30 jun 2011

The Tarahumara of Mexico

Tarahumara indians
Name: Tarahumara (Rarámuri) 
Living Area: Sierra Madre Occidental, Chihuaha State (Mexico) 
Population: <70,000 
Language: Tarahumara 
In Tarahumara language, the term rarámuri refers specifically to the males, females are referred to as muki (individually) or igomele (collectively).
Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, the Rarámuri retreated to the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental on the arrival of Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. The area of the Sierra Madre Occidental which they now inhabit is often called the Sierra Tarahumara because of their presence.
Current estimates put the population of the Rarámuri in 2006 at between 50,000 and 70,000 people. Most still practice a traditional lifestyle, inhabiting natural shelters such as caves or cliff overhangs, as well as small cabins of wood or stone. Staple crops are corn and beans; however, many of the Rarámuri still practice transhumance, raising cattle, sheep, and goats. Almost all Rarámuri migrate in some form or another in the course of the year.
The Tarahumara language belongs to the Uto-Aztecan family. Although it is in decline under pressure from Spanish, it is still widely spoken
The Rarámuri religion is a mélange of indigenous customs and Roman Catholic Christianity, characterized by a belief that the afterlife is a mirror image of the mortal world, and that good deeds should be performed not for spiritual reward, but for the improvement of life on earth. In certain traditions (perhaps those more strongly based on pre-Columbian practice), the soul ascends a series of heavens, is reincarnated after each death, and after three lives becomes a moth on earth, which represents the final existence of the soul. When the moth dies, the soul dies completely. However, this end is not regarded as negative or a punishment, but merely as a continuation of the order of life. In Rarámuri cosmology, God has a wife who dwells with him in heaven, along with their sons, the so-called sukristo (from Spanish 'Jesucristo') and their daughters, the santi. These beings have a direct link with the physical world through Catholic iconography, respectively crucifixes and saint's medallions. The Devil's world is not necessarily evil, but is tainted through its ties with the Chabochi, or non-Rarámuri. The Devil is said to sometimes collaborate with God to arrange fitting punishments, and can be appeased through sacrifices. In some cases, the Devil can even be persuaded to act as a benevolent entity. The Devil and God are brothers (the Devil is the elder) who jointly created the human race. God, using pure clay, created the Rarámuri, whereas the Devil, mixing white ash with his clay, created the Chabochi. Thus, the Devil is as much protector and life-giver to the Chabochis as God is to the Rarámuri. The Rarámuri share with other Uto-Aztecan tribes a veneration for peyote.
The Rarámuri are also known for the brewing of tesguino, a corn-based beer brewed in ceramic jars, that features prominently in many Rarámuri religious rituals.

Known by their: long-distance running ability
The word for themselves, Rarámuri, means "runners on foot" or "those who run fast" in their native tongue according to some early ethnographers like Norwegian Carl Lumholtz, though this interpretation has not been fully agreed upon. With widely dispersed settlements, these people developed a tradition of long-distance running up to 120 miles (190 km) in one session, over a period of two days through their homeland of rough canyon country, for intervillage communication and transportation as well as to hunt. Before these long distance runs, they consume large quantities of corn beer (tesguino) which is very high in carbohydrate and very low on alcohol. The Tarahumara also use the toe strike method of running which is natural for bare-footed runners. The long-distance running tradition also has ceremonial and competitive aspects. Often, male runners kick wooden balls as they run in "foot throwing" competitions, and females use a stick and hoop. The foot throwing races are relays where the balls are kicked by the runners and relayed to the next runner while teammates run ahead to the next relay point. These races can last anywhere from a few hours for a short race to a couple of days without a break.

