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Nkima Speaks

Nurture: Finding of Thasa Ras, childhood, womanhood, betrayal. Knowledge obtained. A dying world.

Every time David Adams writes about my fiction I end up slapping my forehead and shouting "Duh! Why didn't I see all that?" I simply write stories that entertain me. If readers are also entertained that's even better. That observers of life and literature like David Adams can find so much more in my little scribblings puts a big grin on my face—meanwhile, I shake my head.

MY NEW COLLAGES 2004

David A. Adams



When David Arthur Adams provided this article and photocopies of recent artwork themed on the on-going Barsoomian stories of Ras Thavas and the Calot by David Bruce Bozarth, the latter, who is also the webmaster at erblist.com, cheefully placed Adam's captions in bold, boxed the lot, and in those boxes spewed comments of his own. Discover the origin of Adams' collage art inpiration:

RAS THAVAS AND THE CALOT


To view all the images at FULL SIZE (separate page) CLICK HERE.


Rena: the Bowman's wife. Dreams of Big cities. Shadows of secrets. Desire and Decay. Lives within lives.

The image of the girl is a bit modern for a Barsoom tale; yet, the pose and attitude speak eloquently of Kar Komak's lady. A tale of the ancient Orovars of Barsoom, Adam's collage speaks to those eons past and the multiple facades and possibilities.

This April I began gluing pictures from magazines onto 4x6 cards, something I had not done since 1969 when my brother Ron and I did art projects together in the basement on Florence Lane. This was the same summer that I shot multiple exposure pictures with the Polaroid with the illumination of bare lightbulbs in the ceiling and no flash. Those old Polaroidís were great for this because you could shoot as long as you wanted on a single frame then pull the results by hand. For me, it was another form of doing collage since I was working with multiple, overlapping images. Anyway, I did those first little collages at an old kitchen table in the basement while Ron painted with acrylics on large canvases and we invented stories about an imaginary pig who appeared and disappeared at will — such were the days at the end of that decade just before my marriage.

Recently I found those old art pieces and put them into my 5x7 art album along with my newer small watercolors and drawings and found that they still had a lot to say to me. Simultaneously I picked up a book of essays by Marie-Louise von Franz, and Jung rolled over in his grave and pinched me on the arm, so I picked up a scissors and a pile of old National Geographics and Smithsonians from the public library free bin and got to work.

Ras Thavas: Determined. Kaldanes dying in their towers. Vermin. Chemistry. Biology. Desperation. Life in large and small.

My Ras Thavas is an old man in a young body. The Bozarth version of the character is drawn from Burroughs' Master Mind of Mars and is expanded into a more believable reality. In KALDANE it is not Ras Thavas' youthful rebirth that solves this mystery it is his grizzled wisdom won after a thousand years of learning—with a bit of help from his equally brilliant wife.

I had three ideas in mind when I began cutting out in the garage studio:

1. Images based upon Bozarthís Ras Thavas series of short stories

2. My Soul of the Lion article, currently revising and expanding

3. Images about my top 50 influences.

All of these topics rife with archetypal possibilities!


For some reason, the Ras Thavas images came first. I laid out the first set of possibilities: mad scientist, dog, city in the desert, outer space, as basic ideas, then let the images place themselves on the backgrounds I had chosen. For me, this placement is not so much a reasoned process as an instinctual one — the images jump out at me from the magazines and go where they want to in the pictures. I just move them around a little until they are happy in those particular spots and tell me they are done. Pictures do come off sometimes and go to other cards or go back into my cuttings box for a rest or for another day and another attempt. I found that I liked to work about eight pictures at once and usually ended up with four I liked and actually glued together.

The Lady of Ras Thavas. Perfection. Beast. Morphing.

The Barsoomian calot does not look like a rat; yet, this image speaks volumes regarding the transition between human form and animal. Delicate, delicious, dangerous. Love in a different form, with an emphasis on "dangerous".

I see both ERBís and Bozarthís work in an archetypal way. ERB dreamed his works onto the page — visionary tales, which allowed him a direct communication with his unconscious. His writing was straight forward, almost automatic — provided to him from an inner source. He was more or less a scribe taking dictation from his unconscious. This is often explained as his being a great, natural story-teller. All great story-tellers have contact with these archetypal sources and do just sit down and write (madly at a typewriter as was in his case in those ancient days of primitive technology) or can dictate complete, unbroken tales to a stenographer. Burroughs could gush it out this way, and thatís all I have to say on this.

Madness. Ras Thavas and the Calot. Dreams? Reality? Nearly 2,000 years of life in a flash.

An image from the final Ras Thavas and the Calot story. The author's choice of these 10 images for this particular story: The Dungeon.

David's images were photo copies on heavy stock. These illustrations have been processed twice—once through the photocopy process and again through my scans. Adams indicated the photocopy images leaned toward more red than the originals. I moderated/modified the scanned images toward blue. The artist can tell me at a later date (at which point I will update this page) if I got the color balance correct. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that you, the viewer, can enjoy the art and the thought the artist expended to create these images—regardless of color balance.

