Tag Archives: culture

Behind the masks

Masks are a well known feature of African culture. They’re used in many circumstances and in psychological terms represent the persona of the wearer.  As such they’re a language on their own, communicating to the viewer what is being said.

In Uganda a young man, called Bright Niwagaba, explained the meanings behind some of the masks he was selling.  He said they were made and worn by Pygmies, Africa’s forest dwelling hunter-gatherers, and represent everyday political and social events as well conquest and subjugation by other tribes.

Here are some of his stories.

Continue reading Behind the masks

Abstracting Owl Power for Conservation

A friend recently related how she had come across the decapitated corpses of two Spotted Eagle Owl chicks on a suburban road. Highly distressed by the discovery she approached a nearby construction site to confirm her worst fears. “Sangomas will pay a lot of money for them,” she was told.

Whitefaced owl (small)Photo credit:  The Diamond Route

Continue reading Abstracting Owl Power for Conservation

Theseus and the Leopard Cloak

Author’s note: This is written with the view that we make more progress by emphasizing our similarities than we do by highlighting our differences.

I came across this image taken from an ancient vase. It depicts Theseus slaying the Minotaur, a creature that inhabited a labyrinth beneath the palace of Knossos on Crete. According to this myth of Ancient Greece, the Minotaur was the progeny of a beautiful snow-white bull and the Queen whose husband, King Minos, spurred by his own avarice, had kept the bull he pledged to kill when he ascended the throne.*  

lecomte-victory-of-theseus-over-the-minotaur-after-a-greek-vase-painting Continue reading Theseus and the Leopard Cloak

Liver and Soul

A line from the book “The Abundant Herds” by Marguerite Poland and David Hammond-Tooke caught my eye recently. With reference to an ox being sacrificed for someone who is ailing it says: “ … gall [from the slaughtered animal] is sprinkled on the patient’s body for it is said that the shades lick the gall.”

 When an animal is hunted in traditional societies the most prized organ is the liver, which is often reserved for the hunter, or an elevated member of society such as a priest or a chief.

 What is so important about the liver, and its essence, the gall?

Continue reading Liver and Soul