Telling Objects: Supernatural Aid
Launch the Supernatural Aid slide show
Life is a complex mystery filled with unexplained fortune and tragedy. Equally complex is the manner in which humans seek to come to terms with the inexplicable character of life. Most cultures devise methods to deal with life's variations based on a simple notion: there is an invisible world that supports the visible world (the basis for all religion). Many rely on the power of prayer and meditative study to come to terms with the difficulties of life. Others directly solicit assistance and information from the invisible world. Throughout my life I have observed and admired my mother's ability to face joy and tragedy. An observant Roman Catholic, she is guided and soothed by objects that include rosary beads, statuary, prayer cards, religious medals depicting saints, crucifixes, and a Bible. These things lend her strength, faith, hope, guidance, forgiveness, and resolve. There are parallels in other cultures.
As I look upon the objects included in this category of the exhibition, I find myself in awe of these powerful expressions of community belief systems. Shown are three examples of power figures from three different cultures (Baule, Kongo, and Songye) used to protect the community from evil and evildoers. Their intentional ugliness is employed to frighten evil away, a ploy that can be recognized in other cultures. Also displayed are two spirit spouse figures from the Akan culture and the Forehead Mask (Banda), all of which are works invoking protection. A spirit spouse is similar to the Western notion of a guardian angel. The Sounding Horn calls for aid from the dead. The Ifa Diviner's Box helps a seer choose the story that will be most helpful in solving a problem.
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