Memories are a part of life that stay with us even if the events which inspired them have discontinued. The Harp singing played an important part in the community where I was born and reared. The "all day singing and dinner on the grounds" was like a family reunion, only better, even better than Christmas sometimes.
Back more than one hundred years ago, people would come from miles around just for this special day. They would ride horses, they would come in covered wagons, and some wagons would not be covered. Sometimes oxen and steers pulled a wagon, but most of the time it was horses. The singing was beautiful; even the birds were all singing. At least I thought so, because I could hear them and I saw them gathered in a tree. The young people enjoyed getting together, and all in all it was a very happy day enjoyed by everyone.
Here we see everyone displayed before us. The song leader is directing the music. They have their special style of singing. The seating arrangement is a square and the singers all face each other. The front row is always reserved for the visiting singers and others who would like to join the group. . . . Sitting on a bench in the back row on the right hand side, you can see a man wearing blue pants. He is . . . not really dedicated to the singing because he has his mind on other things. I had trouble making him, and when I finished embroidering him, his face turned out to be very ugly, so I thought I must take his face out and do it again. I raised my little scissors to cut the threads away, but suddenly I loved him, so I said to him, "No, I cannot cut you out; you are just born ugly and you will have to stay there like this." I put some nice hair on his head, fixed a little mouth and eye, and he was beginning to look pretty good. Then I stretched his arm out along the side of the bench and I told him, "You will be the one, when you raise your arm, you lose your charm, and no one will sit by you." Then I let his toe press on the lady's foot who sits next to him. See, he is a big flirt. . . .
Left Side. Coming down the left side on the border, there is only one outdoor toilet, so mother takes the children. She lets little brother check it out to see if anyone is in there. Under the Tree. The children get tired of sitting so long in the church, so this little mother takes her children outside to sit under the shade of a tree. The baby is asleep on a pretty little baby quilt, while they enjoy being outside for a while. The children had much rather talk to Mama than listen to singing all day. Two Ladies Hugging. You see, this is a place where old friends meet. These two friends are happy to see each other. There is always a lot of kissing and loving on days like this. Child on Man's Shoulder. The little girl can see no need of walking around when she can ride her Daddy's shoulders and see everything so much better. The Dog. The dog is happy, too. Why not? He is smelling the food right now, and he knows that real soon he will be eating well, just like everyone else. He wouldn't miss an all day singing for anything in the world. His folks let him ride in the wagon with them, too. He knows a good thing. Two Men and the Horse. This man is admiring this horse. It is so beautiful. He is saying to his friend, "If it was not Sunday I would ask you what you wanted for this horse." His friend replied, "Well, if it was not Sunday I would tell you thirty dollars." They both know it's a sin to trade on Sunday, but, you know, I think they traded because they were so happy over the deal that they thought it was a blessing instead of a sin.
Right Side. One man is a little late, but he is there now. Seated on the Bench. You see Grandaddy tending the baby while his daughter places the food on the table. The Tree Behind Grandaddy. You see a tree. Well, behind that tree is some little old man who thinks he is hiding back there with his bottle. He can always eat more if he takes a nip before meal time and he believes it's not what you do that will hurt you, it's what you get caught doing. Tables with Food. I knew that back a hundred years ago the folks probably spread their table cloths right on the ground and placed their dishes of food on the cloths. Then when it was time to eat, they would squat and fix their plates, then find a place to sit to eat their meal. Maybe some brought chairs from home or they looked for stumps to sit on while they ate their dinner, but I did not want the folks at the Smithsonian to think that we did such a thing in Mississippi, so I made these tables with pretty cloths on them. They looked so much better like this to me and the people at the Smithsonian never noticed at all. On the tables, all spread out for everyone to enjoy, were huge platters of fried chicken, bowls of potato salad, fresh corn fixed different ways, chicken and dressing, all kinds of pies and cakes, big jars of iced tea and lemonade, huge slices of ham, roast beef, all sorts of vegetables, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers. Everything on the table was home-grown and home-cooked. The combination of the aroma of food and the fragrance of the flowers would send a beautiful scent through the church and the yard. This man is looking hungrily at the food on the tables. Cousins Meet with Their Children. Kinfolks are always so interested in each other's children, especially the new ones. They get prettier and prettier all the time, and it's so much fun to see who they look like. Their Daddy? their Mother? or if something isn't done soon this child will look just like Grandpa as sure as the world. Just look at that nose! Man and Boy on Horse. This man and little boy on the horse are just riding up to the church yeard. The man tips his hat and speaks to this lady with her basket because he knows this lady bakes the best pies in the county.Ethel Wright Mohamed
[For limited edition prints of the above work, and for more information on the artist and her work, contact Mama's Dream World: The Ethel Wright Mohamed Stitchery Museum, 307 Central, Belzoni MS 39038, phone (662) 247-1433.]
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