© Text and image: Wikipedia

28 jun 2011

Ghana, Yesterday and Today

Ghana, Hier et Aujourd'hui
Title: Ghana, Hier et Aujourd'hui (Ghana, Yesterday and Today)  
Author: Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau and Christiane Owusu-Sarpong 
Year of publication: 2003 
Paperback: 424 pages 
Language: French and English
Ghanaian metal-casters, goldsmiths, weavers, sculptors and ceramists have, from time immemorial, created objects glorifying political and spiritual power. Of varied origins - Asante, Fante, Ga, Ewe or Brong -, these pieces are the expression of ways of living and thinking that have been passed on from one generation to the next. For centuries, Ghana, previously known as the Gold Coast, based its economic influence on the trading of gold. Its colour and symbolism are intimately associated with the figure of the Asantehene - the King of the Asante. The jewellery belonging to the royal family and to palace officials are examples of sophisticated craftsmanship, while alongside these pieces, other insignia of high rank, such as the stools, are invested with a sacred dimension.
Ghanaian spiritual life, which accords special importance to relations with the deceased, has fostered the production of anthropomorphic terracottas, such as those unearthed at Koma-Bulsa and those of the Akan groups. Today's researchers posses descriptions of the latter dating from as early as 1601. This book presents a vast array of remarkable items exemplifying many different regional styles.
This book devotes a great deal of space to such contemporary creativity and highlights several outstanding examples, notably the work of Owusu-Ankomah, whose theme of bodies in movement embraces a resurgence or reworking of “traditional” motifs. It also presents the innovative approach adopted by Almighty God, whose paintings are teeming with symbols. His perpetually evolving art fuses text and images, and favours faithful portraiture or hyperrealism.
Thanks to contributions from today's foremost specialists, this reference work allows the reader not only to explore ancient kingdoms but also to discover modern Ghana and its rich cultural heritage.

©Text: Éditions Dapper

26 jun 2011

Wooden movable-type printing of China

Wooden movable-type printing of China
One of the world’s oldest printing techniques, wooden movable-type printing is maintained in Rui’an County, Zhejiang Province, where it is used in compiling and printing clan genealogies. Men are trained to draw and engrave Chinese characters, which are then set into a type-page and printed. This requires abundant historical knowledge and mastery of ancient Chinese grammar. Women then undertake the work of paper cutting and binding, until the printed genealogies are finished. The movable characters can be used time and again after the type-page is dismantled. Throughout the year, craftspeople carry sets of wooden characters and printing equipment to ancestral halls in local communities. There, they compile and print the clan genealogy by hand. A ceremony marks the completion of the genealogy, and the printers place it into a locked box to be preserved. The techniques of wooden movable-type printing are transmitted through families by rote and word of mouth. However, the intensive training required, the low income generated, popularization of computer printing technology and diminishing enthusiasm for compiling genealogies have all contributed to a rapid decrease in the number of craftspeople. At present, only eleven people over 50 years of age remain who have mastered the whole set of techniques. If not safeguarded, this traditional practice will soon disappear.

Inscribed in 2010 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Chinese Culture Ministry

24 jun 2011

DOGON Exhibition at quai Branly

Dogon exhibition at Quai Branly
Exhibition: DOGON
5 April to 24 July 2011
Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 to 19h, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11 to 21h
Place: Musée du quai Branly, 37 quai Branly, Paris (France)
Entrance fee:  7 €
About the exhibition:
The DOGON exhibition presents Dogon culture and art history from the 10th century until today through more than 330 exceptional pieces from international collections and presented together for the first time in France.
Dogon area (Mali) art ranks among the best known art created by African cultures. The art from the Dogon area is considered as one of the best known art created by African cultures. Along with the masterpieces that have brought fame to Dogon art, the exhibition presents cultural and daily life objects that reflect the metaphysical and aesthetic concerns of the populations who made them. The typology of these objects, made with various and complex techniques, has rarely been revealed in light of the main pieces of the statuary ensemble.
Over ten centuries of settlement history, of artistic and cultural influences are thus explored through a unique ensemble of essential masterpieces and unseen daily life objects that reflect the progressive settlement of Dogon area and the richness of its stylistic.
The exhibition created by the musée du quai Branly shows the whole force of sculptural art developed by the Dogon, whether made of wood or metal, or expressed in large impressive pieces or powerful small objects.
In the 2000 m2 Garden Gallery, the DOGON exhibition is set in three great thematic parts representing the culture and art history of the Dogon people through a variety of artistic outputs.

