Literature

The head as medium and metaphor

A Cultural Inquiry It is with this premise—that art object contains cultural significance that interests to art pieces become an anthropological and historical inquiry in a sense. Such in a way that questions does not only revolves regarding information about specific art object—‘Where did it came from?’, ‘How was it made?’, ‘What material?’, ‘Who made it?’ but broader inquiry about the relation of the art object to the aspect of human life or the culture that it represents or belongs to—i.e. ‘What is its historical significance?’, ‘Is it a religious or sacred object for worship?’, ‘What symbolisms are attached to it?’ these questions means studying art in its cultural context (Hatcher 1999). For this paper, I would try to study the use of head as medium and metaphor in practice of art through its cultural context drawing upon example from two ethnic groups from Africa, the Ife and Yoruba. First, I would put into perspective the context of using the head as a symbol through historical account on the development of head as a symbol and how it transcends to art. Then I would specifically relate these cultural and historical symbolisms on the cultural interpretation of Ife and Yoruba as represented in the use of head in their art. Head as Symbol A severed head had been for most part of human history, the most typical religious symbol, decapitation have likewise been a ubiquitous theme on literature that have been prevalent in various genre. From the Middle Stone Age, to early medieval times, archeological findings have suggested that man have been for the longest time have strong fascination with severed head or have long found strong symbolism with a decapitated head. For a warrior, claiming a severed head of the enemy meant valor in battle, prestige, and a sign of power. As such, various art with motifs that have severed head on them. in Celtic sculpture for instance the Pfalzfeld pillar is adorned with carved heads on each side, and must have been crowned by another head, which has now disappeared (Koch 2006). In medieval art, head is often times used to symbolize two things, one is the mind, and the other is the spiritual life. This is why decorative art during this period consists of heads of saints. In stark contrast, Plato assumed that the human head is representative of the world, as he writes in his Timaeus. To back up Plato’s assertion, Leblant postulates that the skull—the crown of the human body signifies the heaven as depicted by its spherical shape. Clearly, both Plato and Leblant see the head and its sphere-shape as symbolic of oneness (Cirlot 2002). The same concept of oneness is present in Egyptian hieroglyphics wherein the eagle’s head had been constantly used as an emblem and solar symbol to represent emanation of the cosmic flame and the universe’s spiritual fire. A representation of two or more heads means a more intense head-symbolism. Thus, the Gemini—represented by two heads signifies the duality of nature. Hectate on the other hand has three heads representing the heaven, earth, and hell. Here we see that an invisible, eternal, and deeper meaning is attached to the symbolism of the head that it boarders to religion. It goes beyond simply looking at the appearances and goes deep into

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