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Saturday, July 23, 2016

An Igbo Sense of Community

 My youngest son is taking and art history class called Arts of Africa this summer, and I am watching the lectures with him and taking notes (he has an accommodation for this).  It has been an incredibly wonderful experience to learn about so many different African cultures and their art.  I never took any art history myself in college, so while I very much love museums and the art of other cultures, what I know about it is astonishingly small and petite.  The course is taught by a professor who has boundless enthusiasm for his subject, which definitely helps, but in truth, what he has to say is so fascinating that I think he owes a lot to his subject matter.
The Igbo are an interesting people, because they love in a meritocracy.  You are what you do.  You are no better than what you accomplish in life.  They have beautiful masks and carved figures but the most interesting cultural phenomenon is the mbari.
Each family sends a member to participate in the building of this offering to the gods.  There are three professionals involved--a priest, an artist, and a diviner.  They decide upon the make up of the mbari, and then the rest build it.  The idea is that the offering is the building of the mbari, not the final result.  At that point, the spiritual aspect is completed, and the shrine itself can go to rack and ruin.  Such an interesting concept!

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