Recent historical research on West Africa has revealed that populations in various areas of the region were not isolated. Migration waves, caravan itineraries, long-distance commercial trade and exchanges with other Bandiagara peoples had left behind an intricate network of contacts long before the arrival of Europeans. This is how the Dogon peoples could benefit from assets brought about by neighbouring civilizations.

Beyond the apparent unity of a common identity built over the centuries, the statues in this part of the exhibition reveal the remarkable creativity of Dogon people and the great diversity of its artistic production. It explores the underlying complexity of Dogon area, falsely perceived as a cultural continuum.
Divided in different styles corresponding to diverse groups of people or geographical zones, 133 exceptional sculptures exemplify this wealth of diversity: Djennenke, N’Duleri, Tombo, Niongom and Tellem, Gogon-Mande, Tintam, Bombou Toro, Kambari, Komakan, and the styles of the Séno plain and escarpment.
Upon their arrival in the Bandiagara plateau, the Dogon encountered groups already living in the region and having developed a material culture.
In the cliff’s area, Tellem sculptures and textiles found in the sanctuaries coexist with Niongom and Mande Dogon art, while Djennenke sculptures in the North of the plateau and Tombo pieces in its centre derive from different migration waves.

In the West, the emerging interest for Dogon art, from the 1893 Bandiagara conquest onwards is, above all, a scientific pursuit, fully expressed by the Dakar-Djibouti Mission (1931-1933). This part of the exhibition explores the institutional methods used during the gathering of the first collections, which were the first step towards spreading knowledge on Dogon art in the West.
Two figures of the anthropological imagination, Louis Desplagnes and Marcel Griaule, exemplify how Dogon art captured European curiosity and taste.

* Rupestral paintings
In 1907, in his book entitled Le plateau central nigérien, Louis Desplagnes tells about how he started the very first research on Dogon area arts and cultures after an expedition in the Bandiagara region. He unveiled cave art, remarkable for the liveliness and energy of its expression. His collections were then handed to the ethnography Museum of the Trocadéro.
About twenty rupestral paintings are presented in this subsection.

* Masks
In Masques dogons (1938), Marcel Griaule introduces a very precise ethnographic typology.
Favoured research subject, the Dogon mask plays a role in laying the foundations of this specific ethnological practice. 35 Dogon masks recall the classification proposed in his book.

Along with scientific endeavours and new field research missions, the fascination for Dogon objects and sculptures is increasing. Collectors are not only seeking statuary Dogon objects, but also unique objects. A 35-minutes montage of excerpts from Jean Rouch’s Dama d’Ambarra (1974) adds to the first part of this sequence.

The 140 objects exposed in the last section reveal that Dogon sculptors tend to express the original myth when creating daily life objects and architectural components such as jewels, bronze and iron objects, pulleys, doors, locks, seats, headrests, animal sculptures, altars, arches, cups and plates. They evoke the same magical and theological subjects as the sculptures displayed in the first part.

At the end of the itinerary, the Pillars of Togu Na, the “House of Words” –open-construction built at the centre of Dogon villages - lead to the musée du quai Branly’s Djennenke statue, essential masterpiece of Dogon area art.

