First two sentences of Rebecca Solnit’s latest*: “The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf—that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie. Perhaps it should be.”
* From the October Harpers, in my mailbox today but not yet on newsstands.
Even as Picasso and other modernists were taking enormous inspiration from Central African reliquary art, missionaries in Africa were calling for the relics’ destruction.
Most of the Western artists appropriating techniques from these artworks seem to have thought of them only as beautiful objects, when in fact they were much more: devotional relics that actually contained the remains of tribal leaders and their ancestors. Over the past century, their descendants have been deprived not only of their ancestors’ remains but of their traditions.
Arguably our own distance, here in a West dominated by scientific materialism, from the spirit behind reliquary isn’t as vast as we might think. In Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary, curator Alisa LaGamma writes of the lost byeri tradition of the Fang communities of Southern Cameroon (and Gabon and Equatorial New Guinea):
That these works are considered masterpieces in the West elicits both pride and frustration in the heirs apparent of this tradition, given how devoid their own lives are of concrete evidence of their heritage. While their great-grandparents held on to the relics that were then conceived of as the most sacred aspect of ancestral veneration, today that is no longer a source of solace to their descendants.
The desire for a substantive bridge to one’s past is fundamental to the human condition. In the West this has most recently manifested in attempts to draw upon DNA analysis to chart and decipher our genetic makeup.
The sculpture above, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2007 Eternal Ancestors exhibition, is sometimes called the Black Venus, and was created by a Fang artist from what is now Gabon.
I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed anything as much as I’m enjoying researching this book.
Slots! On the lottery of art, by Maximus Clarke, at Governor’s Island every weekend this month. Obviously I’m biased but obviously it is also objectively great. Best enjoyed in full.
LGBTQ* Military Stories (That Will Warm Your Heart)
I only met one other homosexual in the army. That was in Le Havre in 1917. We was on the boat coming home. I don’t know how these things work, whether it’s through conversation, or whether it’s the attitude of the individual concerned, but we seemed to come together, see. All of a sudden his arm was round my neck and this, that and the other, and then, of course, one thing led to another. And that was Phil, my affair that I had for seven years. When I come out of the army we stuck together. I was living at the time in Ilford. I rejoined the army in 1920, then I went out to Germany. I was living with Phil at the time and I saw him when I came home on leave and we kept a flat together. I was in the army because the army was my life at that period. He was somebody just like a wife to come home to…
… I don’t think our friends or family knew, yet they had a very good suspicion. Phil and I often talked about it, only he said, well, he says, as long as we love each other, what’s it to do with other people? And that was the true situation.
Text: First person account as told by Gerald, born 1892, Norfolk, England. Excerpted from Between the Acts: Lives of Homosexual Men 1885-1967, Jeffrey Weeks and Kevin Porter (eds)
(story found thanks to: www.woolfandwilde.com)
“ As the huge hunks of fudge were pried loose, they went tumbling and bouncing down the mountain, and when they reached the bottom they were picked up by cranes with grab-buckets, and the cranes dumped the fudge into open wagons – into an endless moving line of wagons (rather like smallish railway wagons) which carried the stuff away to the far end of the room and then through a hole in the wall.
“ People who are harder to love pose a challenge, and the challenge makes them easier to love. You’re driven to love them. People who want their love easy don’t really want love.
One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I need to start having people over for dinner more often! What a pleasure to cook for people!” to “I need to stop having people over for dinner all the time, they’re assholes and I need more time to write.” (Loose paraphrase!)
I think of this whenever I get in a burst of sociability.
“ It is unsafe to take your reader for more of a fool than he is.
“ Your brain is trolling you.
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