New Orleans At Dawn

Jul 15, 2010 by

New Orleans At Dawn

“New Orleans at Dawn” is an 8×10 oil canvas that captures energies collected on my first visit to the historic city on the banks of the Mississippi River.

The year was 1972; the beginning of my Sam Cooke’s, “I Know a Change is Gonna Come,” moments. I arrived with my five month old daughter strapped to my back two weeks before Mahalia Jackson’s body arrived for burial. Although it was bitterly cold, it didn’t stop the round the clock celebration of life for the greatest gospel singer of all time. The death of Miss Jackson allowed me to take shelter with the masses from the grief of learning of my own grandmother’s death.

I’d been summoned to New Orleans by the councils and spirits of the grandmothers. I needed to reconnect to memories long since archived away. The first summons came to me one night, a few weeks after giving birth to my daughter, when my beloved grandmother, who I hadn’t seen or spoken with in over a year, made a spirit visit to me. I saw and heard her as clearly as though she stood beside me as she told me she had died. She left the world abandoned by the one she raised as her own. I kicked and screamed, following her down a long white corridor begging her to please let me die too. She turned and told me, “No, you can’t go, you have that beautiful little girl to raise. Besides, you’ve got a lot of mess to clean up before you leave here. I won’t have anyone thinking I raised you wrong.” She disappeared as gently as she’d appeared.

I knew at that moment the reality of my life for the past several years. The consequences of my past actions and alliances crushed me in sorrow. I knew I had to be a good mother; to break the chain of horror my brother and I endured as toddlers. Our father, coward and fearful man that he was, had killed our mother and himself a few days after my first birthday, plunging us into a near-lifetime of dysfunction. I needed to be shown a path to heal myself to prevent that same dark passage of pain to be passed down to future generations by me. I had to break the chain of torment heaped upon us. I had to slay dragons and the preparation for that required being bathed in rituals of ancient rhythms and vibrations where space, distance and time is still pregnant with spirits commingled in soils and sediments of generational triumphs and sorrows. I had to figuratively breathe in the oxygen of trees and grasses of a richer energy and stir back into the greater universal energy and purpose. I began by leaving Harry, the abusive Machiavellian personality who had once so totally captivated me.

New Orleans At Dawn By Gale Madyun

New Orleans At Dawn By Gale Madyun

I was at a crossroads and though I didn’t know it at the time I was about to find myself in the racially and spiritually complex city of New Orleans. A friend had asked me to check in on his grandmother who had recently suffered a heart attack. So I did, and Miss Rose, a spiritual warrior and devoted spirit of the grandmothers, told me, “You know, I was supposed to die with the last heart attack. God promised me I could come home. Then, you and the baby showed up and I agreed to a change of plans.”

I painted “New Orleans at Dawn” in the fall of that year. It is a celebration of my introduction and renewal of spirit connections to the council and spirit of the grandmothers and their confidence that I was on a path they believed to be the equitable resolution for the consequences of my past behavior.

The figure of the woman, still embedded in shadows, is clearly of a substance emerging from the blacks and blues. She is willing to anticipate gaiety by wearing a green dress and using red feathers as a head ornament. Four years later, two weeks after my return home to Los Angeles, Miss Rose died of the same heart attack she’d had weeks before we first met. She had pledged to God to live until I returned home to my family.

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  1. Greg, Thank you for visiting my works.

  2. Greg Grosso

    Celebrate Life!!!!

  3. Greg Grosso

    Gayle, I love the content of your art! The colors used are very intense and pull your eyes into the soul of the artist. I have my favorite prints already but Strolls Like Merritt is my favorite and the story line is so personal on a real and conscious level.
    Very cool 🙂

  4. Thank you Maria!

  5. Gale,

    Forgive me for taking so long in this response; finally, after Labor Day, the work-frenzy of town is ebbing; myself, coming up for air.

    Let me say that I loved this moving exposition. I was unaware of the tumultuous events of your childhood, however, between that and the raw, earthy nature of your painting? Both of these testaments–one written, one painted–make me revere you, Gale, as a storyteller, painter, and person, all the more…just when I didn’t think it possible!

    I look forward to reading more of your blogs. Go on, strengthening yourself as thunder and wind strengthening each other.

  6. Alexia

    Wow Gale,

    Sounds like the beginnng of a good novel to me. Keep writing. We’re always looking for a guest author at Book Club!

  7. We love the mystique as well, Donetta! Thank you so much for your comments and support of Gale’s work here on The Moments Count Journal.

