Free San Art And Aesthetics Essay Sample
The journal discusses expressive art forms across cultures. It goes on to distinguish between “art” and “not art”. The writer further maintains that anthropologists do not classify the diverse art forms into folk art, fine art and the like. In fact, anthropology believes in providing a non-ethnocentric definition of art. Anthropologists believe in the relativity of culture and the comparative analysis of diverse art forms reigning across cultures. Spradley (1996, 19) maintains that anthropology strives to understand the intricacy and complexity of art forms reigning across diverse cultures. The industrialized society has traditionally viewed art to be primitive, scientific specimens and objects of curiosity. The objects of curiosity were collected by Europeans as souvenirs and antiques. The wealthy and the royalty acquired such objects and they were highly priced commodities. Scientific specimens, on the other hand, included the discovery of fossils, and led to the development of biological theories. Scholars like Charles Darwin proposed their theories based on fossil findings of flora and fauna. Thus, “social Darwinism” or the notion of progressing socially developed from the ancient art forms and practices that reigned across cultures (Henry Schoolcraft, 1948). The commencement of primitive art was determined by innovative art models that were highly expressive, abstract and freer. Such objects were discovered in the statues and masks in Oceania and Africa and were slowly transported to Europe as souvenirs (Blundell, 2000, 26).
Anthropology has progressed rapidly and several methodological and theoretical art models are being explored. Scholars are exploring the forms of music, dance and visual arts by delving into these art forms to learn more about a specific culture. To conclude, anthropologists view cultures to be dynamic and developing and do not dismiss the art of small scale societies to be “simple” and “primitive” (Evelyn Payne Hatcher, 1999, 4).
This chapter gives us detailed anthropological history and cultural description about San, a gathering and hunting community located in the southwest part of Africa. The Europeans know this community as the “Bushmen”. The same tribe is now called San that consists of a nomadic group containing around twenty to fifty individuals. Subsequently the San community decreased and this discussion will refer to the !Kung San community living in and around the Kalahari desert. This community has defined gender roles wherein men are hungers and women ensure gathering water and calorie intake. A typical San society contains several monogamous and polygamous families staying together.
Both old and young men and women were several jewellery containing wooden or leather rings, leather bracelets, beads both manufactured as well as crafted out of ostrich shells and decorative hair pieces. Other than decorating their bodies with jewellery and clothes, this tribe also engages in body art by employing aromatic herb powders, clay, soot or fat. Some San communities also colour their hair by using hara, a black stone. Especially during weddings, the San bride is decorated to show off her jewellery. This sign of decoration is regarded to make the bride beautiful. Another form of body decoration is tattooing. Tattooing is often restricted to women, but in some groups even men decorate their legs, arms and face with tattoos. The San cuts their hairs in tight and small turfs to decorate their hair.
The !Kung also believes in decorating their wooden utensils and bone pipes using geometrical patterns. Marshall, 1976, 77 & Lee, 1979, 122 maintain that canteen owners’ use designed ostrich eggshells to identify their canteens. San women also carve elaborate string figures and decorate the barks of baobab and mangetti trees with geometrical designs (Marshall, 1965, 275). Marshall (1973, 363) observes that the San love music and dance. Their musical items are restricted to using a one stringed bow, one stringed violin, five or four string instrument and dancers wearing ankle rattles. The Ritual Healing Dance performed by the San to cure the ailing and protect the healthy is representative of the belief of supernatural in this community.
Anthropologists maintain that the San has a strong taste for aesthetics as they spend long time to enjoy and create art, mainly those related to music and body decoration. The art used by the San is done in order to gratify themselves. Furthermore, anthropologists have not yet found any ethnographic indication of the San to formulate their art by gathering in teams. The function of art in San religion is limited as it is neither used for didactic practices nor used to provide the efficacy of the supernatural being. Thus, anthropologists maintain that the main principle of San art is to derive pleasure and self-gratification.
