PRIMITIVE - - Friday, March 27, 2015
Source: Be Primitive
|What is considered timeless female beauty? Do we look to the Renaissance, or perhaps the ancient Greeks – like with this statue Venus de Milo? This is not an easy question to answer..|
By Misaki Imagawa
What constitutes idealized feminine beauty? The answer changes based on who is doing the answering and the year the answer is taking place; but if you really want to answer the question you need only refer to artwork of the period. For example, in many early civilizations a beautiful woman was considered one who had a generous full figure. She was curvy, had wide hips and large breasts. In Ancient Egypt, women were depicted as being slender with high waists. They were portrayed as elegant, yet powerful, as beauties befitting lofty, important positions. During the Renaissance, desirable women were depicted as round, plump and pale; while in the Victorian Era, women needed to cinch their waists with impossibly tight corsets to meet different standards of beauty. Even in the last 100 years, ‘beauty’ has changed from the boyish, curve-less style of the 20s, to the hourglass figure of the 30s to 50s; then came the tall and thin 60s, the athletic supermodels of the 80s, the underweight beauties of the 90s, and finally, the slender-but-healthy, curvy-but-flat stomach beauty of the 2000s. The ideal of feminine beauty will undoubtedly change again and we will only need to look at the art being created to see where it has gone.
|Mukudj mask by the Punu people
of Gabon, Central Africa;
PRIMITIVE ID# A1500-054
|Mask by the Punu people of Gabon, Central Africa;
PRIMITIVE ID# A1200-424
What make the mukudj truly memorable are its symbolic elements. The thin slit eyes are meant to express a meditative serenity suggesting inner vision and a link to the world of the ancestors. The white color, derived from kaolin, is associated with the afterlife and spirits of the dead. Consequently, the mask is featured in funeral rites. The scarification marks on the forehead and temples are not just aesthetic marks of sensual beauty. They also contain spiritual significance. The mark is believed by some to represent the nine original clans in Punu creation myths and their various migration paths, which led to the widespread dispersal and use of the mukudj among the Punu as well as other tribes of the region.
|Mukudj masks by the Punu people depict white faces, thin slit eyes, and distinctive scarification marks;
PRIMITIVE ID# A1500-051
|The black Mukudj mask is very mysterious, considered dangerous and often associated with witchcraft;
PRIMITIVE ID# NC1407-003
The mukudj are visual representations of what can and cannot be seen. The creation of this mask represents a different point of view than the western concept of realism. In traditional African art, creating exact likenesses is not seen as a complete representation of ‘beauty.’ There is no such thing as lifelike art with striking realism. In short, in traditional African art there is no Mona Lisa. Instead, emphasis is placed on the unseen aspects present in true female beauty. While this may release a figure from having perfect physical proportions, it elevates spiritual relevance to a point far beyond most western works. In the eyes of the Punu people, beauty is more than just curvy hips or athletic bodies. Beauty is represented by inner qualities that we cannot always see. In a sense then, the mukudj is like a third eye giving us the ability to perceive true beauty beyond the physical.
|Mukudj mask by the Punu people of Gabon, Central Africa; PRIMITIVE ID# A1500-053|