Sally Kindberg and secret letters

Yesterday I went to see ‘Hidden Letters’ a film directed by Violet Du Feng about nushu, a secret calligraphic system invented and used by women in the nineteenth century (and probably even earlier) in rural China to communicate with and give each other support in an oppressive male dominated environment.  I was moved by the idea of sisterhood the practice of nushu seemed to encourage.  The marks made by sharpened bamboo or brush were likened to those made by mosquitoes – maybe with a stinging implication, as the letters told of sorrows and hardships suffered by women, often with bound feet, kept in virtual isolation by the male members of their families.  Apparently there’s a recent interest in nushu,  including how the practice and its history can be branded and marketed, usually and ironically by men.

I enjoyed the film despite some of its flaws – it was too long and included a mushy soundtrack. I’ve always relished the idea of secret languages, acrostics, spy codes etc., and belonged to the I-Spy Club when a child.

Hidden letters reminded me of my ten year exchange of letters with EV.  In my youth I had been forbidden to write to him.  His letters were even more confusing than my mother’s version of events. What did they really tell me about his identity? They often hinted at a ‘secret’ to be revealed from his foresty Baltic past.  It was a painful tease at the time, but in the end it made me laugh.  After all,  I’d learned to read (I was a very late reader btw)  with a copy of Grimms Fairy Tales. More about this when I’ve actually fitted together the jigsaw of an ongoing work in progress.

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