  8. Donetta Hodge

    Hi Gale

  9. Donetta Hodge

    Gale, When I read about the unfortunate loss of your parents, I reflected on your writing entitled “Iver Johnson,” and the conspiracy. You write with a certain mystique that I enjoy when you speak or paint about the ancestors. It is so percetively express, like when you speak about the elderly lady or paint the feelings you received about your grandmother. It’s all good! I am also happy to learn that you are enjoying writing this blog, “Moments Count,” it’s so appropriate. Keep writing… Love,

  10. Thank you for your beautiful words. Peace

  11. I’m speechless for your generosity of spirit of flowing words and scenes dancing across the winds. I give thanks for the warm love and care with which I’m being received. I’m so very honored. Peace.

  12. I’m feeling so full at this moment moving on the wings of the winds watching cinders burst into flames as your words freely ignite an abundance of more words. Thank you my sister in the Light for the kind words. Peace.

  13. Wow! I’m honored and riveted by your words and expressions as they take me deeper into those re-evolutionary invocations – its a space of great wonder and mystery connecting with these spirits of our Ancestors and manifesting emotions to reconnect. Thank you so much for your kindess. Peace.

  14. Sister, thank you for your words! I’m blown away by the response and just so thankful that I’m a little part of connecting us back to the Grandmother which is so needed today. Peace.

  15. I’m so honored and humbled by your words and so happy my words are a small part of your reconnection to the memories of your Grandmother – they are powerful spirits. Peace & Blessings to you.

  16. califa510

    The trek of a Sacred Dada is such a daunting path – but when one can live to testify in wellness, remain present and ESPIRITED?!, that’s enough to sound the bells, whoop and HOLLAH, celebrating with OUR Ancients applauding the “crossing over” – another re-evolutionary invocation, inciting the powerful elements affecting US all here and beyond; and ultimately for YOU and all who identify – we are liberated through your journey. –THANK YOU QUEEN!!!
    God Bless you on High and bestow you with continued prosperity and abundance here on Earth… [I breathe]

  17. Blessed Daughter

    Wow… was all I could say. How very deep and touching, and Thank You so much for sharing.

    Your story really touched my heart, and called to mind memories of my own Grandmother… gone too soon from my life. I was either seven, or nine when she died. I can’t remember exactly. I only remember the feeling of love lost that has yet to be experience through any other living human being in my lifetime. So much yet to learn. So many mistakes lived. lol Even as I write this, I imagine her saying I wouldn’t have listened anyhow. lol 80)

    Well I’m listening now. Bits of Love and Wisdom from the wise women the Creator has called forth to share life’s lessons and mysteries. Thank you Ms. Madyun. Your words have awakened and inspired much within me.
    Peace and Blessings

  18. Lugi Lugiono

    Terima kasih kesediaan kamu Gale untuk berbagi cerita yang penuh dengan kesedihan dan fantasi arwah nenek moyang , sehingga menjadi inspirasi untuk sebuah karya seni yang bagus dan penuh perasaan. God Bless You Gale.

    Google translation from Indonesian: Gale, Thank you for your willingness to share your story filled with sadness and fantasy and ancestral spirits, so that it became the inspiration for a work of art a good and full of feeling.

  19. Breath taking view of soul manifested in word. Your style and gesture compliment the spirt of 10,000 griots you are involved in Insight that stimulates the crossroads. The Blues never sounded so Sweet…Sweet like the pie they served when your Grand Mother died…You are a magnificent woman Gale Madyun continue leaving your footprints on Skylines… Blessings R divine

  20. Ohen Imene

    The deep, dark, powerful and mysterious is truly the place of the grandMOTHER. Your encounter with that power, Miss Rose, was a magnificent one. She stood at the gate of death (without entering) and taught you many secrets of life before she “sent ” you home to live and she to die.

    Thank you for the honesty of your story. May we all find these words for our own liberation. I felt every word you wrote and understood the meshing of grandMother, mother, sister, daughter, friend “making a way out of no way “. Hurrah to your courage as a new mother.

    Your words and painting are inspirational. Please compose more and often. We need your truth so we can find our own. Thanks you once again for stepping to the plate of your own womenhood.
    May we follow suit!

    Your sister in the Light

  21. SANDRA


  22. Thank you Gale for sharing. The moments are so powerful and spirit-filled. We need to have a conversation about ancestors’ spirits, as in our Vietnamese culture has a place for such as well.

