Imeret and the Strawberry

Alexis Hunter, 'Myth and Culture', hand painted ceramics, 2003
Whitespace Gallery

As the most beautiful of the King's virgin daughters Imeret was chosen by her father as a priestess of Hathor. Every day with gladness in her heart she prepared the spiced wine, squeezed the juice from the exotic fruits, and poured the fragrant libations into decorative clay vessels to carry to the temple of the great horned Goddess.

Imeret's attendants dressed her in a sheath dress made of the sheerest fabric so that the perfection and purity of her body could be admired by all who saw her. Her eyes were outlined in charcoal and jewelled sandals adorned her feet. With precise and graceful movements Imeret placed the offering before the Goddess and danced the sacred dance of Hathor.


While I waited for the bus I watched her lumber across Albert Street to join the crowd that was gathering beneath the billboard. A huge inflatable strawberry was attached to it alongside a plastic spear and a slogan that read, 'When will the fruit burst?'

Her black lace bra was visible beneath her thin muslin blouse and the spandex tube skirt she was wearing was stretched to maximum capacity across her rump. The tight straps of her slave sandals scored her fleshy calves like a Christmas ham. With ease she pushed through the crowd to take up her position against the fence. I observed her in profile looking up at the strawberry. As she did so she put one hand inside her top, I thought to adjust her ill-fitting bra, but she left it there, squeezing her right breast as she stood watching the strawberry inflate.

When the fruit burst with a loud explosion and spunked a volley of wrapped sweets over the crowd, everyone pushed and jostled each other as they scrambled around on the footpath stuffing fistfuls of lollies into their pockets. In the midst of the mayhem and tussle I noticed that the woman remained exactly where she was, swaying gently with her hand still inside her top, staring reverently at the eviscerated rubber strawberry dangling from the billboard.



This is a short version of a story I drafted last year. It seemed to fit (in an oblique way) with Alexis Hunter's painted ceramics that will be included in the Far Far Away exhibition. The context for the story relates to research I was carrying out at the time on a suite of nude self-portraits that Rita Angus produced in mid-1942, a few months after miscarrying her child by Douglas Lilburn. Angus wrote to Lilburn about her spiritual reinvention as a celibate high-priestess in the service of Art and she referred him to a statue that she had seen in a book on Egyptian art that had inspired her nude self-portrait, 'Study for Carving' and the grisaille variation of the same image:

This is the statue of Imeret-Nebes:

Discovering the image of Imeret was one of those rare and wonderful moments when all the pieces of a research project fall neatly into place. I was feeling elated as I waited for the bus home but when I witnessed the exploding strawberry (a promotional stunt organised by Pascales) I was struck by the strangeness of the disjunction between the image of the Egyptian priestess I had seen that morning and the sight of the woman engaged in private reverie before the giant strawberry.


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