There’s a blue room, with an Arabic on every side of the wall. The sheik and mercenaries sit comfortably, looking at the nude little girl whose body wrapped by a purple snake. Beside the little girl, an old man are playing some enchanting song from his flute. The little girl grab the python, she tries to make it dance with her. Her naked body made an erotic image for the sheiks, who are longing to touch her body. Her pale, white skin made a soft contact with the purple reptile, dancing and moving slowly as the song is playing.
“It’s not a girl. It’s a boy.” Ega Nindita, my fellow scholar, told me.
“What? A boy? It’s a girl!” I recalled the image on my head. A naked girl, with her purple snake.
“How do you know that it’s a girl? You can search the painting in the internet. It said that it’s a boy.” Ega smiling.
Jean-Leon Gerome created The Snake Charmer circa 1870. The painting is used for the cover of Orientalism, the book written by Edward W. Said. Orientalism give us the perspective about how Western world see the Arab world ( The Orient ) at the end of 19th century. Judgment and prejudice are very common at that time, and that is one of the main paradigm that Said criticize.
If we look at the painting again, we could understand what kind of interpretation and judgment that the Westerners used to have when it comes to the Arab people. The naked boy holding python on his hand, in a room that looks like a mosque. I don’t want to speculate here, but what is your impression when you see that painting? The inaccuracy of the painting show us how European see Arabs only from their point of view. The idea about the West and the East is a concept that Westerners build themselves. Edward Said said, that the Westerners were identifying the East so they could identify themselves. By make the other, they found their own. They are nothing like The East, because they are The West.
The false judgment are actually a common thing. We could find hundreds of stereotypes of people or races. But the European used to use their judgment unconsciously to build their own identity. Later, the Oriental is not only Arabs, but also Chinese, Malay, and anything but West.
“The painting symbolize what the Westerners used to had in their mind about us, the Orient. And that is what Edward Said try to criticize on his book.” Ega tries to summarize the book by it’s unique yet provocative cover.
With the boy replaces the girl, the image is getting weirder while also disturbing. Is it any true, the fact that the Arab world used to live side by side by prostitution? But isn’t prostitution are find almost everywhere in the world? So if the East supposed to be different than the West, and the West are having the prostitution as well, what are the differences between them?
I guess we’re not that different from each other. Sometimes, the differences are made by ourselves.