Anthropologists have maintained that scrutinizing the San closely have revealed that not only the San treasures beauty, but also cultivate them in several forms like dance, music and body decoration. They also appreciated those having abilities in music. The ancient visual art of San is does not represent symbolism. However, this cannot attribute to an absence of artistic knowhow as the traditional San made designs in rocks. Speaking of the music and dance of the San tribe, their music and dance represent particular subjects or feelings. Many dances of the San tribe efficiently ape particular tasks or animals. San songs are not narrative and lack words. There may be some songs that may have titles or very few usage of words. Scholarly research by Lee (1979) have noted the possibility of an ample leisure time among the San tribe that has attributed for the cultivation of material necessities rather than philosophical views.
The Contemporary San
The past half a century have witnessed several upheavals throughout the southern part of Africa and this has mainly contributed to impacting the San. The recruitment of San men and women to take part in politics have led to their resettlement and thereby adapt to other manners so as to survive. Moreover the discriminatory evacuation and health measures have led to threaten the lives and culture of the San. Academic scholar Lee (1993, 177) maintained that the adaptability and resilience taught by the San culture has led to debates and comments among anthropologists. The San culture is going through a transition phase. The San is coming out of their traditional lifestyle in order to survive and this is leading their ancient culture and their way of life in the Kalahari Desert to change.
This chapter details the art and cultural realities of the Inuit or the Eskimos living in the North American Arctic region. It is one of the small scale societies that have survived till today and this chapter details the ancient life of the Inuit. The Inuit community date their arrival and settlement into the Arctic region four thousand years ago from the northeast region of Asia. The Inuit are different from the Native American Indians culturally, linguistically and genetically. Moreover the Inuit ivory carvings are regarded as antique pieces and have travelled their way to the museums in the West. However, the Inuit are also well known for their wood and bone figures as well as their carvings out of ice and snow. Most carvings depict animals and are polished so that they shine. Some figures also have dots and lines as decorative patterns. The nomadic life led by this small society group made such carvings to be highly limited. These figures were carved to serve the purpose of recreation for children.
Throughout the arctic dance, song and music is highly significant both in recreations as well as ceremonies. Most songs of the Inuit emphasized on mythical beings, birds, animals and hunting. Inuit community performed both solos and group shows and practiced thoroughly prior to giving live performances. The group performance of the Inuit community depicted an ancient selection of rhythmic moves. Moreover excellent dancers integrated liveliness with subtlety in their dance moves. Despite slight changes, anthropologists have found relative uniformity in the Inuit symbolic and conceptual fields including myth, religion and language.
The significance of art in the Inuit community is that it helped in enhancing life. Scholars have determined that the Inuit used a term “tahminaktuk”, literally translated as “it is good to look at or beautiful” (Graburn, 1967, 28). They made this kind of reference to several objects and things of beauty. Moreover, the Inuit legends have also relished beauty. A legendary spirit in the Canadian Inuit is a young woman named Sedna, and is depicted to be handsome and evil. Inuit have also associated beauty with the looks of individuals and enhanced several features like ear plugs, cheek and lips, facial paints or tattoos, bead strings hanging from the lower lips. Today’s Inuit women also bears the hazards of tattooing so as to enhance their features and look beautiful.
The reflection of Inuit aesthetics can be displayed in the children’s toys as they were carved considering aesthetics in mind. Over several Inuit societies children’s toys helped them to serve as replicas and practice the skills of the adults. The adult Inuit also had their toys for recreation while they stayed in their igloos for long periods during the winters. One of the adult Inuit game “ajegaung” was played by taking turns with a small perforated object. The game was played by tossing this object in the air and catch it in the designated hole with a stick before it landed on the ground. Mostly the object used was an ivory carving but animal skulls were also used to play this game. A gambling game named “tingmiujang” is also played by the Inuit. The Inuit community spend the long winter months engaged in music, songs and dance.
The traditional Inuit society believed in several taboos and religious myths. The aesthetics of this small scale society relied on these religious myths. One such taboo was tattooing a woman for supernatural influence. The Inuit believe in influencing fate after demise by specific tattoos. Inuit aesthetics also include ivory carved amulets. Such things are associated with good omen and protection from evil spirits.
