Thanks giving Day 19

Today I am grateful for museums, and the opportunities we have to experience different forms of art and culture. We’ve been visiting different museums with our adventure day group, and yesterday we returned to the museum at Stanford, this time for the Africa and Oceania sections. I love that museum (tons of stuff, and it’s FREE!) and luckily the kids seem to like it too.  From yesterday:


Zoe’s interpretation of this Rodin: “It’s a little kid riding on his daddy’s back.” I can kind of see it.




I love the teeny tiny hands on the carving above.


This (above) is from the Ivory Coast, and is a female figure. This was the description, which I found really interesting: “The Baule believe that before we were born into this world we existed in a spirit world where we each had a mate. Sometimes that mate, or “spirit spouse”, becomes jealous of the new partner and disrupts that person’s earthly life, especially his or her marital life. A diviner may prescribe the carving of a figure to depict the spirit spouse; the carved figure should not resemble the harassed person’s actual spouse. It should receive earthly signs of attention: food and clothing, and visits at regular intervals. ”

“the carved figure should not resemble the harassed person’s actual spouse” – that part cracked me up. 🙂


Doesn’t this little guy look just like:


I love it.


This one was also FASCINATING: ” Within Bamana culture [from Mali], secrecy and power go hand in hand. This zoomorphic sculpture is said to contain messages about life and death that can be explained only by men in the highest levels of the prestigious Komo association. It is made of layers of earth, bones, blood, beer, millet, and expectorated kola nut juice, over a metal or wooden core. These mysterious objects sometimes resemble an animal but are sometimes totally abstract. They are treasured by the Bamana people for their nyama, a force so potent that they can be handled only by the wisest members of the Komo association.”


This was my favorite of the day – it’s a gibbon!

While we were there, we also watched Berni Searle’s video installement called Spirit of ’76, which was incredible – thought provoking, visually beautiful; metaphorical, but rock solid in concept so that the themes came through in a really compelling way.  It let the viewer meditate over the meaning, in a way that was ultimately quite haunting.

It began with a red acetate (I’m assuming) cutout resembing the three musicians in Archibald Willard’s painting, The Spirit of ’76 floating in water. (You don’t know there’s water until things start happening and you realize there must be.)  Red dye underneath the acetate flowed out and through the water, and then a wreath of black roses (not actual roses) was put around the image, and black dye bled out and around, mixing with the red, sinking in on it and overtaking it at points.



From the information provided, Searle was invoking not only events that occurred in the US in 1776, but also a protest that occurred in South Africa in 1976 against apartheid.  More than 500 children were killed when police shot into the unarmed crowd.

I really was so moved by this piece, and by the opportunity to meditate on passion, life’s blood, battle, death, and the cost of freedoms. Based on the information provided, I don’t know that I came to the exact conclusions she had in mind, (hers included “calling into question the viability of democracy and its ideals in today’s globalized and politically complex world”, which I didn’t see, but I guess I can see how you could get there); but I love that about art (or at least about my UCSC informed deconstructionalist attitude toward it) – you take from it what you take.

And the kids loved it, they called it “the flower movie” and wanted to watch it over and over.

I’m thankful for the opportunity and ability I have to introduce all of these amazing images to my kids at such a young age, and to be able to experience and think about them myself. Despite my reservations about some museum collections, I AM very thankful to be able to become acquainted with the beautiful creations of people from all over the world.

3 thoughts on “Thanks giving Day 19

  1. Maryanne on

    Thanks, Hilary – I’m so not. 🙂 I was just really glad we didn’t end up with a truly educational experience: explaining the plentiful examples of anatomically representative art. Luckily it just went right over their heads.

  2. Dear Maryanne-

    Hilary is correct. What lucky children that you expose them to so much. My Mama used to take us to museums and stuff, and it’s fun now to go with my cousin’s son Marley (2 1/2 years old).

    Love you!


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