Telling Objects: Abundance
Launch the Abundance slide show
The desire and the need to prosper are at the heart of a successful culture. Stories and symbols illustrating the fruits of nature, fertility, and the magic of creation play crucial roles in encouraging a culture's prosperity. In the United States, stories and symbols illustrating prosperity themes are celebrated during national holidays and focus on religion-based events -- Easter (Christ's resurrection, the Easter Bunny delivering eggs, the promise of spring and renewal), Thanksgiving (the Founding Fathers, feasts, a cornucopia, gratitude for Earth's bounty), and Christmas (the Savior's birth, gift giving, caroling, rejoicing for the gift of life). This theme is also observed at baby showers, where stories and "old wives' tales" are repeated, games are played, and gifts are rained in abundance on the expectant mother.
Ten works in the exhibition relate to the theme of abundance. Creation myths and nature spirits figure prominently. Fertility refers to both agricultural bounty and human procreation, neither of which is assumed or assured. A mask, a vessel, a door - each functions as a prayer for prosperity. The Crest Mask from the Bwa culture and the Headdress Mask (female) from the Bamana culture feature a mother animal and her young. The masks are used in conjuring aid from nature spirits for the success of crops. Although the Bamana and Songye vessels are intended primarily for domestic use, they are also used in shrine altars that "feed" the spirits, asking for enhancement of communal and personal prosperity. Myths about the origin of life itself appear in the Dogon Granary Door and the three masks of the Kuba culture. Two anthropomorphic masks, Helmet Mask (Sowei) and Crest Mask (Epa), take central stage in fertility celebrations that seek to instill responsibility for the community's success.
Read another theme's introduction: