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Discover Saint martin #18
Discover Saint martin #18
Every morning in Oyster Pond, the celestial harmony of the sunrise with its ever changing colors graces the sky. The sun rises here on the east coast of the island and together the sun and moon welcome romantic souls. Oyster Pond is home and busy, sheltered marina constructed by Captain Oliver, a pioneer of tourism . Between the reefs, a channel marks out the narrow access for the boats. This calm and natural place offering a stunning panoramic view on the open Atlantic Ocean. Here in this breezy spot perfumed by the fresh scent of the sea, one can breathe an ‘air of freedom’ far from the continental megalopolis.


In flying formation, the delicate white egrets glide lightly. The salt water blus the eyesight of the dive-fishing pelicans and the most greedy find themselves blinded. Familiar herds of goats and healthy, tagged cows graze at the sides of the roads and continue to provide fresh meat for the local inhabitants. In the countryside bordering the sea, the turtles lay in the Natural Reserve. And in the depths, whales descend from the arctic in order to breed around Christmas time . In the distance is the island of Saint Barthelemy, a solid rock in the middle of the ocean. In Oyster Pond you’ll find a Secret Garden to visit, created by a discreet and talented woman . In her gallery, her drawings and paintings. She is a painter.


Chilhood and resilience
Chilhood and resilience
The desire to create is in all of us. However, the need to paint is not so common. Very few children develop this talent. Very few adults preserve the wonder and spontaneity of childhood. It is quite the opposite for Dona Bryhiel. She has devoted her life to creation and painting . This is her story. We are in Provence in the south of France. Dona has just turned seven, the age of reason . Sunddenly, her life is turned upside down . A terrible unexpected shock which frightens and tears the young girl apart . Through the rear window of the car, the child watches the orchards of her native Provence in blossom, just as in the paintings of Van Gogh and Cezanne.


Mama is driving. The car leaves the road. An accident . In the front seat, Papa smiles for the last time. The bereavement and the murmur of ghosts in her head. Mama has become paraplegic. An only daughter, the orphan becomes a prisoner to a mother who rejects her and who ill-trearts her daily. The destitution, the daily nightmare. Life has turned for the worse, She is only seven years old and feels total loneliness and lack of reason. How is it possible to find hapiness and calm without love and tenderness ?
She then went to a boarding school with the nuns known as the Salaiseinnes Sisters. They were replacement tutors and a protection against evil. Dona began to sleep and eat again no longer suffered nightmares or heard screams in her sleep. To battle against her unspeakable suffering, she found refuge in daydreaming. She drew upon nuggets of beauty to support and embellish reality. Visual emotion, sceneries, colors, perfumes. Her overflowing sensitivity soothed by Gregotian chants. The wretched and skinny little girl was excluded from play by the older girls who were repulsed by the ugly duckling. To protect herself against her harsh reality, she drew upon the imaginary to try to find reason to change it.


To attract attention, she used to play “bottle merchant” with bottles filled with colored water. At the age of twelve, sister Georgette taught her how to draw and paint. Almond trees in Spring blossom. Her first congratulations. A simple little seed which would germinate esteem through painting. The little girl was rescued . A long and slow process alowed her to find a path of happiness despite her traumatic and adverse circumstances: a resilience. At the age of sixteen, the fragile but determined girl was emancipated by a judge though for many years after she could not bear to hear reports of mistreated children. In a lifetime, there is only one problem to resolve. The one that gives sense to our lives and gives a quality to our relationships. The scars of childhood, then education in the Fine Arts, love, marriage, a daughter and a son. A loving mother. She has built the family that she never had. Those who don’t know how to give, don’t know what they are missing.


The woman and the painting
Her career in painting and her other works have always been supported by the same motto:”observe, and explain the world with simplicity and thruth”. “You know what I mean ?” At the Cantini Museum of Marseille, her first artistic emotion bursts out as the result of a painting representing hobnailed shoes on a chair. The chair of Vincent Van Gogh. Her pictorial and poetic sensitivity is not unlike Chagall’s whom she very much admires. Like him she likes to escape into the distorted naivety of a true poetic arena. The birth of each new painting comes after nine months of preparation. It is her rhythm. A cycle of femininity guided by a new music, a sound, an evocative rhythm. The new theme for each of her canvasses is always triggered by personal emotion. Music, a scent, a figure, an encounter. Each little details an extreme coloring from deep inside and given form by her visual memory . Thes elements trigger her need to create. She is attracted by both the sudden emotion of the unexpected as well as ravishing beauty. Like a butterflythat choose the color of a flower before settling upon in with wonder.


This aesthetic feeling is there for those who have managed to maintain the sincerity and freshness of a child’s soul; which cannot reach sceptical and blase spirits. The wonder is a gift that beauty offers to the pure hearted. Before living in the tropical sun of St Martin, Dona Bryhiel was in Provence. She goes back there for three months each year. A recurring theme in her work is that of woman. It was in Avignon, in the library of the former city of the poes, capital of Christendom, that she discovered Italian scrolls of Francois Petrarque (1304-1374) from the middle ages, and his poems of unrequited love for Laure. Beatrice and Dante, Heloise and Abelard, Laure and Petrarque. The muse of woman. In the works of Dona Bryhiel, the theme of Laure is proof of her deep understanding of culture. She imagines her as a sister, another “herself” and paints her as such. The long blonde hair of Laure floats in the wind, in the warm plains carried by the Mistral wind. The black Caribbean woman is another sister. She paints her as a sign of solidarity which extends to all other women with their stories, their beauty, their strengths and weaknesses. Alongside these large unique canvasses, she draws little personal booktlets and works with coral and ceramics.Through these daily creations, she keeps alive the secret of representing life. In Oyster Pond there is a little Secret Garden, intimate and full of smiles, open for a visit and an encounter with a woman with many qualities.


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