AFGELAST Lezing prof. John Mack (University of East Anglia): 'Baskets of Wisdom': An Aequatorial African complex

17-04-2018 van 20:00 tot 22:00
Jozef Plateauzaal, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent
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Vicky Van Bockhaven - African Languages and Cultures
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Due to unforeseen circumstances the lecture by Prof. Mack will be reported to a later date.

John Mack is Professor in World Art Studies and Museology at the University of East Anglia. Prior to his current position he was Keeper of the Ethnographic Collections at the British Museum.        

Baskets contain. They may also conceal.  And, at the same time, they can be conceived of as protecting or preserving.  Yet, this triple function of containing, secreting and protecting, which is often associated with basketry constructions in an enlarged sense, is by no means a mundane or domestic role.  In many cases, its purposes are expanded to include the containment of what might be called ‘fundamental things’. In these roles what various basketry constructions may be conceived as containing are forms of secret knowledge. And in some parts of Equatorial Africa this is directly acknowledged in the use of indigenous terms for them which translate as ‘baskets of wisdom’ or some similar phrase. This is not to say that these are an exclusive role accorded only to baskets; however, it is one which is sufficiently frequent as to impel questions as to which of their characteristics – physically, metaphorically or in mythic narrative – sustain this significance.

This lecture explores the contexts in which basketry comes to have such primordial importance amongst peoples in the equatorial forests of the African continent, principally in Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.   How is its agency in this domain secured?  What is it about baskets that make them an appropriate vehicle of fundamental cultural significance?

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