Bozarth in his ERB pastiches writes from a more intellectual place, but he calls up the old Burroughsian images and has them do new dance steps. I have found the Ras Thavas stories to be particularly interesting because the character of the scientist or wise old man is one that ERB had a problem with in his archetypal world.

For ERB, the hero remained in an arrested stage of development at around the age of thirty. He was basically a young male who had on occasion faced his own shadow (his dark side) but for the most part remained rather boyish in his aspirations. His relationship with women was definitely dual: worshipful, even fawning at times, but most often confused and uncertain like a young medieval knight and his lady-love. There is never a question of balancing his own male psyche with feminine characteristics. He is all man of action, impulsive, noble, and brave to a fault. There is in other words: no depth to his personality, no development toward higher levels of selfhood. You donít go to Burroughs to find stories about inner struggles with psychological or philosophical problems. His world is basically black and white, right or wrong, good or evil. Itís a limited view, adolescent at times, but a perfect vehicle for adventurous heroism on a stage of action.

Ras Thavas has reached a new understanding regarding the creatures of Barsoom. Even the most dangerous are to be treasured.

The Barsoom series by Burroughs is filled with exotic alien animals and creatures. Unfortunately, the creator of Barsoom gave us too little information, so my exploration of Barsoom attempts to fill in the blanks.

Barsoom is a dying world, worn out, low on resources, yet still vital and vibrant with life.


Macro- and Micro-cosims. Large and Small. Antiquity and Neo-Barsoom. There is nothing beyond the interest of Ras Thavas.

The RTC Stories are explorations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom and the characters created. To be sure, these explorations are my between the lines reading written for my own entertainment and are not presented as any actuality expressed by Mr. Burroughs.

The thing that interested me the most about Bozarthís Ras Thavas series of tales was the development of a wise old man character from the Master Mind of Mars. Burroughs was unable to integrate this final stage of individuation into his own personality because he was plagued with negative anima to the last. His old men were all mad or dottering scientists or crazy old men with cannibalistic tendencies — he feared old age as something that would eat him up whole, which of course it did in the end. Bozarth took Ras Thavas, a wise old man archetype, to a level beyond Burroughs — even though he too found it necessary to give him a young manís body — a distinctly Burroughsian touch. However, this Ras Thavas IS an older and wiser man who has at least reached the third stage of development as a city builder, and on occasions the character has feelings of doubt, uncertainty, or even guilt.

Like Burroughs himself, Bozarthís Ras Thavas is plagued with negative anima and transforms his wife into a calot (a Barsoomian dog) and the properly chastened woman gets her revenge when she decides to remain in this form, thus depriving him of a normal human sexual relationship. To me this is an interesting step in dealing with the archetypes. Not a full integration to be sure; still it is a step further than ERB wrote about in his stories and one with Bozarthís fertile mind at full throttle. In short: Bozarth is at play in the field of the archetypal forms as offered by Burroughs, and my images for his expanded tales of Barsoom presents another view of these same archetypes.

Blending lives, erasing the distinctions between man and animal. Beauty and the Beast.

The relationship between the master mind of Mars and his wife does not reach maturity and understanding until long after she is transformed from human to animal—one of the most feared and dangerous of all the creatures of Barsoom. As a calot Thasa Ras is more powerful than any human, yet is also a more tragic figure as well.

I will not give any interpretations of these images since that would only reduce their usefulness which must bear directly upon the psyche of individual viewers. As archetypal images they derive their force directly upon being seen, thus activating the inner archetypes of the viewer. ERBís archetypal characters work in this fashion. How many readers have said that ERBís stories have completely taken them in — that they feel that they have lived the stories rather than having just read them! Active archetypes allow and invite this kind of projection (one might better say, "communion") and thus, the stories we read indeed become our own.

Sometime during the course of this on-going series of Ras Thavas tales I mentioned to Bruce that I saw a Leonardo da Vinci emerging from Ras Thavas, a man of age and wisdom, yet one still plagued like ERB with a negative anima, which gave him so much trouble with women.

Builder of New Cities. Finding Love. Losing Love. Still in Love.

My intent to explore Barsoom also included an attempt to look at human relationships, one of which is marriage, fidelity, friendship, love. My Ras Thavas had lived 1,000 years and a bit more before he discovered these attributes of what makes us tick, not only as a method of procreation, but of civilization itself, and how personally painful and joyous that exploration might be.

I like the idea that in time Burroughs might have come to a place of balance and wholeness. He was still resolving his war experiences at the time of his death in Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, the Tangor stories [Ed Note: Beyond the Farthest Star and Tangor Returns], and in the dark yet strangely moving I Am A Barbarian. The glimmer of a true coming to terms with his dark lady shows up in his final, little tales of Pellucidar where women become complete heroes without the aid of men. It is as though he looked back at Nadara in The Cave Girl and Jane in Tarzanís Quest and saw a light at the end of the many labyrinths his heroes had to travel through again and again. So, in time, I believe that the old man would have come to his own in Burroughs as well — perhaps a transformed Ras Thavas as Bozarth shows us or even an old man who is not Dolly Dorcas.

Nkima

April 27, 2004

(on the 23rd anniversary of Chrisí sobriety)