Wood; H. 3 5/8 x W. 18 1/4 in. (9.2 x 46.4 cm); The Metropolitan Museum of Art
It’s funny how through life you can be completely uninterested or “unenamored” with an aspect of life, but then suddenly become infatuated with said aspect of life. I remember when I was little, I refused to do arts and crafts with my mom, who was constantly trying to rope my sister and I into crafty activities to keep us busy; whether it was creating beaded friendship bracelets, finger painting, or knitting. Come to think of it, I’m cracking into this huge smile because it’s so ironic that I disliked arts and crafts so strongly, but now art and art history are my whole heart and soul. How things can change.
The same goes for me and cooking. Throughout my whole life I have never, ever been interested in cooking. I’d rather do all the dishes and cleaning up than the cooking or baking process itself. “Mom, how am I gonna survive in college with no cooking skills??,” I’d always pester my mom through high school. But whenever she’d be in the act of cooking, I’d feel no interest or excitement whatsoever. I hated to sound like one of those lazy girls who couldn’t cook for herself :P In summer 2011 I finally learned how to boil water. Don’t laugh— but it was a huge step for me!
Suddenly, this summer 2012, the cooking/baking bug bit me. Better late than never, right? xP hahah but I am so excited that it came now. I feel so proud of my ability to create a sustaining, tasty source of energy, whether it be through muffins, salads, soups, pastas, baked stuffed mushrooms, sweet potato & plantain spiced fritters, or thai peanut udon noodles. And mostly all vegan meals I’ve been making too! I’m really proud :) It’s a great feeling.. I feel grown up. It’s also kind of the type of feeling I get when creating art. So of course I adore that.
I haven’t cooked any huge, feast-type meals yet (I’m building my way up there eventually), although I have one planned for my mom’s 50th birthday next month. Creating a feast for multiple people to enjoy is an awesome goal to look forward to…
For the Dan culture of the Ivory Coast, West Africa, cooking and serving huge feasts meals is a crucial part of preparing for the arrival of masked spirits during a masquerade in the community. Women of the lineage must be able to provide food for the feasts, most often rice and sauce for the rice. It rests on the females shoulders to prepare for these masked beings; therefore the women of the society must be good at farming (the rice), organized, and seasoned cooks. The hostess of the feast is usually the most hospitable women of her lineage (as well as most often the oldest female elder). Hospitable, in my mind, meaning the most gracious, selfless, caring, open armed, kind woman. This most hospitable hostess gets to walk through the town holding a large serving spoon as a representation of her status. This woman may also be chosen as the hostess because she saw the spirit belonging to the carved spoon in a dream or vision.
This ceremonial ladle is exactly a type of spoon the hostess may use. These types of ladles are not used daily, but instead only in communal feasts for the initiation ceremonies or masquerade preparation celebrations. This hostess elder has the great honor of getting to serve everyone in the community for the celebration! This is such a great, motherly honor because she’s in control of the main sustenance of the community. Therefore, she is the nourishment which strengthens the community. The phrase “the well of life” comes to my mind.
The ”bowl section” of the spoon is in the form of a head and breasts, of sorts, and the handle of the spoon represents the hips and legs of a woman. It is a symbol associated with femininity and the women’s crucial role in preparing the food for the ceremonies. The hollowed out “bowl section” of the spoon can be seen as a womb of the woman, where the rice, or sustenance, is scooped and held for distribution, to give life and energy to others. The arch of the feet, calves, and knees is functional because it allows people to hold the handle of the spoon, while also allowing the spoon to lay down flat on a table properly.
The least I can ever hope to do in this world is be like these incredible hostesses with their ladles of honor. In the most basic interpretation, I hope to create delicious plates of treats and meals (maybe even more difficult recipes!) during this summer for my family, who supports me and lets me live the life I choose to live, which I am so, eternally grateful for. I really hope I get to continue to create yummy dishes when I get back to school after study abroad in the spring 2013 semester! And most of all, on a deeper interpretation, I hope I can “spoon” out the hospitality and love I want to receive back. I want to fill my own ceremonial ladle with heaps of laughter, smiling-til-it-hurts, and patience; overall PATIENCE. I’m filling up my spoon right now with positive thoughts before climbing into bed. I hope the spoon stays full so I can spill it out over all people and things I come into contact with tomorrow.
Since starting to take art history and studio art courses during my first year of college, I have learned to see that art isn't just art. Or at least the typical conceptual idea of "art". Art is so much more. It's sacred, it's ritual, it's being. It just is. I love it. That's what I'm trying to share here. We all get too wrapped up in life and meanings to things. What does this mean, what does that mean? It is like we NEED to understand everything. It makes us go mad. But overall, there is a sense of art, or beauty (because I think those two words can be interchangeable, at times), in all madness, chaos, or misunderstanding. In everything we initially see as BAD, horrible, or deathly is actually positive and freeing. As the JACKSONS song says, there is an "art to all this madness".