The Inuit is a small scale society having deep philosophical underpinnings. The Inuit art, folklore and myths have deeper notions about culture and art. There is a demarcation between inanimate objects, social world and the supernatural existence. Most Inuit accept this demarcation but does not strive to determine the issue concerned with the interdependence of these three worlds.
Inuit art explains the social relationship shared between the Inuit. Inuit culture is more or less similar except that there are culturally distinct functions served by men and women. These statuses can be observed by means of clothing and body decoration. The Inuit shamans wear a belt in which figures of harpoons, fish and humans are suspended. Some Inuit community also demonstrate art by recording past events. Past events are also chronicled through songs and passed down from generations.
Traditional Inuit antiques are highly regarded but the Inuit community and Western art collectors. Anthropologists have determined that the Inuit recognized work or art or souvenirs from the daily productions. Scholars maintain that this demarcation can be viewed in subtle carvings out of ivory by Inuit men and women (Martijn, 1964, 556).
Inuit aesthetics is blurred by the notion of discouraging competition. But the consummate Inuit is appreciated as well made tattoos serve a religious significance and is related to the supernatural being. Art made by the Inuit is for deeper and significant underpinnings. However, the Inuit language lacks a particular word for art. Art may be conveyed either by “solijuk” meaning authentic or “nguaq” meaning “diminutive-likeness-imitation-model-play” (Swinton, 1978, 81).
The Inuit has also experienced cultural changes due to the influence of Thule and Dorset culture. One of the innovative influences in the Inuit market art is “billiken”. “Billiken” is a plump idol inspired by Asian depictions of the Buddha. Another artistic innovation is the growth of the stone carving industry grew in the Inuit community living around the Canadian Arctic region. Another innovation is that of printing techniques including lithography, intaglio and stencil paintings. The Inuit receive maximum income by selling their art works. Thus, Inuit art represents their culture, other than their village and indigenous identity.
Australian Aboriginals are another small scale society that thrives on gathering and hunting. The Aboriginals have complex philosophical beliefs. Their core belief is that mythical creatures existed in the Earth in past and created notable things like waterholes. They also believe that these beings created human beings, flora and fauna and established human institutions like songs and rituals. They further believe that the spirits of the Eternal Dreamtime existed even when human beings existed.
The Aborigines engaged in scarification by rubbing clay or ashes into the fresh cuts. Such scars were a part of initiation or mourning rites, others served as body decoration and still others conveyed the social status of the individual. Paint was also enhanced to beautify features. Minimal clothing was used and a public tassel was a decorative piece rather than a body covering. Still others adorned themselves with waistbands and necklaces on heads and arms.
The Aborigines also painted on flat and large stringy tree barks and rock paintings. Paintings were done for the purpose of sorcery also. The Aboriginal “X-ray Drawings” depicted the internal organs of animals and their silhouettes painted in polychromic manner. They also produced objects and most significant among these are tjurungas or ritual things that come in circular, oval or flat shapes. Australian art changes in appearance depending on the region it is economical and graceful.
The Aboriginal religion was either used to increase magical powers or for aiding youngsters to transit into adulthood. This “increase magic” ensured success in hunting that in turn infused cave paintings. The emphasis of “increase magic” was done by Kunappi or a Fertility Mother, but the Aboriginals never aspired the Kunappi to give food to devotees. To sustain the realm of human beings “initiation ceremonies”. For this initiated adults had esoteric knowledge and this was passed down through generations. Song and dance helped to reveal secrets to initiates.
The Aborigines used art as a medium to pass on the aspirations and requirements of human beings to the Dreamtime Spirits. Aboriginal art helped mortals to communicate with the spirits of the Eternal Dreamtime and even join the supernatural world. According to Berndt & Berndt (1970, 14), “jimeran” is used to explain sacred tasks undertaken by the Aborigines. The Australian culture also maintains that human beings can be united with the eternal spirits.
The Aboriginal aesthetics had philosophical, religious and psychological underpinnings. Formal education in Aboriginal religious concepts took place during the initiation rituals on adolescent men and women. Among other ancient rituals, the body was viewed as a vessel used by a Dreamtime spirit.
