Thursday, December 6, 2012

And the question is.... ---- Day 335

Walk: de Young (last AOA public lecture in connection with  docent training), Presidio Heights
Distance: 3 miles

So, here are just a few of the questions that come up when researching,  viewing, or presenting  AOA (African Oceanic Americas) art:

- What is art? Same question as regards AOA art?
- What is the image from the Jolika Collection of New Guinea Art above about?
- It is a New Guinea spirit figure, but what did or does that mean to the New Guinea people?
- Does/Did it have meaning for just one or a few connected tribes?
- Is it a fragment of a larger ritual object? (Most of what is seen in museums are fragments)
- It is made from mandrake root; what would have been the significance of that material when it was designated a spirit figure?
- We 'know' it is a spirit figure, but how do we know that?  Was this told to a Christian missionary? If so, was he/she told the truth?
- Who was the missionary?  Was he/she a white European or a converted native who actually did most of the conversion work among the native peoples?
- Who was the collector?  A missionary?  For his/her personal collection or for a public collection? A sea captain? For trade and profit?
- Etc. etc.

In this field of art especially the questions are truly never answered (as of yet); one leads to the next; and the answer to virtually all of them is "We don't know for sure..."  Here's a blog entry (with video link)I just found on the Jolika Collection in which the writer attempts to address some of the questions.

Also New Guinea birds are known as the worlds most beautiful (and elusive), and they Too are a source of "profound questions."  Here is a Beautiful! trailer the Cornell Ornithology Lab's Birds of Paradise Project. The lead in ends: As this trailer shows, the opulent plumes and fantastical dances of these 39 species astound us, leaving us with the most profound of scientific questions: Why? Watch them dance.

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