Sep 26, 2006

Beggar's Banquet


One of the most fascinating sights I saw in Prague was the homeless beggars. It was the way in which they begged that is so wild. It seemed like a begging technique from a thousand years ago. They knelt on the ground with their butt sticking up in the air behind them. They then placed their forehead squarely on the ground in front. You could never see their faces. They have their hands outstretched in front of them as far as possible. Both hands are cupped together in a very religious manner. They never move a muscle. The whole thing is so theatrical and also quite moving. I was spellbound each time I saw someone doing it. I told Yun I wanted to take a photo or ask one of them if they wouldn't mind if I drew them. Yun was appalled and said I shouldn't exploit them. I was confused. I didn't know what to do, so in the end I just left them alone. But the images of them has stuck with greatly.

44 comments:

Karen at Pen in Hand said...

It's an interesting problem. Would you have been exploiting them if you'd paid them a bit for the privilege of sketching them? Or would that have simply been a kind of work for hire? Then again, one could argue that if they're so desperate, they have less choice in the matter - that they're forced by circumstance to let you sketch them as a way to get a little money. I don't know what I had done, but I think you should see what happens if you try a sketch from memory. Just a thought.

Mary B. said...

Your story reminds me of a similar experience I had about 20 years ago in Ireland when I hitched a ride into Dublin. As my ride drove me around I noticed a number of women paired with small children sitting and begging on street corners, wrapped in woolen blankets. Mind you, they were all wrapped in the same plaid blankets and used the same size and shape cardboard box for begging too. As I saw a cop kick one of the beggar's boxes out of her hand, my ride informed me that these ladies were part of a ring of Irish Travelers and a common sight in the city that time of year because it was high tourist season.

I think you were wise to walk away from the beggars you encountered in Prague. If they were members of a con ring they probably wouldn't have wanted you to take their pictures anyway.

Renate said...

I just love the way you draw buildings! They always look so lively and full of athmosphere.

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