The artist who called himself ManWoman, with whom I once had a friendly disagreement about the future of the swastika, has died at 74 from cancer, The Globe and Mail’s Tom Hawthorn reported today. ManWoman spent the better part of his life devoted to the restoration of the ancient symbol of good fortune, criminalized by the Nazis, back to its benign status. My book The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? takes the stand that such a rehabilitation, while the victims and children of Hilter’s horrors are alive, would be a mistake. Still, ManWoman was a convincing spokesperson.
He believed that the symbol belonged to many “gentle” peoples before the Nazis usurped it and should continue to have positive associations. As a sign of his commitment, he covered his body with more than 200 swastika tattoos. Hawthorn notes:
The difficulty in pursuing a mission to detoxify the swastika can be found in a disclaimer found on his “Friends of the Swastika” web page on which he found it necessary to insist the group held “no political or racist agenda.”
Yet the Nazi stigma was not easy to overcome in his own life. He was routinely harassed in public, accosted on the street, and otherwise rudely dismissed.
Patrick Charles Kemball was born on Feb. 2, 1938, in British Columbia, Canada. He studied engineering and architecture at the University of British Columbia, then attended the Alberta College of Art in 1959. For more on his art and life, read Hawthorn’s complete obituary.
Our correspondence was always respectful. And despite our opposing views, his passion for his mission was admirable and courageous.
(Thanks to Gerry L’Orange)