Mirror by Jeannie Baker is the story of one day in the life of two families who live on different sides of the world. One is set in the Valley of Roses in Southern Morocco, the other is set in Sydney Australia. One is in the middle of the dessert in the middle of no where while the other is in the midst of the hustle and bustle of an urban world. And yet, the story they tell is remarkably similar.
Jeannie Baker tells her stories with her magnificent art – each page is a collage constructed layer by layer using materials such as paper, fabric, wool, sand, earth, tin and plastic. Each collage is photographed to become a page in her book. It is a book without words and can be appreciated by all ages.
What is unique about this book is that you follow the story of each family together. It is a double-sided book which allows you to look at each page – one set in Sydney, the other in Morocco. There is much detail that can be lost, so it is a book that can be revisited again and again – if only to notice more and appreciate how accurately Jeannie Baker has captured each world.
For someone like me, who lives in Sydney, it is wonderful to see Jeannie Baker’s interpretation of inner city life – it is chaotic and noisy, with tiny homes filled with tiny families who are creating their own private world amongst the urban sprawl. It is familiar and it is my world. However, the reader gets to see a slice of life in Morocco which is far more interesting – the food at their table has been produced by this family. There is the donkey who takes them to market – a refreshing contrast to the bright yellow mini van of the Sydney family. There are the dessert colours, the vibrant colours of the market place – spices and fresh vegetables. It couldn’t be more different from the world of Sydney.
This is also the story of a magic carpet and how it was created by the family in Morocco – it is lush, rich and beautiful and its journey from this dessert landscape in the middle of no where and its travels across the world, first on the back of a donkey, then in a giant airplane to the tiny corner “Magic Carpet” shop where the family in Sydney purchase it for their home. The Moroccan family use the money to buy a computer which is fairly ordinary in Sydney, but for them, it is a moment of excitement and marvel. The whole family gather around to watch as they turn it on. How could the family in Morocco part with this carpet – it must have taken so long to create and is exquisite. As a quilt maker, this is the question I ponder. But the creation of this rug is this family’s livelihood – this is what they live on – this and the sheep they raise.
In each family there is genuine love and affection. Each share a meal around a table – the food looks very different – from takeaway fish and chips to a large platter of freshly cooked vegetables and bread shared by three generations of family. There is chatter. The little baby is dressed in both families in a yellow jumper while the little boy is dressed red. We see the creativity of each boy – one draws on the sand at the market place while he patiently waits for his father, the other draws a picture of his family journeying on their new magic carpet to other worlds. Despite their differences, there is much that is common for both families. In both worlds, the sun rises and it sets and there is a moon shining down.
It is a relief to see where this rug finally comes to rest – here in Sydney with a family who clearly are already treasuring it and using it to sit together. There is a sense that the marvel that the Moroccan family share with their new purchase – the computer, they have with their new carpet. I am sure that the family in Morocco wonder what happened to it.
I was unable to resist the attraction of this book – I love the work of Jeannie Baker and wanted to share it with my family and friends. It sits on our coffee table in our lounge room for visitors to taste and share in its delight.