Red Bead Woman is an ancient story for a troubled time.
From the longing of an old woman and the deep roots of a mare’s tail plant is born a girl who can rebuild culture, revive relationship between the centre and the edge, the village and the forest. But to do that, she has to have a voice first. And there the journey begins.
Acclaimed scholar and mythteller Martin Shaw invokes this jewel of a tale from the Taiga of Siberia. For the last ten years he has followed faithfully wherever it wished to take him. And it is only now, after hundreds of oral tellings, that he commits it to writing.
Alongside Dr Shaw’s unique drawings – scattered like seed throughout – he claims we have been caught in a dichotomy of culture or wildness, and hence a great divorce has fallen upon us. A divorce between us and the earth, and the ensuing settlement threatens to be wretched.
But sometimes it is only when life is so jagged and uncertain that we learn to speak at all. Red Bead Woman petitions for a culture of wildness: an unruly, highly infectious pandemic of beauty. That in the midst of ghoulish conspiracy theory and jaded respectability, we still may take a deep breath, do the work, and start to find out just what a red bead speech could want from us. This heartrending and mysterious work has all the sudden twists of feeling that lets us know we are in the presence of something magnificent.
“A Red Bead Woman is not an ornamental title, it is defined in its doing, in-the-speaking…The collusion is not just of plant and longing but all the stunted, crazily difficult, fabulously terrible encounters we experienced as we tried to grow down into this world…to oversee such a mosh pit and coax it into something a touch more elegant.”