Orange. I painted one wall in my kitchen orange in my last home. I started out just painting all the walls white, but the room was lacking something. Lacking COLOUR. So the wall, above the Aga became my blank page and I chose to scribble on it in orange. Bright orange. Ding dong orange. And the wall that abutted this orange wall was then painted azure blue. Orange’s complementary colour. It worked. Everyone always commented on how fabulous it was… So it wasn’t just me who thought so!

This is where I should post a picture of it, but I am not going to because I want you to just imagine it. A wall just long enough to accommodate an Aga, painted like a tropical sun splash. And a curved wall adjoining it painted the colour of the sky on a bright summer’s day. It lifts your spirits, doesn’t it? Here are the colours, now let your imagination paint the picture.

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Orange. Not a colour that particularly appealed to me as a child. Why, I wonder, does it do so now? What has changed?  Is it because, as a jaded, more cynical adult, I need more colour in my life to keep me cheerful? Well yes, because it undoubtedly has that effect. But no, because it is such a brilliant colour intrinsically, such an explosion of joy!

Orange, according to colour therapy, is a power color. It is healing. It is meant to increase our craving for food,  stimulate enthusiasm and creativity and give us stamina. Anyone who is an ’orange’ person, is usually thoughtful, sincere, mindful. Some superstitious folk go so far as to burn an orange candle for 7 nights in succession, in order that their luck will  change.

Unlike the explosive grenade that is red, orange is a sunburst. It is more thoughtful, thought-provoking, balanced, controlled. Curiosity makes orange-lovers tick. They have a thirst to explore, to discover, to create. Orange spices up your life, relieves boredom and brings levity to anything that is proving just a trifle too serious.

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Orange gemstones are said to increase your sense of personal power and are very effective for people with low self-esteem. In Europe and America it is associated with extroverts, amusement, fire, autumn, warning even, but in Asia with spirituality. Orange fruit gave its name to the colour. It was originally known as pomme d’orenge in Old French and that name in turn was derived from the arabic narenj, the Persian naranj, the Sanskrit word, naranga. The word orange only appeared in English in 1513, prior to that, it was known as yellow-red or geoluread. In the Netherlands, Germany and Russia, the fruit  is still called the Chinese apple.

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Orange has a rich history. Ochre pigments were added to animal fats and painted on the walls of caves in Lascaux, France. An orange mineral pigment, orpiment, was traded by the Romans and used by the Chinese as medicine, even though it is highly toxic. It was also used by alchemists to try to make gold. Another mineral,  realgar, was used by the Egyptians to colour their tomb paintings and by medieval artists to illuminate manuscripts. The house of Orange-Nassau was one of the most influential royal lineages in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The flag of the city of New York has an orange stripe for the Dutchmen who founded the colony. The protestants in Ireland were known as Orangemen because William III of Orange, a protestant himself, defended them against the Roman Catholic majority. When Dutch settlers in South Africa rebelled against the British in the 19th century, they founded what became known as the Orange Free State.

The colour found particular favour with painters too. The pre-Raphaelites, Impressionists and Post-Impressionists all championed the use of the colour, but none so effectively as Vincent Van Gogh, who wrote to his brother, Theo, about “searching for oppositions of blue with orange”, because any artist worth his salt knew the juxtaposition of the two made each colour brighter.

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You might also like to know that the saffron stripe on the orange, green and white Indian flag symbolises, courage and sacrifice. And that these three colours also feature  on the flags of  the Republic of Ireland, the Ivory Coast and Niger. That the US Department of Homeland Security’s  code orange represents the second highest terrorist threat. That the Orange river rises in Lesotho in the Drakensberg Mountains and flows westward through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the longest river in  South Africa and forms the border between that country and both Namibia and Lesotho. In 1867 the first alluvial diamond, the Eureka, was found at Hopetown on this river, followed 2 years later by the much larger Star of South Africa, starting a diamond rush.

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So next time you consider the colour orange, dear reader, consider too its extraordinary journey through history, its evolution, and the simple fact that it brightens even the gloomiest of situations…