© Text and image: www.quaibranly.fr

22 jun 2011

Haida Ivory Raven Face

Name: Haida Ivory Raven Face
Origin: Haida people, Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia (Canada)
Museum: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas (USA)
Material: Walrus ivory and shell inlay
Reference code: 1977.29.McD
Age: mid-19th century
The raven is a ubiquitous figure in the art and mythology of the cultures of the Northwest Coast. Prominent among the legends associated with him is the Box of Daylight, which Raven opened at the beginning of time, thereby flooding the skies forever with sunlight and, in the process, scorching his white feathers black.
While the specific purpose of this handsome carving of walrus ivory remains unclear - it might be a knife handle or perhaps a cup - it most certainly would have conferred considerable esteem upon its owner. Datable on stylistic grounds to the mid-nineteenth century, it is compositionally related to spoons fashioned from horn and to figures carved from argillite.
Both these materials were readily available to the Haida people of the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia. The tusk of the walrus, however, had to come from Eskimo country several hundred miles to the north, presumably as an object of trade and through several intermediaries. Only then could it have come to the Haida master who, working with tools crafted by native hands from European metal, transformed it into an image of radiant beauty.

© Photos and text: Dallas Museum of Art 

20 jun 2011

Kashata recipe

kashata recipe
Something between candy and cookie, Eastern Africa's Kashata are a popular snack of Swahili origin. Kashata are usually made with peanuts or grated coconut, or both. Kashata are made on the stove or over a fire, not in an oven like European biscuits or American cookies.

  • two cups of sugar
  • two cups of fresh or moist grated coconut (or two cups of dried grated coconut moistened with a few tablespoons of milk or water; or two cups of roasted peanuts, shells and skins removed, briefly heated in a lightly oiled skillet; or a mixture of both coconut and peanuts)
  • one-half teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom
  • a pinch of salt
  • one-half cup wheat flour (optional)
How to prepare it:
In a hot skillet, heat the Sugar until it melts and just begins to brown.
Reduce heat and quickly add all other ingredients, stirring well as each ingredient is added. When all ingredients have been added to the mixture, continue stirring for about a minute, making sure everything is well mixed. Pour out on sheet pan lined with wax paper. Cut into squares while still hot.
Place in the freezer to cool.

© Text and image: recipes.wikia.com

18 jun 2011

Herdsmen of the sun

Title: Herdsmen of the sun
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Year: 1989
Running time: 43 minutes
Country: Germany
Plot summary:
Wodaabe - Herdsmen of the Sun (German: Wodaabe - Die Hirten der Sonne) is a 1989 documentary film by Werner Herzog. The film explores the social rituals and cultural celebrations of the Saharan nomadic Wodaabe tribe. Particular focus is given to the Gerewol celebration, which features an elaborate male beauty contest to win wives.
Although the film may be considered to be ethnographic, Herzog commented that: "[My films] are anthropological only in as much as they try to explore the human condition at this particular time on this planet. I do not make films using images only of clouds and trees, I work with human beings because the way they function in different cultural groups interests me. If that makes me an anthropologist then so be it."
The opening shots of the film depicts a celebration of male beauty, showing men dancing in elaborate costume, accentuating their height and whites of their eyes and teeth to attract women, as "Ave Maria" plays in the background (a 1901 recording sung by Alessandro Moreschi, the last castrato of the Vatican).

© Text and image: IMDB

16 jun 2011

The Totonac of Mexico

Danza de los voladores de Papantla
Name: Totonac
Living Area: states of Veracruz, Puebla and Hidalgo (Mexico)
Population: 411.300
Language: Totonac
The Totonac people resided in the eastern coastal and mountainous regions of Mexico at the time of the Spanish arrival in 1519. Today they reside in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, and Hidalgo. They are one of the possible builders of the Pre-Columbian city of El Tajín, and further maintained quarters in Teotihuacán (a city which they claim to have built). Until the mid-19th century they were the world's main producers of vanilla.
In the 15th century, the Aztecs labeled the region of the Totonac "Totonacapan"; which then extended roughly from Papantla in the north to Cempoala in the south. Totonacapan was largely hot and humid.
Totonac women were expert weavers and embroiderers; they dressed grandly and braided their hair with feathers. The Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún stated that, in all aspects of their appearance, the women were "quite elegant", women wore skirts (embroidered for the nobles) and a small triangular poncho covering the breasts. Noble women wore shell and jade necklaces and earrings and often tattooed their faces with red ink. Married women wore their hair in the Nahuatl fashion while peasant women wore their hair long. Likewise, the noble men dressed well, adorning themselves with multicolored cloaks, loin cloths, necklaces, arm bands, lip plugs and devices made of the prized quetzal feathers. Hair was kept long with a thick tuft of hair on the top tied up with a ribbon.
The Traditional religion was rather complex, as described in the early 1960s by the French ethnographer, Alain Ichon. Unfortunately, no other major essay on Totonac religion has since emerged. Mother goddesses played a very important role in Totonac belief, since each person's soul is made by them. If a newly born child dies, its soul "does not go to the west, the place of the dead, but to the east with the Mothers". Ichon has also preserved for posterity an important myth regarding a maize deity, a culture hero with counterparts among most other cultures of the Gulf Coast and possibly also represented by the Classic Maya maize god. As to traditional curers, it is believed that they "are born during a storm, under the protection of thunder. They think that a lightning bolt strikes the house of a new-born baby ..., and makes it ... under its possession".

