Between Wine World, with its yodeling dominatrixes and oyster shucking, the Wayward Music Series at the Good Shepherd Center, and Seattle Tilth classes alone, we’ve practically got our own cultural in this little wedge between I-5 and Aurora. And then there’s Wide World Books and Maps, dolloping a creamy spoonful on the top of it all.
Here’s what we’ve got there next week (as written by Yvonne’s publicist):
Next week is the 21st anniversary of America’s declaration of success in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. On March 6th at 7 pm, Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield, a Pt. Townsend art professor, will be giving her first talk in Seattle since returning from teaching at Kuwait University. Her slide show at Wide World of Books & Maps will include paintings she did in the Mideast, but kept hidden until her return home. She will be talking about contemporary Middle Eastern art and social customs and “going from Pacific Northwest climes to 120 degree heat, and learning to balance on a bicycle while traversing desert terrain that was once a mined war zone, and a university system that feels like one.”
SUITCASE FILLED WITH NAILS
By Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield
Only-the-names-are-changed in this true story of an idealistic American hired to teach art to university women in “liberated” Kuwait
Only after resigning her professorship from a women’s university in Kuwait does Port Townsend, WA artist Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield feel free to tell the full story of what happened to her and her students during her six-year stint in the Arabian Gulf. Suitcase Filled with Nails: Lessons Learned from Teaching Art in Kuwait is “not meant to be diplomatic,” and is her human and humorous account that evolved from “random and whiny notes I began writing as a means to help me vent frustration. Those feelings carried over into some of the art I created there – which I hid, fearing it might be open to misinterpretation and perhaps even reprisal.”
In addition to spearheading some controversial student art and exhibits, publishing academic papers and obtaining project grants, work Pepin-Wakefield created in the Mideast was featured in solo, gallery exhibits and Kuwait’s Modern Art Museum:
“The more I succeeded with my work and students, the more the Kuwaiti men around me seemed threatened. My accomplishments highlighted their lack of success with even more resources. My working environment grew more hostile as my students grew more adventuresome in expressing themselves through art.”
When the itinerant artist first arrived in Kuwait in 2004, she assumed she was more privileged than Kuwaiti women who “I lumped into the stereotype of ‘oppressed and forced to wear a veil’. But, I soon learned that many Kuwaiti women enjoy one of the highest rates of disposable income in the world and the associated luxuries. A Kuwaiti woman’s freedoms are largely dependent on her male relatives and tribal affiliations, and I found many were given much greater latitude than women in other Mideastern countries.”
Kuwait is a welfare society and every national is guaranteed an education and government support from cradle to grave. However, Pepin-Wakefield discovered the government courtesies and protections did not apply to visiting workers. “While my students and I were subjected to the same kind of intimidation over our artwork, they had the entitlement of a being a citizen and in many cases they had family support behind them. I had neither.”
Untarnished by war or terrorism and without the gilding of political diplomacy, Suitcase Filled with Nails is a slice of life in the Mideast you rarely experience through popular media. “It is my story of living and working in a country where the basic rights and privileges I took for granted in the States were subject to the whims of a not so whimsical system and culture.”
ABOUT YVONNE PEPIN-WAKEFIELD:
Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield is a Fulbright Memorial scholar who has taught art on three continents and received international and national awards for her teaching methods. At age 18, she bought 80 acres in the Oregon mountains and built a log cabin where she wrote and illustrated two published books that chronicle her early years as a painter (Cabin Journal, Three Summers).
Yvonne is co-owner of Pomegranate Productions which focuses on art promotion and publication. She and her husband divide their time between Port Townsend and the central Washington artists’ community of Tieton.