Painting the Shulamite By Angela Yarber

Calling the Shulamite holy is my way of affirming female sexuality, the beautiful variety of the body’s shapes and sizes, and including the LGBT community in the canon of saints.

Several years ago, after experiencing the innate maleness and straightness of most traditional icons, I decided to give iconography a folk and feminist twist.  Biblical women, mythological figures, poets, artists, dancers, scholars, literary figures, and personal loved-ones graced my canvases and with a brush-stroke they were canonized.  Miriam, Sappho, Gaia, Jephthah’s daughter, Virginia Woolf, Tiamat, Mary, Baby Suggs, Isadora Duncan, Fatima, the Shulamite, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Mary Daly, Sophia, Sojourner Truth, and many of my friends and colleagues became “Holy Women Icons.”  It is these icons—these holy women—that will be the focus of my monthly articles in Feminism and Religion.

This month, the Shulamite is the center of our attention.  She is a dancer made famous by the erotic love poetry dedicated to her sensuous curves in Song of Songs:

Return, return, the Shulamite.

Return, return, and let us gaze on you.

How will you gaze on Shulamite in the dance of the two camps?

How beautiful are your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter.

The curves of your (quivering) thighs like jewels crafted by artist hands.

Your vulva a rounded bowl; may it never lack wine.

Your belly a mound of wheat hedged by lotuses.

Your breasts like two fawns…

(Song of Songs 7:1-4 translation mine) Continue reading “Painting the Shulamite By Angela Yarber”

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