wondering...about the wonders of this wonderfull...world

wondering...about the wonders of this wonderfull...world
foto x arnaldo @MMXIproject
A couple of summers ago, coming home from class, I took the subway with a friend and I told her I was trying to start a blog... then I also told her how time consuming and addicting it had become, and that I was wondering if it was something worth doing... she laughed and asked me to let her know when I was done and give her the"link" so she could read it. Then she left and I kept thinking...why? why should I do this ?

Technology has taken us to a new level and we are now, able to "publish ourselves"! PUBLISH OURSELVES however we want to; if you want to be yourself, transparent and out in the open, or even if you want to pretend to be someone else... YOU CAN! Now you can blog and share your thoughts and experiences with people without having them "altered" by the editors, or "chosen" because of how cool or marketable they are...

This space is for us to share; zaidibirindilindilandia-my own little world, my ingenious- and your thoughts!

welcome, and thank you!

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


Adorning the body is an important aspect of African Egyptian cultures, from ancient to contemporary times. Body art; from scarification, body paint, headdresses to hairstyles, play a very important role in their lives and societies. It has influenced their art and culture in and the relation between them.

In South African Rock Art an Archaic Rock Painting of a Horned Female Figure in the Tassili N’Ajjer Region of Algeria a cow deity or female goddess is adorned with raffia and other body ornamentation. The cow, like women, is a source of milk and a nurturer. For the Ajjer peoples adorning the body with tattoos, beads, or body paint apparently contributed to the experience of transformation into the spirit they portrayed in their masquerades and rituals. 

The cow deity/mother concept carries over to Egyptian Art, as we see the pre-dynastic Female Figure sculpture with raised arms that resemble horns. In Egyptian beliefs the woman, sometimes Isis or Osiris as mother of Horus, has immense sexual power, which is seen as a source of life, and an important symbol of rebirth and resurrection. At a grave at Thebes, Egypt we see how a female figure’s hair plays an important role as a symbol of female fertility and birth, and pubic hair is shown in a triangle and her well-groomed locks, made out of black mud beads are seen as erotic. Women’s role in society is motherhood and to nurture; as mothers of the Pharaoh and as Queen, but they do not emphasize on the babies. Some rock paintings showed us how tattoos served as spiritual protection and not just for physical beauty, scarifications served to mark the different stages of life and were sometimes done in the abdominal area to protect women and their fertility.

In Nubian culture it was believed that the God Amun Ray impregnated the sister of the Pharaoh; this made them a matrilineal society and the Queen was a ruler. They were often depicted as large and heavy to represent how much strength and majesty they possessed. The wealthiest capital of the Kingdom of Kush was well known for their trade with other countries along the Nile and Queen Amanishakheto of Meroe was a good example. An ornament found in her tomb is believed to have been part of a headdress or a ring. It contained cowreshells that resembled female genitalia. Egyptian and African women wore them for protection and blessing. We also saw photography of a Nuer man with forehead scarifications that are still used in contemporary Sudan; for them it is a symbol of manhood and bravery.
In Nigeria, the Ga’anda women-especially the wives of the Chiefs- have to go through rituals of scarification during their engagement period. Sometimes at a very young age, they undergo this process to prove that they survived the pain and they are strong. The groom gives gifts to her parents when the first makings start to appear and, when she is ready to marry. Hleeta represents a sensual beauty, because of its dimensionality, but its patterns can be read by others. It indicates their social status, civilization and order. It is an idea of village vs. city/marshes vs. the pharaoh’s establishment of organization. It is supposed to protect them for reproduction and the bearing of children. In the MBIRGLENGNDA enshrined in a rock (3-10) hleeta also represents the sexual maturity and the achievements and responsibilities that come with adulthood. In West Africa , the Nok sculptures have very intricate hairstyles and no facial hair. In Bura culture the terracotta pots found on the graves were mostly women; their pottery showed marks on the body both for women and men.

Not only is hleeta used to mark people, but its significance has also influenced other cultures and Ga’anda art forms such as the engraved calabashes and the sculptures and vessels of the Dakarkari peoples.