  23. Looking forward and LOL!

  24. Khalilah

    WOW! What a powerful story in so many ways! Spending a year in New Orleans I also know it is truly a powerful place. The spirit is alive there. your story painted a beautiful picture. painful triumphet and inspiring. I love our ancestors I love black women. the strength that we posses is undeniable. thank you for sharing…thats what our culture is about.. what we need to get back to.. storytelling and connecting to our elders and ancestors.. guiding us, show us the way

  25. Kay

    Gale, I am so moved. Thank you for taking me along in your journey. Knowing you makes me better every day. Love always. Kay

  26. Dorie May

    Gale – Your Grandmother raised a beautiful woman — kind and wise– which is reflected in your awesome children. I have never been to New Orleans, but I felt her rhythm through your testimony. God Bless!

  27. Antoinette Broussard

    You Gale, are a talented artist!!! How blessed we are to make this journey together!! Love, Toni

  28. Oh, Dedan, I want to see New Orleans with YOU! And I’m bringing my red feathers!…Valli

  29. Reeking with the searing heat and funky spirits of New Orleans I could almost hear the cry of Billy Bolden’s trumpet breaking down the magic of your words as Marie Laveux decked in taffeta green strutted her stuff across the ancestral rythyms of Congo square while the first light of dawn danced against the rage of her red feathered crown fluttering in the cool winds of New Orleans at Dawn.

  30. heni

    Thank you so much, you invite me to know you personally ..
    I’m speechless, your panting talks much ..
    I’ve read your writing, so precious sharring ..
    Worth to have you as a friend ..
    Go on, Gale ..

  31. Gale

    Fhung, thank you for the kind words. I believe my grandmothers are extremely proud of the resilience I was able to capture and utilize to reach this space of peace and the ability to share the pains and triumphs of the journey.

  32. Gale


    Thank you, thank you, thank you… I’m humbled and honored for your very kind words.

  33. Gale

    Joyce, thank you for the encouragement on this journey.

  34. Gale

    Liz, thank you for the support on this road in my artistic endeavors. I asked to have my heart speak the healing wisdom and love of the Grandmothers and I’m humbled that it is.

  35. Tom, Thank you for your kind words, I’m absolutely humbled at the response … as you know the path to healing is bumpy in its replay of trauma and anguish, I’m so honored to be a tiny part of others healing in my art.

  36. Thank you for sharing this with the world and me, Gale. The power of art to reach the soul is in its poetic ambiguity that invites each reader, viewer, listener to participate by injecting their own life into it.

    “I needed to be shown a path to heal myself to prevent that same dark passage of pain to be passed down to future generations by me. I had to break the chain of torment heaped upon us.”

    Your recognition that healing from trauma–past or present–is the model to prevent passing the damage on to our children is a powerful elixir to offer wounded souls.

    simply stunning.

  37. Liz Osunkemi

    Thank you Gale for your beautiful work. The power of our Grandmother’s is what pulls us all through our good and not so good times….. May our lives continue to be blessed by the power of the Grand Mother as we become and are……. Ire!

  38. Gale, Our ability to listen, observe and create is a gift that will take us on many journeys. Thank you having the courage to share your’s with the rest of us. You are an inspiration!

  39. Birchi


    I feel honored, bless to know you personally. You are such a gifted person. Way beyond words. Both Sharon and Talibah said it all. I couldn’t have said it any better.
    I have printed the article as I want to share it with others. Thank you so much for sharing. Beautiful, beautiful.
    The painting is breathe taking……
    Joy and Peace,

  40. Fhung

    Thank you for sharing this, Gale. I think you are one of the proofs of human resilience, how goodness prevails despite all the bad things happened. And that painting is so striking; the energy – the resilient spirit to break through the darkness – is so strongly present there. You are such an amazing and inspiring soul, Gale! Thank you!

  41. I’m so honored you were willing to travel with me on this journey into the past. Thank you.

  42. Thank you for your kind words. I’m so honored you were moved.

  43. Thank you. Peace.

  44. Dear Talibah,
    I’m so honored you found the piece to be exactly what I was striving to convey. New Orleans is the nervous system of this nation – and I think its the unique combination of the river, the people, the foods, and the spiritual worships.

  45. I read the painting before I read your story and both are powerful and I want to thank you for sharing with me. Why is it that New Orleans is so full of spirits and they do bump up against you, they seem to exist in close proximity to us.

  46. sharon

    As I read this piece, I was captivated by words that gave such depth and texture to the experiences. I could almost feel that I was watching her dream and following each thought as if I was invited into her world. When I finished and saw the oil painting at the end it took my breath away. The colors and spirit resonate boldly.

  47. Julie Esposito


  48. What a lovely image you painted for us – and yes, the canvas says it all, but I’m referring to the swirling sounds of voices from the past, and promises of the future that you so lovingly crafted with words. Thank you Gale. xox