Known by their: Danza de los voladores de Papantla
The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) is a ceremony/ritual which has its roots in the pre-Hispanic period and presently is best known as associated with the town of Papantla, Veracruz. It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica. The ritual consists of the dance and the climbing of a 30 meter pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. According to myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought. Although the ritual did not originate with the Totonac people, today it is most strongly associated with them, especially those in and around Papantla, as the ceremony has died off in most other places. The ceremony was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in order to help the ritual survive and thrive in the modern world.

© Text and image: Wikipedia

14 jun 2011

Parures de Tête

Title: Parures de Tête (Hairstyles and headdresses)
Author: Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau and Iris Hahner
Year of publication: 2003
Paperback: 400 pages
Language: French and English
In Africa, the art of arranging one's hair, of ornamenting and glorifying one's head, has given rise to the creation of incomparable coiffures. The Pharaohs and priests of Ancient Egypt, the nomads of the Sudan, the kings and diviners of the great Bantu civilisations, the spokesmen of Yoruba deities and the initiates of the powerful brotherhoods in West and Central Africa can all be identified by their hairstyles and headdresses. The repository of collective memory, coiffures have been transposed by sculptors onto masks and figures. Taken from the Dapper Collection, from leading museums and from private collections, the hundred or so objects we have reproduced reveal the astonishing diversity of hair arrangements and headgear - as well as the accessories that go with them. Among the diaspora in the United States or the Caribbean, following in the wake of Angela Davis or Bob Marley, many people have turned their hair into a sign of protest, in order to assert their identity and their difference, thereby influencing others throughout the world.

©Text and image: Éditions Dapper

12 jun 2011

The watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks

Chinese junk
Developed in South China’s Fujian Province, the watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks permits the construction of ocean-going vessels with watertight compartments. If one or two cabins are accidentally damaged in the course of navigation, seawater will not flood the other cabins and the vessel will remain afloat. The junks are made mainly of camphor, pine and fir timber, and assembled through use of traditional carpenters’ tools. They are built by applying the key technologies of rabbet-jointing planks together and caulking the seams between the planks with ramie, lime and tung oil. The construction is directed by a master craftsman who oversees a large number of craftsmen, working in close coordination. Local communities participate by holding solemn ceremonies to pray for peace and safety during construction and before the launch of the completed vessel. The experience and working methods of watertight-bulkhead technology are transmitted orally from master to apprentices. However, the need for Chinese junks has decreased sharply as wooden vessels are replaced by steel-hulled ships, and today only three masters can claim full command of this technology. Associated building costs have also increased owing to a shortage in raw materials. As a result, transmission of this heritage is decreasing and transmitters are forced to seek alternative employment.
Inscribed in 2010 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Huang Yanyi

