey for me… so sit tight. This is going to be one bumpy ride.


8 thoughts on “My 8-Year-Old Daughter questions Modigliani

  1. Sharie, reading your blog often leaves me breathless with emotion, and filled with nervous anticipation (looking forward to the day I have the same converations yet fearful I miss the significance of them).

    Zara, you’re wise beyond your years, I don’t think I had such deep probing questions until i was twice your age…

    • Bel, Thank you for visiting here. Motherhood is full of surprises but watching, listening and learning from our children is probably my favourite part. They are little miracles that keep us going. I dunno if Zara is wise for but she’s definitely developing into her own person. xo Watch out.. Nicolette will be there too in a flash! x

    • thank you, thank you thank you. my little angels are full of surprises and wisdom. It’s their purity of vision I think. x Indeed I sometimes ponder whether I have as much wisdom as they do!

  2. Zara you sweet darling, we all knew by the time you were four that you would grow up to have the best attributes of both your mummy and your daddy. And your Modigliani / Art Show story perfectly illustrates this!

    • Hi there, thank you so much for such a sweet message. Zara may not be an artist, but she definitely “gets it”. She feels the good and the bad and then questions it… I’m in awe of her…

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