The Historical and Cultural Page of The Baules of Cote D’Ivoire

The Baule ethnic society is found in the central part of Cote d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast. They can speak Asante Twi because they were once part of the Asante kingdom. Very little is known concerning the social and economic life of the Baules but they may have been ruled by kings and had a traditional ruling council as they were influenced by the Asantes. They also engaged in farming and gave credence to art as a profession. Training was offered to trainees in the form of apprenticeship. They believed in God whom they called Alura. They believed in lesser gods or divinities and ancestors. The Baule also believed that they lived in heaven with their marriage partners before coming to the earth.

The notable art form of the Baules is sculpture. They used production techniques such as casting using the lost wax technique and wood carving. The statues included ancestral figures and masks used in ancestral rites. They also made figures of bush spirits. They also practiced jewellery in the form of beadwork. Carving was a famous art in the region because of a great demand for statuettes. Owing to the belief that they had concerning their former life in heaven with their spouse, they commission a sculptor to sculpt a likeness of the spouse as he/she sees in a dream. The carving was done by only professionals who carve from hardwood. The finished work is dipped in mud or black juice and polished.

Their ancestral figures had many naturalistic aspects of human anatomy. The figures are slightly tall and slim with parts of the face decorated with cicatrices. The legs are rounded and bent at the knees while the thighs are short with the feet flat and closed together. The artist freely exaggerates the neck, head and calf muscles which are forms of idealization or beauty in the Baule culture. The arms rest gently on the stomach. The hair is high, carefully structured and covered with linear patterns. The neck is long and cylindrical with a small mouth. The eyes which are semi-circular in shape are usually closed. The eyebrows are emphatically curved to join the downward flow of the nose.

The bush spirits were short, horrible looking and sometimes deformed. However, the figures representing them were in the form of beautiful, ideal human beings because it is believed that the spirits would be offended by ugly figures and would refuse to work for the owner. The ancestral figures are used in ancestral cults and rites where the ancestors are venerated. The bush spirit figures were used to seek special favours from the bush spirits in solving their problems and in curing all forms of sicknesses.

The Meaning and Hidden Ideologies of The French Renaissance

Renaissance was a term used by scholars in the 19th century to describe the activities of European artists and intellectuals from the 14th century to the 16th century. Renaissance is a French word, meaning “rebirth “or “rinascinento” in Italian. The term can also be explained as the ‘Re-awakening’ or the ‘Renewal of knowledge’. The period of the renaissance was an age of exploration, experimentation, self-realization and the opening up of new worlds not only in the artistic sense but imagination and creativity. People began to think, reason and analyze every aspect of words, deeds, and conventions of rules of society. It was indeed a period of enlightenment of the world.

The period brought about a new attitude to life characterized by curiosity, research and freedom of thought which was falsely opposed by the church. The Roman Catholic Church in Rome and its surrounding cities in Italy had conventions or laid down principles which they thought should not be broken. The church dominated every aspect of the lives of people and conscripted knowledge. They exploited the people in terms of their money and their property due to their ignorance. It was during this period in man’s history where people like Martin Luther started to question the conventions imposed by the church. They researched into science, astronomy, art and philosophy and other proposed theories of the world.

Before the Renaissance period, knowledge was restricted to the rich in the society who could purchase the books which were hand written by the learned Monks and Nuns of the church. However, knowledge became abundant and cheaper after the invention of the first printing press by a German called Johannes Gutenberg. This paved the way for people to uncover the deceit of the church bringing about social unrest, political conflict, religious conflict and several forms of warfare.

Renaissance, emerged as a distinct style in Italy in about 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, art, government, theology, literature, music and science and other aspects of society. Renaissance art is perceived as a “rebirth” of ancient traditions that took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity in Greek and Roman arts and culture. However, these traditions were transformed by the absorption of recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by application of contemporary scientific knowledge. Renaissance art spread throughout Europe, affecting both artists and their patrons with the development of new techniques and new artistic sensibilities. Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early modern age.

The Culture and Arts of The Swazi and Baluba Ethnic Societies

The Swazi live in Swaziland at the southeastern part of South Africa. They speak the Bantu language which is closely related to the Zulu language. The Swazi is part of the San’s people who depend on farm produce such as millets and other grains for sustenance. Their main occupation is farming with a large section of the people engaged in pastoral farming precisely the rearing of cattle. Owing to this they also produce milk from the cows reared. Their farmlands are ruled by chiefs and his cabinet of experienced elders. Women are greatly respected in their communities. The Swazi believed in ancestors. The ancestors were greatly respected and highly honoured.

The people practiced Sculpture and painting. They sculpted milk pots and mural paintings of women. The milk pots were used for storing milk. They were also used in rituals connected with milking and testing of milk before it is used or sold. The milk produced is first tested by chiefs and other authorized persons during the rituals. It is believed by the people that when the milk is tested by the chief, he bestows blessing on it and help in avoiding any spiritual attacks.

The mural paintings of women were used in expressing their ethnic identity as a people and in decorating their homes and shrines. A typical example is the Ndebele paintings. They also made sculptural figures to represent their ancestors which were used in ancestral venerations and rites.

On the other hand, the Baluba live in the eastern and southern parts of Democratic Republic of Congo. They are farmers who practice the matrilineal system of inheritance. Women play significant roles in decision making and politics. They are noted for the practice of several arts. Art was regarded high and artists were greatly respected and given political positions in the society. They believed in ancestors and lesser gods.

The Balubas practiced various forms of art such as sculpture, pottery and weaving. They sculpted a lot of ancestral figures which were predominantly females because of the immense respect they had for women. They wove various fabrics in cotton and made several pots, bowls etc. The ancestral figures were used in ancestral veneration with the numerous female sculptures with the aim of highlighting the important roles women played in their social, religious, economic, cultural and political lives of the people. The pots and bowls were for storage purposes and in performing household chores. The female figures served as fertility charms for the women to bear numerous children which were a compulsory duty in the society.

Their female sculptural forms bore these characteristics. The postures included standing and kneeling figures supported with small stools. The head is exaggerated and covered with an elaborate hairstyle. The forehead is protruded with the nose elongated. The breast is conical, relatively small and points downwards. The figures carry bowls signifying that women are supposed to be hard working. The form shows a lot of roundness and curves symbols of femininity tenderness. The legs of the kneeling figures are elongated and folded back to form a long and stable base for the big bowls held between the knees with an elongated torso and abdomen symbolizing fertility. The abdomen and the back of the figures were decorated various scarifications in high relief. The surface of the figures is smoothened and highly polished.