Seating in State: Royal Regalia of the leaders of the Asantem Kongo and Kuba Kingdoms

Chiefs and rulers from the kingdoms of the Asante, Kongo and Kuba were regarded as prominent and sacred. Because of this, they utilize royal regalia to enhance their “in state” position, give a sense of magnificence, and of powerful and eternal office. Leaders commission art, send messages with it and use it to reaffirm their status. In these African kingdoms Royal Regalia is abundant and in everything; even in their sandals, stools, chairs, and raised platforms. They use sumptuous materials like animal skins, teeth, claws, beads, feathers and special cloths to add importance and prestige to their stance. Weapons such as flywhisks, staffs, and swords symbolically magnify their gestures. Other elements of display surrounding the Kings such as carpets, drums, pots and statues, serve as with decorations and might be almost as important as the kings themselves.
In Akan culture, chiefs and kings to proudly overload with jewelry that serves as amulet charms; anklets, bracelets and rings, or even in their in their sandals. These are believed to give supernatural power and protection to the wearer as well as make a statement of superiority and immunity to evil spirits. The regalia belongs to the king for the duration of his reign and when it is over, it becomes part of the state’s collective legacy and its passed on to the succeeding chiefs. However, one of their most respected items is “The golden stool” (7-4). Although THIS one is only used as a ritual object, and it is the central symbol of the Akan states because it represents the Asante confederacy and unison, every asantahene commissions his own stool for daily or ceremonial use. They are carved out of a single piece of wood and are a representation of his reign. The stools are believed to be the second soul of asantahene. When he dies, his body will be blackened and his hair and nails will be put inside the core of the stool symbolizing his passing away and becoming an influential ancestor. The asantahene also has a state sword that represents the protection of the Asante confederacy. They might be decorated with symbols that refer to African proverbs and act like a symbolic language.
Kente cloth or royal textile is used for Leader’s dress. It used to be only made of blue and while or other dull colors but with the beginning the trade of rich silks, it started to be made in the brighter colors we are familiar with now. It was called the Liar's cloth because it was supposed to uncover the truth.
In the central African kingdom of the Kongo, leadership arts specialize in the production of opulent goods. Although they craft outstanding flywhisks with ivory handles, staffs that containing spiritually charged substances that induce contact with the supernatural world and other beautifully carved figures; one of the most special objects that the Kongo produced were their royal textiles. Made with special indigenous weaving techniques, they created a pile cloth (11-3) made from raffia that had raised lozenges (lozenges were sacred shapes that refer to their belief or the four stages of life (from birth, to rebirth) and was used to cover the platform of the king and his court. Leopard skins were also used, as leopards represent noble status and anthropomorphic qualities -that the king can become leopard because important people reincarnate as fixtures of the environment-.
The kings and nobles of the Kuba kingdom are the main patrons of the arts. One of the most important objects for them was the state dress or bwaantshy (11-52). Each king was expected to design his own costume, wear it in the most important occasions and even and be buried with it. These exaggerated, abundant and very heavy ensembles are symbols of sacred kingship, and served to link them to the original peoples of the land. They reflect the wealth, power, prosperity and provision that each king brings to the community, while emphasizing the hierarchic position that separates him from “earth”. The costume might consist of a tunic made out of raffia covered with beads and cowries, as well as a headdress with feathers, an artificial cowry beard, a raffia belt, beaded sashes, leopard skins, and cowry decorated gloves and boots with encrusted ivory nails. The costume and the paraphernalia around him are a conglomeration of symbolic objects that add and exaggerate his size and majesty. The king is seated in a raised platform or throne also covered in cowries and leopard skins, and next to him is the royal blue basket that alludes to the creation myth of mweel and woot. He holds the sword of office and a cowry-encrusted lance. Cowry shells and leopard skins are seen a lot, as symbols of wealth, cowries were the local currency and leopards were seen as powerful animals.
Besides the state dress, Kuba people also follow a tradition of royal portraiture. The portraits are idealized representations of the king believed to be their soul double. They concentrate on few symbolic and individualizing details of each king’s reign and the royal panoply including the throne, cowry sashes, the headdress, the pose, and the weapon or the monarch.
It is so interesting to see how societies that share a continent and a somewhat similar and interrelated beliefs, have such varied and particular ways of honoring their kings. But it was even more interesting to see how they were each so creative and unique in their ways and impressed us every time.

