Please find below the story I mentioned an earlier post. It is written in response to Tiff Oben’s artwork which forms part of the Engaging in the Past exhibition at Oriel y Bont. Aethiopian Maid acknowledges the black presence in Tudor England.
The green silk gown hangs on a wooden pole. The girl has fingers thin as cinnamon quills and like in colour. She runs them over the embroidered hem. Clusters of pansies in gold and silver thread have faces marked with pearls. This is a gown of much importance. Clara checks the fabric, a task she undertakes every spring when moths are wont to cause damage. A smell of herbs and lavender pervades. Dried flower heads fall from the folds. She checks the seams and gathers for holes but none are found. Her mistress prizes this gown more than any other and work is needed to keep it fresh. Clara takes the gown and carries it outside where she hangs it in the breeze of the warm spring day.
Clara shakes the skirt and plumes of dust carry. She tugs the cuffs where the embroidery is heavy. It is a fine dress for her mistress to wear when a suitor calls. Taking a dry rod, Clara beats the silk, turning the fabric until it is clean. The gown must be perfectly dry for storage. Clara takes it to the bedchamber of her mistress and prepares to hang it alongside the other, lesser gowns. Before she does, Clara holds the dress against her. The sage silk shows bright against her blackamoor skin. The hem falls around her ankles for she is taller than her mistress and less stout. She dances with the gown pressed against her. Thinking of the boy who smiles often, Clara wonders whether he will be bold. She may never wear a dress of fine silk, but she will marry, one day.