The Art I Call “The Washing Mum”


It’s the early hours of dawn. I can’t sleep again. It feels like I’ve spent all the hours of my life sleeping. All of a sudden I can’t lose my head in little slumber no matter how hard I try. Who took my sleep away?

I can’t tell.

I got up and put on the light. The first thing my eyes could see when the light came on was “The Washing Mum.” This is an art work a friend left with me about 5 years ago. He left it in my care with the intention to come back for it in the evening. He never came back. That was the last time I heard of him.

Five years ago when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to come back anytime soon, I hung this art on my wall. It’s a simple work of art. A woman. A mother. A very serene woman sitting with a bucket in front of her and washing. Next to her is nothing of note.

I’ve lived in five different towns within this five years. Each place that I’ve lived, I’ve lived with this Washing Mum. I’ve changed rooms and I’ve moved houses. Each place that I settle, I only have to pick a nail and a hammer. The next minute, this art will be hanging on my wall.

This night. At this very moment. I’m looking at this art in a very different spectacle. I’ve spent a lot of lonely moments with this art. If she had ears, she would have heard every prayer I’ver ever offered. The whispers of my fears would have been apparent to her. If her eyes were made to see, she would have seen me cry many times in my lonely hours. She would have seen me naked. Ultimately, she would have seen me made love to the woman I ended up getting married to.

Just as this dawn, she would have been the first person to read everything that I’ve ever written. I write as it hangs on the wall behind me. If she could raise her head and look me in the eyes, just once, then she would have known how feeble my breath is sometimes.

But it was created to be static with her chores: She washes–washes to get clothes clean. She is far removed from the world. Her world is captured as bleak on the canvas on which she lives. Nothing appears from behind her. She’s a lonely woman. Or maybe she’s alone in her world. She only has to get clothes cleaned.

We all get to clean a lot of things in our lives. We clean our clothes and wear it to cover our uncleaned hearts. We wash our hands and leave our souls untouched. We pour water on our heads. And as it drips down to our feet, it cleans the dirt off our skin. But we leave our thoughts and our words out of this cleanliness.

This dawn, I look at this piece of art and ask; “What do I have to give to get you to wash off the blemishes on my being?”

I’ve been an imperfect man. I’m a weaker soul than I’ve thought myself to be. I’ve crashed under the burden of loneliness sometimes. I’ve given my words to people with the intention not to keep. Many times, I could have been of help to another fellow but I ran and hid. My fears won’t let me live a fulfilled life. I want all these washed away.

But how?

A friend once saw this art and said: “whoever created this is telling us a story. But how would we know how the story ends?”

There is no story. There is only a woman in solitude, trying to get something done.

So today, I will walk out there with a burning desire to get things done. That is the only way I can win the games of life. Getting things done. Conquering my territory and being happy every step of the way.

Five years we’ve been together. Five years it has decorated my walls. It has been a consistent object of aesthetics in my life for the past five years. The friend who brought this to me means nothing in my life now. He left and never looked back. It’s been 5 years since I saw and heard from him.

But I’m here. Breathing under the piece of art he offered to me.

My life is an art–An art the creator left in the hands of the world. I might and I should decorate the space I find myself in. I should peacefully reside on the walls of hearts. I might not say a word. I might not move. I might be cut off from the world I live. My canvass might be bleak.


I should be able to get things done. The things for which I was created.

A piece of art I am. So are you–an aesthetic on somebody’s wall.

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