10 jun 2011

Angola, figures de pouvoir

Exhibition: Angola, figures de pouvoir
Dates: 10 November 2010 to 10 July 2011
Opening times: 11h to 19h every day except Tuesday
Place: Musée Dapper, 35 bis, rue Paul Valéry, Paris (France)
Entrance fee: 6 €
Webpage: www.dapper.com.fr 
About the exhibition:
The Musée Dapper exhibits France’s first major collection devoted to the arts of Angola. This exceptional event features around one hundred and forty works, including masks of different styles, statuettes of chiefs evoking the hunter hero Chibinda Ilunga, cult figures and insignia of dignity, impressive magico-religious artefacts and polychrome bas-reliefs.
Many works will be drawn from important public collections, not least :
Museu Nacional de Antropologia, Luanda
Museu Nacional de Etnologia, Lisbon
Museu Etnográfico, Sociedade de Geografia, Lisbon
Museu de História Natural, Faculdade de Ciências, Porto
Colecção do Museu Antropológico, Museu de História Natural da Universidade, Coimbra
Casa-Museu Teixeira Lopes, Vila Nova de Gaia
Museu Municipal Dr. Santos Rocha, Figueira da Foz _ Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden
Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale, Tervuren
Musée d'ethnographie, Geneva
Musée du quai Branly, Paris
Musée Dapper, Paris.
Other, similarly representative works, will be lent from private collections.
The space dedicated to contemporary art will present one of Angola's greatest artists, António Ole.

As a result of its rich diversity of peoples, Angola witnessed the development of myriad culture areas in which prestigious forms of court arts served to glorify the chiefs' political and spiritual power. The worship of ancestors and spirits also gave rise to sophisticated artistic practices, encouraged further by the initiation institutions that provided training for young girls and boys.
The masks, statuettes, emblems and numerous other artworks produced by the Chokwe, Kongo, Lwena, Lwimbi, Mwila and Ovimbundu, to cite the most well-known peoples, occupy a central place in Angolan arts.
This exhibition presents an astonishing repertoire of forms, which not only exemplify specific styles but also afford glimpses of borrowings and influences. Thus, while the masks carved from wood or made from other plant materials may have been designed, like the wooden cult figures, to fulfil a specific role and were unique to a particular group, they frequently hint at links between different peoples.
The most meaningful representations are often those in which several different registers are closely involved. As both figurative modes and symbolic systems are more or less explicitly informed by historical, political and religious fact, the pieces offer insights into a world of interplaying powers.
This selection is intended to be as representative as possible of the output of peoples who helped to build a truly exceptional artistic heritage.
This exhibition is sponsored by Total.

© Text and image: Musée Dapper

Musée Dapper - FR from musee dapper on Vimeo.