Funerary rituals of the Dogon, Asante, and Kongo

Funerary rituals of the Dogon, Asante, and Kongo

The African cultures of the Dogon, Asante and Kongo kingdoms have very interesting funerary rituals. Masquerading, bundling dead bodies, sacrifices, funeral processions and terracotta or wooden sculptures are some of the ways that these cultures enhance the transition of their loved ones from the world of the living to the supernatural and spiritually sacred.
In Dogon culture there is a masking society called the Awa. Only men are initiated into this society, with the exception of a group of women called Yasigine. They are in charge of the rituals and ceremonies that facilitate the passing of the ancestors into the supernatural world and believe that the lineage leaders offer power and protection. To them, death was introduced at a certain point in time, when Lebi Seru- a bad ancestor- died and was reborn as a snake. They speak an exclusive high pitch ritual language called Sigi-So language of the spirits.
When someone dies the “great Mask” is brought out and stood against the ginna where the body of the person is. Sacrifices are done to it to announce the death, and the mask is later brought back to the bush. The great mask is the principal shrine of this society; it is tall like a snake and commemorates the first Dogon death, and the story of Lebe Serou. The great Mask is supposed to absorb the spirit power released by a death (nyama). This sacred mask is never worn; it is mainly used to energize the masqueraders.
The Awa celebrate 3 very important rituals: Bagobundo, Dama, and Sigi. Bagobundo, which is celebrated the day after a person is buried, is a ceremony to tell the spirits of the dead to leave the natural world. In it are the Bedye dancers and the sirige mask. The sirige mask is supposed to bring fertility, rebirth and energy to the village. This one is a tall plank with grid-like, ordered motifs, and when it touches the earth while being danced it is supposed to control the Nyama. Sirige also represents the ginna, a big house with many families, the community and the lineage.
A more elaborate and costly Dogon masquerade is the Dama, which is done every 13 years, and serves as a second funeral. It permanently exiles the soul of the dead and incorporates them into the supernatural world. The size of the Dama reflects the wealth and importance of those who have died. It lasts about 6-7 days and marks the end of mourning. In preparation for the Dama, the men go to the bush to make the masks and bring them back to the village as symbols of the spiritual forces from the wilderness. Women are only allowed to watch from the distance and must never come in contact with the masks. However Masqueraders wear red fibers and cowry shells symbolizing female fertility/menstruation. They also wear headpieces that resemble the admired beauty of the Fulani women (enemies). The masks are paraded and danced around the village and on the final day returned to the bushes. The great mask is the last one to be put away
Lastly, they celebrate Sigi; which is done every 60 years, when a generation of men is to pass. The women born during this ceremony-called the Yasigine- will become a part of the Awa society and are allowed to see the Dama ceremonies and will also receive one when they die. However, they will never become masqueraders and only help the men. This celebration lasts several months and goes round the village.
The Asante people have somewhat different funerary practices. They commemorate their deceased with terracotta sculptures that are usually made by women and used on the second funeral to give the final farewells. Very good examples of this are the Memorial Heads (7-14). Whether standing alone or attached to pots, the artists try to shape a close resemblance to the deceased by using individualizing scarification marks, hairstyles or tattoos. When made for a member of royal family or someone with high status in the society they might be adorned with cloth and/or seated in state chair or in a stool. Stools were also a very important part of Asante culture, but they are more closely related to royalty. When the Asantahene or Chief died, he would be blackened and his hairs and nails would be put inside the core of his stool, believing that his spirit would reside there. The stool would then be put into the stool room along with the stools of important ancestors, and sacrifices and offerings would be done in its name.
Funerary processions also played a big part of Asante culture, and the grandeur and splendidness of them would indicate the status that the deceased would have in their afterlife. Because of this, people of middle and higher rank sometimes commissioned custom coffins to be made according to the life that the person had. A wealthy, respected fisherman would be buried in a fish coffin (see image. 7-41) The family, or close relatives might also dress alike during the procession to show family solidarity.
Speaking of family solidarity, and demonstration of wealth, the funerary arts of The Kongo People of the Democratic Republic of Congo are also very particular. In the Niombo burial rites practiced by the Bwende group, family members donate and gather numerous raffia cloths, banana leaves, and colorful imported and local blankets to “wrap” the smoked bodies of important society members into large bundles. The size of the “Niombo” is a symbol of family wealth, which is why they create enormous “mummies” that are transported to their burial place followed by a procession of dancers, singers and a large feast that was dedicated to the family of the deceased. Instead of mourning, they celebrate the afterlife. Niombos are usually decorated with embroidery that assimilates scarification marks or symbols that are associated with the mediating powers of the dead and their beliefs of the afterlife. They generally have red fabric and lozenge shapes that refer to the four stages of life (Kala, Tukuls, Luvemba, Musoni), and are made in the “crossroads pose” and open mouth that indicate that the Niombo will be crossing the boundary as a mediator for the community between the living and the spirits of the dead. As Niombo finally touches the bottom of the grave, people jump and shout” breaking the body loose from physical existence” and releasing it into the afterlife.
Funerary rituals amongst these cultures, while different, share similar beliefs and symbols. The belief of an afterlife and of the tutelary protection of the ancestors, the separation of the supernatural and human world and the idea that the wealth and prosperity of the burials will determine the status of the deceased in the afterlife, as well as the respect and belief in the power of the spiritual ancestors are just a few. However, this semester each kingdom or society showed us how intricate and elaborate yet interesting their belief system and hierarchy is. Hopefully, will ill be able to treasure this knowledge and find out more, to get a better understanding of the behavior of these peculiar African groups.

El Anatsui's "Between Earth and Heaven "

Last summer I  took an African Art history course at FIT. I thought I would be more familiar with the subject considering we study some African History in Puerto Rico... but I wasn't . Enjoy some of my essays!

