"Put it away, granny Madonna - you're too old to be flashing your crotch" admonished the title of an article in the 7/01/2009 issue of the Mirror.co.uk, reflecting similar expressions of disgust by a number of respondents to Madonna's crotch shot for luxury goods maker Luis Vuitton.
Contrary to those expressing disgust at a 50 year old woman displaying her elegantly covered crotch in public, that pose is ancient,has sacred,primordial and even numinous connotations, and is part of a continuity from prehistoric times in various cultures,from Yorubaland,to India and England, about the power of female biology as expressed through the assets Madonna so generously and kindly displays.
The Madonna crotch shot is an archetypal pose that recurs in various cosmologies,in visual and verbal art,ancient and modern,from Africa,to Europe and Asia,where it evokes the correlation of the erotic and the procreative in bringing humanity into being and in sustaining human existence,thereby imaging the cosmic processes through which existence comes into being,ideas evoked in the English Sheela na Gig,the Yoruba Ille,the Hindu Kali,among others.
Imagine it.There is a Bini saying that no one sights a vagina and remains unsmiling.As one kneels before the v shaped pudenda,monogramed in a red veil,graciously revealed to us by the representative of the goddess,what does one think before taking advantage of permission to explore the cave of delights?Imagine the sheer ecstasy of anticipation as one visualizes the drops of dew that begin to crystalize on the soft growth pf bush that waits beyond the delicate veil,the doors that flank the passage into the kingdom into which one enters to return a changed person....
For Carolyn Hillyer,the space between a woman's legs becomes the Oracle of Nights,the darkness of which is the space of self exploration,a space in which you leave your name behind as you enter, in order to find a new name as you proceed deeper,encountering guardians who embody the journey of humanity in its struggle and seeking; one reaches the end of the cave,understandable as the back of the vaginal wall and returns,tracing one's way back to light with a deepened sense of self,having integrated what one is and what others have also gone through as fellow travelers on the earth,travellers born of the blood and delight of that sacred place.
For Susanne Wenger,that sacred space is evocative of the passage through the primordial density of sacred forest ,in which one is reborn through immersion in elemental forms more ancient than humanity.For Kathy Jones,the circumambulation of Glastonbury Tor is the movement within the lines of the vagina of the goddess whose body is the hill.For Mark Dunn,it embodies as well as symbolises gateways between dimensions,enabling entry to parallel realities in space and time.
Why should Madonna not be seen in relation to such archetypal forms?
The Madonna photograph could also be seen as evoking forms of power,erotic and monetary,as suggested by the crotch display,the luxury bag she is promoting,and the underlying correlation of the erotic and the monetary,a correlation often significant to relationships between men and women.
The economic nexus evoked by the Madonna image could be understood as related,though at a distance,to the understanding of existence in terms of the metaphor of exchange in Yoruba and Igbo cosmologies,in which the world is understood as a market place, which we visit for a time to achieve certain goals achieved through exchange of value of one kind or another and return to the world of origins.In that context,therefore,the entire image,in its projection of the convergence of monetary interests and the human self,as focused on the evocative value of Madonna's delightful crotch,suggestive even in middle age,evocative of the meeting of erotic power and the flowering of self through time,becomes an Orisa tradition opon ifa,a template of exchange in which the relationship between being and becoming as dramatized in human activity becomes manifest.
Madonna is selling the delight generated by the taboo value of exposing a part of the body that is private.I like the image but I am not likely to do that myself or encourage anyone to do so.Nor do I think that Madonna is worse off for it,since she has built a personality that is shaped around such self display and is able to have a reasonably balanced life.I would not be able to guess,though,how her children would see this.
My response to this image is therefore contradictory.It is delightful but disturbing in some of its ramifications.It evokes archetypal symbolism,empowering and celebratory of the meaning of human biology but it is also not something one would readily do.