‘This poverty is the lack of awareness of the wealth that every human being already possess. It is the poverty of alienation from who we really are that results in our hectically seeking an identity through ‘success’ or achievement and through the shallow culture of consumerism, with its emphasis on money, material possessions and the status they bring with them. It is the poverty that comes from emptying our lives of meaning.’

I thought this quote was the most powerful from the article. I find it sad that our lives now our so defined by what we possess and how it is this that gives us status and security in society. 

‘We see before us the paradox of the wealth of the poor, the power of the powerless, and the wisdom of the uneducated’. This is a beautiful outlook; most people nowadays take pity on those who have less than us, and for good reason, but it was very enlightening to read how those who don’t have much material wealth, almost make up for it with their sense of self-worth and the powerful cultural connections (or social glue) they feel in their society. In our society we are not so defined by our cultural feelings, it is more about ‘making something of oneself’ and this leads to a very competitive culture i believe. ‘The wisdom of the uneducated’ is a remarkable idea; one that conveys humility and companionship. Qualities our society lacks.


Igbo Ijele Mask

The Igbo Ijele Mask appears every 25 years and is a reflection of grandeur and achievement. It can be up to 6 metres tall and is visually amazing; it has elements of man, the supernatural, and animals and the forest. It is a collection of prestigious art and is seen as beautiful and awe-inspiring. Aniakor conveys how it is analogous to the elephant, who is the most powerful of the animal kingdom and moves with dignity and grace. I thought the imagery of it being compared to the guinea fowl whose feather, however hard it is rained on, cannot lose its specks, was really cool.

It is therefore ‘ultimately an artistic projection of the Igbo ideal of achievement… (and) authority’, this shows what is considered to be the accomplishment of the Igbo people. They strive towards this end of authoritarian, efficacious beauty, and the mask reflects this desire.

Another striking aspect of the mask is how it supposed to dramatize parallels with the living and the dead and to create this idea of a continuum between the two.  It is about not forgetting their dead ancestors and about unifying their tribe with pride and a sense of happiness through their past inclinations.

It was interesting how they had an orchestra and that the mask would move and then stop in order to create anticipation for its audience, it is a most revered occasion and was really interesting to read about! 


Maasai, Spencer

The most interesting part of this essay I found was that not only do the elders regard power and wealth as important/successful but also that knowledge and wisdom play a huge part in the transition to elderhood.

The Murran seem to be quite decadent and celebratory in their gathering, they will be ‘sharing in everything’ and take part in ‘group indulgence and adolescent exuberance’. It seems like their society has created a time for the ‘playboy image’ and it is all about having the ‘privileges of Murranhood’; they gain the rights to flaunt themselves and wear clothes which younger men are denied. Yet the really interesting part of this is that those clothes become discarded once the men reach a certain age. In this way, their society can almost be compared to Plato’s ideal state, in the sense that, knowledge and wisdom are acquired through age; it is about developing one’s self and becoming wise through time and practice. Yes the Murran are the warriors who will protect their tribe and homes, but also it is almost as if they are given this stage to get some immature pleasures out of the way so when they get older and move into elderhood they will have the knowledge and understanding to be able to control the Maasai (analogous to Plato’s philosopher kings who have reached the age, understanding and wisdom to rule the city). Thus, ‘Murranhood, seen by boys as an immediate ambition, is treated by elders as merely a step towards a further goal’, once the Murran reach the age of the elders, they will no longer desire the fallible luxuries they once did in their youth, the ultimate goal seems to be to become a guardian of Maasai culture. There seems to be a ‘radical shift of orientation from peer group to self-interest and a return to a concern for herd and family as they marry and settle down’. Although this does not mean that they become totally introverted, they still have social, ‘gregarious’ occasions but only when ‘conditions permit’. I just thought that it was interesting that although being a success in the Maasai is about wealth (in the sense of how many cattle and children one has) but that it is also about growing up into an age of maturity and wisdom where one is no longer ‘tainted by their youthfulness’.


If the Dogon

If the Dogon

The most striking part of the article lies in the Dogon’s belief on higher powers and the notion of truth. The Dogon have two parts to their universe; the Nommo, which seems to be the good and gives order and reason to society, and the Pale Fox who seems to be omniscient (he can supposedly tell the future after his incest with his mother), omnipotent (he can take life away at any moment with the use of secret poisons) and shady creature (characteristics of the Abrahamic Gods perhaps?). What struck me here is the similarity to Christianity; Douglas says how the Pale Fox fell from grace by an initial act of disobedience, analogous in some respects to Lucifer, the fallen angel who fell from grace to become an evil presence in the world, also representing ‘enigma and disorder’. Furthermore, this link increases in stature when we hear how the Pale Fox seems to be associated with truth; in the Garden of Eden the serpent tempts Eve into eating from the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent’s persuasion techniques including how wonderful it is to have knowledge of truth and being.

Furthermore, Douglas says that ‘revelation comes with dreams in the night’, in Islam, the Angel Jibril appears to Mohammed in Mount Nur during a dream and tells him to go and proclaim the word of God to the world. With very little research I discovered that in fact a small minority of the Dogon follow Chrisitianity and also Islam. An interesting link, could word slowly have spread over and helped the Dogon form their own religious ideas.