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Art Through Time: A Global View

History and Memory Compare: How Can Pictorial History Support Dynastic Rule?

Memory Board (lukasa)

Memory Board (lukasa)
Artist / Origin: Luba artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Region: Africa
Date: 20th century
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Wood, beads, nails, cowrie shells
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions: H: 7 ¾ in. (19.7 cm.), W: 5 in. (12.7 cm.), D: 2 in. (5.1 cm.)
Location: Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Credit: Courtesy of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University

Lienzo of Ihuitlan

Lienzo of Ihuitlan
Artist / Origin: Mexican School, Oaxaca
Region: North America
Date: Mid-16th century
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Cotton, dyed pigments, and ink
Medium: Textiles and Fiber Arts
Dimensions: H: 97 ¾ in. (248.2 cm.), W: 62 in. (157.4 cm)
Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Credit: Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund/Bridgeman Art Library

How can pictorial history support dynastic rule?

Where rulership is dynastic, history—specifically genealogy—can be critical to the authority and stability of government. Throughout the ages, different cultures have adopted a variety of means through which to trace kinship visually, often for political purposes. In early modern Europe, there are genealogical trees. The people of many Pacific cultures have traditionally represented their ancestral lineages through carvings in their ceremonial houses. Among the Luba in Africa and the Mixtec in Mexico, lukasa and lienzos, respectively, play similar roles.

Questions to Consider

  • Both the lukasa and the lienzo have both a genealogical and a cartographic element. What do you think is the relationship between these two aspects? Why is each relevant in the context of history?
  • Lukasa can only be “read” by certain individuals who have undergone intensive training. The lienzo, in contrast, was a large work that would have been accessible to a bigger group. What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are to a history that is available to just a few specialized people or to a larger community?
  • Both of these works embody memory visually. How does this compare with the histories that you encounter in your own culture? Do you think history told visually can express the same things as history communicated verbally or orally?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


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