8 jun 2011

Waist african pendant

Waist african pensant from Benin

Name: Waist african pendant 
Origin: Benin (Edo people) (Africa
Museum: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas (USA
Material: ivory 
Reference code: 1994.201.McD 
Age: 18th century 
The central figure on this rare carved ivory pendant is distinguished by his placement, his slightly larger size and the large bead at the center of his chest. He is the hereditary king, or oba, of Benin and wears the bead of kingship-an imported red coral, jasper, or agate bead. This bead, a significant emblem of his rank, and the textured bars on the figure's helmet and collar represent the oba's netted red coral and agate garment. Panels on either side of his tunic are shaped like mudfish with filaments hanging from their mouths.
Around his waist, three pendants with heads of Portuguese soldiers or officials demonstrate how the pendant was worn. The oba, legs adorned with coral beads, stands on a human head with mudfish issuing from its nostrils. Two high priests, Osa and Osuan, each wearing a waist pendant depicting crocodiles and standing on a frog, flank the oba. These priests, as well as other court officials or sons of the oba, traditionally support the oba during his coronation and ceremonies of importance. This grouping of the triad recalls an eyewitness account of Oba Overami's appearance when he surrendered to the British on August 5, 1897: "He was supported in the usual way by chosen men holding him up by each arm." The pendant's rich and complex iconography can be interpreted from Edo oral tradition, recorded history in European sources, and kingship practice that endures today.
The gesture of support, for example, is not meant to suggest the king is infirm, but symbolizes the delicate balance that must be maintained between the oba's authority and the Edo peoples' willingness to submit to his authority. The mudfish and the frogs are associated with the realm of Olokun, the god of wealth and all waters (streams, rivers, seas, oceans, and the divine) and a source of the oba's supernatural powers. The initial source of Benin's great wealth came from the sea: the first group of Portuguese explorers and traders must have seemed to emerge from Olokun's realm.
An ancient belief asserts the oba's legs were so heavily charged that damp soil would lose fertility if touched by his feet. Thus, the oba's power is also manifested in his legs and feet, which are sometimes depicted as mudfish in art. Mudfish are liminal creatures that can survive on land as well as in water. While some varieties are benign and considered a delicacy, and therefore symbolize feasting and prosperity, others are dangerous and can electrocute their adversaries. Benin artists do not differentiate the various types of mudfish in visual art. Frogs are considered mysterious creatures because they seem to change species from tadpole to frog. These creatures present a paradox like the oba, who commands and must keep two worlds, that of the sea and the land, in harmony. The Emobo ceremony, an extant kingship ritual that commemorates the establishment of Benin as the capital of the kingdom, requires an oba to wear waist pendants. According to oral tradition, Esigie, a sixteenth-century prince and founder of the present dynasty, competed with his half-brother Arhuanran, who ruled the province of Udo and was heir apparent to the throne. After the death of their father, Esigie challenged Arhuanran's ascent. He succeeded with the help of Edo chiefs, Portuguese allies, and most importantly, his mother Idia. Defeated, Arhuanran cursed the bead of kingship. Oba Esigie subsequently went insane when he wore the bead. The story, however, has a happy ending: Idia used her incredible spiritual powers to break the curse and thereby restore her son's sanity. Today he is considered one of Benin's most successful rulers. The Emobo ceremony also expels negative spirits from the capital city. According to some accounts, those negative spirits have been sent to Udo.
This rare ivory pendant is one of five that were taken by Private William Kelland of the British Royal Marines as souvenirs of the British Punitive Expedition in 1897. The other pendant plaques are in the collections of the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Nigerian National Museum, Lagos, and the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

© Photos and text: Dallas Museum of Art 

6 jun 2011

Haitian Potato Salad

Haitian Potato Salad
Haitian cuisine is kréyol cuisine, a mixture of French, African, Spanish and indigenous cooking methods, ingredients and dishes. Rice and beans (dire ak pwa) are a staple. Vegetable and meat stews are popular too. Goat, beef, chicken and fish are complemented with plantains, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers. Fiery Scotch bonnet peppers lend their punch to many dishes, and to pikliz, a popular pickled vegetable condiment.

Ingredients (serves 8):
  • 4 medium beets, leaves and stems removed, roots rinsed and wrapped individually in heavy duty foil
  • 2 pounds red bliss or new potatoes (about 6 medium or 18 new)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 scallions, sliced thin (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
How to prepare it:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Set beets in a small pan; roast until just tender about 1 hour. Let beets cool and then remove foil and skins (they slip off easily). Cut into medium dice and set aside.
Meanwhile, place potatoes in a 4 to 6 quart pot; cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer, stirring once or twice to ensure even cooking, until a thin-bladed paring knife or a metal cake tester inserted into the potato can be removed with no resistance, 25 to 30 minutes for medium potatoes and 15 to 20 minutes for new potatoes. Cool potatoes slightly, then cut them with a serrated knife, layering them in a medium bowl and lightly sprinkling with the 2 tablespoons vinegar and salt and pepper as you go.
Mix in scallions, peas, and mayonnaise; toss to coat. Lightly fold in beets. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

© Text and image: Food.com

4 jun 2011

Kirikou et la sorcière


Title: Kirikou et la sorcière (Kirikou and the sorceress)
Director: Michel Ocelot
Writer: Michel Ocelot
Year: 1998
Running time: 74 minutes
Country: France

