The Sunday News
THERE was a time so long ago when those who ruled and lived the earth were one with the earth. A time when the ancients would hold close to their chests the secrets of the world and how to keep the balance.
The elements were the crux of every ceremony on earth. The elements being earth, wind, water and fire.
These four elements have been the corner stone to mankinds very existence. Through out the world across oceans in distant lands from as far as mankind can recall, nature’s elements have always been representative of crucial aspects of human nature.
Characteristics of human behaviour were derived and associated with such elements as “fire” where the aspect of red hot passion burning out of anger, desire, love, revenge or power.
The artist gave life and physical form to these elements and through their creations they fulfilled the mythical nature of the “elements”. These creations were the centre pieces of elaborate ceremonies that people would gather around. In most ancient cultures before the advent of the colonial encounter and so called “civilisation”, people of long ago lived in harmony with nature.
Rain making ceremonies and harvest ceremonies were jus a few of the ceremonies that were performed in honour of what “mother earth” can give. The strength begins in the likening of “earth” to a “mother”, a “woman”.
The strength is in the fact that a woman is a powerful life giving force. One who has the power of giving and taking life. “Mother earth” is the description given to earth in many languages and cultures. The qualities of earth are like that of woman and the world has paid homage to the symbol “Mother earth” or “Mother nature” stands for.
Symbols have been designed, and sculptures built to communicate the power of Mother earths’ elements. “Her” elements are her characteristics and each element brings forth different energies. These energies are that translated by we human beings as signs from the “celestial” or signs of how mother earth feels about our stay on earth.
There was a time when human beings paid close attention to the signs from the earth as messages. Earth quakes, typhoons, hurricanes, drought, floods, abundant harvest and good rains were all once considered as signs from Mother earth and how content or discontented ‘she’ felt about human behaviour.
Platforms were created for either sacrificial ceremonies to appease an injustice or to give thanks for blessings bestowed upon them by mother earth.
There were elaborate myths and tales told about how certain rulers came to be and the thunder roared in the sky, stories of how water met fire, stories of why the earth shakes, tales about the depths of volcanoes and how they are messages from mother earth, stories of how winter fell in love with summer.
These stories take flight through the skilful capabilities of artists and their amazing imagination to give these myths a form. The stories take flight through spoken word (poetry), written word, paintings and sculpture.
The Greeks were a group of people who are renowned for having so many narratives about “gods” that had powers derived from natural elements and “gods” that had the power “characteristic” of the elements.
Yet again we see the power of the artist/ creator in preserving such narratives. These same narratives serve a parable to illustrate how nature is like us Humans and needs to be treated with care and respect.
Artefacts that have been discovered from our African past, all have a very strong link to the elements and have strong emphasis on flora and fauna.
African creations all derived their inspiration from nature either through mimicry of the design or through the way they observe nature. Art from Africa in these modern times does attempt to reveal the degree climate and societal change.
In the context of sculpture, Africa has seen the rise of the use of discarded objects as found objects for their creations.
It may be a form of recycling but it is also a sign that there is a growing problem of discarded unwanted objects that the world is failing to cope with industrially.
The traditional ways of maintaining a balance with nature has always had artists at the heart of ceremonies as designers of costumes and masks and designers of the myth.
In our modern times, our traditional ways are getting lost in technology, mining, toxic fumes, oil spillages and drilling.
I see no reason why mother earth shouldn’t cry. The signs are seen world over through the imbalances that we as human beings have caused.
She cries through these floods, droughts and various natural disasters. We are failing our mother earth in a serious way and she is fighting back with a vengeance. Her mood can not be predicted and she is not happy with mankind.
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