The Aborigine aesthetics had ramifications for art and creativity especially in the initiation ceremonies, for native beautification and standards of art and secular art use. The ancient Aboriginal art was limited to performance and graphic designs so as to respond to the eternal spirits. The passage rituals marking the change from youth to adulthood is significant is several Australian communities especially among the males. Female initiation rituals changed depending on the area most integrated these of fertility, augmented environment and sexuality. Personal beauty among the Aborigines also integrated fertility, beauty and sexuality.
There is a difference between secular and sacred art forms in Aboriginal aesthetics. Sacred art forms was based on tradition as compared with secular art. Those engaged in secular art were not compensated or gained status as compared with those engaged in sacred art (Elkin, Berndt & Berndt, 1950, 10). However an integration of secular and sacred art focussed on the significance of message transmission by art.
Academic scholars maintain that Aboriginal art helped in social and cultural integration of the Aboriginal aesthetic process. Aboriginal aesthetics helped to unite, translate and explain concrete tactics the underlying belief of uniting mortals by means of genuine, intimate and immediate contact with the Eternal Spirits of the Dreamtime by means of art.
Australia has undergone several transitions after it became a British colony. The Aboriginal art also have influence of non-Aboriginal art forms. Transitions reflected in two-dimensional art display the integration of non-traditional with indigenous. Today the bark paintings are a main source of income for the Aborigines. The Aboriginal paintings have also entered the realm of fine arts. The Aboriginal visual and performing arts have remained unchanged in some areas whereas in others they display the influence of colonialism. The Aboriginal dance has also integrated both traditional and indigenous influences and an example of this is the Bangarra Dance Theatre (Meekison, 2000, 367 – 369). There is significant change in the Aboriginal literature as oral narratives have been replaced by jotting them down. The Aboriginal art has also been influenced by tourism. Despite this extensive documentation has ensured that the ancient Aboriginal art and aesthetics are intact till today. However, art has been influenced by several works of art and have taken diverse themes integrating the old with the new.
The write up is on Bangarra Dance Theatre and the manner in which this dance group portrays the rich heritage of the Torres Strait Islander or the Aboriginal group in Australia. The company views itself to be the oldest as well as the youngest dance troupe; oldest because the dance pieces are created pure myths from The Dreaming era. The company is two decades old and still considers itself to be young. The dance form presented by this theatre group blends the old with the new by giving a contemporary face (Jones, 2008). The Bangarra Dance Theatre represents the political, historical and political themes that exist among the fractured Aboriginal groups.
These traditional dance forms spread across diverse dancing styles and hence one had to acquire training in more than one dance style. Individuals associated with this dance group took part in ancestral dances, trained in theatre and music, ballet and the like. Although the Bangarra charter requires at least seventy percent of individuals to belong to Aborigine and the Torres Strait Islander community, most lack deep contact with the ancient tradition of this community. There are some having a totally urban upbringing and others who participated in traditional dance forms in childhood.
The director of this dance theatre, Stephen Page hails from a modest family in Brisbane and is a former law clerk. Page has creatively crafted this discrepant dance group to perform dance performances displaying the traditional art and culture of the Aboriginal community. He views dance to be a form of aesthetics as well as a cultural expression. The Bangarra Dance Theatre, under his direction, displays the cultural representations that is found in the Aborigine and Torres Strait Islander community, in a bid to preserve and conserve the age of myths, stories and beliefs. The impact of the urban life on the Aborigine community has been displayed by this dance group. Myths and stories depicting the Aborigine culture has also been a performed by Bangarra Dance Theatre (Jones, 2008).
Anthropology, in this form of art, depicts the rich cultural heritage, values, beliefs, stories and myths that have been passed across generations in the Aborigine and Torres Strait Islander community. The dance theatre strives to preserve this age old culture and tradition by uniting individuals having a common goal and an aspiration to develop a community representing the culture and tradition of the Aborigine and the Torres Strait Islander through dance.