Plot summary:

In a little village somewhere in West Africa, a boy named Kirikou is born in a spectacular way. But he's not a normal boy, because he can speak and walk immediately after being born. He is also very determined. His mother tells him that an evil sorceress has dried up their spring and devoured all the males of the village except for one. Hence the tiny Kirikou decides to accompany the last warrior, his uncle, to visit the sorceress. Kirikou tricks the sorceress and saves his uncle. He saves the children from being kidnapped by the sorceress's boat and saves them later again from the sorceress's tree. Next, he bursts the monster who was drinking all the village's water. He then travels to ask his wise old grandfather about the sorceress, and faces many obstacles in the process. The grandfather finds that Kirikou is always asking questions, which is a good thing. The grandfather tells him that she is evil because she suffers: bad men put a poisoned thorn in her back. Kirikou manages to trick the sorceress and removes the thorn. The sorceress is cured. She kisses Kirikou and he becomes an adult. Love reigns.

© Text and image: Wikipedia

2 jun 2011

The Tlapanecs of Mexico

Name: Tlapanec
Living Area: Guerrero State, Mexico
Population: 75.000
Language: Tlapanec (Me'phaa)
The Tlapanec people is an ethnic group indigenous to the Mexican state of Guerrero. Their language, Me'phaa, is a part of the Oto-Manguean language family and its closest relation is the Subtiaba language of Nicaragua. Today Tlapanecs live in the states of Morelos and Oaxaca as well as in Guerrero; there are around 75,000 Tlapanecs in Mexico.
In pre-Columbian times they lived in the isolated mountain area along the Costa Chica region of Guerrero, just southeast of present-day Acapulco. Their territory was called Yopitzinco by the Aztecs who also referred to the Tlapanecs as Yopi. Yopitzinco was never conquered by the Aztecs and remained an independent enclave within the Aztec empire. The main Tlapanec city was Tlapan and the name Tlapanec is the Nahuatl for "Inhabitant of Tlapan".

Known by their: Religion and language
The Tlapanecs explain natural phenomena through myth, like the myth of the creation of the sun (Akha'), the moon (Gon') and the fire god (Akuun mbatsuun'), who all were born on the bank of the river and who were raised by Akuun ñee, goddess of the temazcal sweatbath and patron of the hot/cold duality.
Another important element in their culture is nagualism. When a baby is born it is said that at the same time an animal is born and that that animal is the nahual of the child. No one except the child knows which animal is its nahual because the nahual will only show itself to the child in its dreams.

The name “Me'phaa”, which speakers use for their own language, has recently been promoted by bilingual school teachers and others. (The teachers in the bilingual schools are all native speakers of Me'phaa.) They prefer it to the traditional name “Tlapaneco”, which is derived from Nahuatl, because some consider it to have been a derogatory label. (The form “Me'phaa” is the one used by Malinaltepec speakers; other varieties have slightly different forms of the name, such as “Me'pa” in Acatepec and “Mi'pha” in Tlacoapa.)
Like most groups in southern Mexico, their diet consists chiefly of corn (maize) tortillas, beans, squash, and chilies. At lower altitudes, bananas are also important, and jamaica is used to make a beverage. Coffee is a major cash crop for those living in coffee growing areas. Those who do not live in these areas often emigrate to the north to find work. Wool serapes are woven in one area by the men and in another area by the women.
Early studies classified the Tlapanecan languages with the Hokan stock. More recently, however, there seems to be clear evidence to classify them as Otomanguean.
Like other Otomanguean languages, the Tlapanec languages are tonal. That is, the pitch with which a word is pronounced is so important that, if it is changed, the meaning of the word can change completely. Tones can sometimes be the only indication of grammatical distinctions such as 1st vs. 3rd person. One variety of Me'phaa can have a sequence of as many as four tones on the same syllable.

© Text and image: Wikipedia, www.sil.org

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