Between Earth and Heaven

There is no better way of learning about Art and Art history than visiting the African Art galleries of one of New York’s most renowned museums and standing in front of the works of art that the great ancient cultures created. Well, during a recent class lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art we were asked to select a work of art and reflect and analyze upon it. Although many of the art pieces in the galleries were astonishingly magnificent, I chose one that, while not ancient like most of the other ones, allowed me to include the knowledge acquired at the museum and translate it to the contemporary times. I chose a piece called “Between Earth and Heaven” by Ghanan artist El Anatsui .

My first reaction was WOW! I had no idea of what it was and from far away I thought it was some type of robe similar to the ones the Hausa people made, but perhaps woven with gold or some other metallic material. As I approached it, I realized that it wasn’t and that this work of art had incredible texture and relief. I thought that perhaps it was made out of pieces of fabric that were wrapped. As I got closer and closer to it, I discovered it was a very large and meticulous work of art made up of very small pieces... It is admirable. Made out of old and recycled liquor bottle caps and perhaps some cans, as well as wire or some sort of metal that was used to attach the individual pieces to each other; it doesn’t seem to represent anything concrete, just an abstract pattern with multiple colors and geometrical forms with straight lines. The artist used shapes like squares, triangles and diamonds that might resemble sacred geometry. Although some of his colors are very basic reds and yellows that from the distance seem sort of neutral and “mixed together” the way he used the golden cans allowed EL to create an incredible texture and dimension. It reflects the richness of the materials that the ancient cultures used when honoring someone of distinction

To me, it seemed to be a mark of respect to what his culture and ancestors did and the way they did it! The Kuba and Kongo textiles have been recognized and admired internationally for their beauty and reflection of refined technical skills. The “cloths” exhibited in the museum justify the several lengthy stages of preparation that these required to be made, including production and embellishment that involved intensive labor and ingenuousness. The importance of textiles was in their use as ceremonial or prestige items. The Kuba leaders sometimes even commissioned design motifs to be created as emblems of their individual legacies.
“Between Earth and Heaven” was displayed separate from the other textiles created by African peoples and hanging from a wall but not laying flat. They created some “bubbles” underneath the piece for it to appear as if it was moving or on top of something. It was next to a sculpture of Dogon or a standing man and a Bamana or Bozo Door… all three contemporary and big pieces that reflect the historical continuity whether in medium, process, format and/or significance that contemporary African Art maintains.

Casually, a friend of mine who I went to Visual Arts High School in Puerto Rico with, accompanied during my visit to the museum and she had actually attended an exhibit of the same artist called GAWU at the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and she had he catalogue where this same piece appeared so she passed on the pictures to me from which I learned that GAWU an Ewe word (in Anatsui’s native language) means both “metal” and a “fashioned cloak”. No other world could have been more perfect. I also learned that Anatsui’s is known for creating these types of “cloths” made out of recycled materials gathered in Anatsui’s adoptive Nigeria, as a response to the “adverse effects of globalization, consumerism and waste in contemporary West Africa and beyond” and how we have the power to affect and harm the traditional practices and art forms of the native peoples.

I felt truly identified with this work of art and completely agree with the message the artist is trying to convey. I truly admire how “Between Earth and Heaven” shows how traditional societies leave a legacy for the next generations and how although some things become unnecessary as times passes, we should always value and honor the classical ways of our ancestors. At the same time I think we should not ignore modernization, and how if done conservatively, with respect, and by adoption of ancient techniques, can be a great benefit for struggling societies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lingerie for Fashion Art

The second to last project fro our Fashion Art and Design Class was a LINGERIE project. For it we were able to choose the inspiration or subject and even format... which was great, but all this FREEDOM sometimes just gets you confused... too many options!

I did not want to do something obvious or expected, wanted something romantic and delicate but not cliché... and so-WHERE TO START?

BEING lucky enough to have friends that are artists-artist who come from diferrent countries, bacgrounds and study different things... I am allowed to-every once in a while- see the world like they do- through a somewhat diffrent glass-lens...

So my two ''fine artist friends'' came to my place for a thank you dinner and without me noticing , they had started looking at my artwork that was on the wall-when I looked over-they were quiet... observing, as if it was a gallery... It was since to see that we share the love. passion.appreciation for what each other does.

and then DORIAN goes... Do you know MUCHA? Embarrased of my ignorance I said no... but he kindly andbriefly explained who he was and said I might be interested.. adding that there was something that resembled him--- perhaps the curvy lines!

And then my obsession started... Mucha Mucha Mucha Amazignes!

The following week, I went to BARCELONA and casually there was an exhibit on MUCHA's work at the CaixaForum and I completely fell in love...

here a blurb of my design development!

souveniersinspiration a bit of skething...

final illustration+swatches