The Sudanese lyre: an object with many voices

British Museum blog

By David Francis, Interpretation Officer

Of all the objects I’ve worked with in my eight years as an interpretation officer at the British Museum, the Sudanese lyre is perhaps the most intriguing. Made in northern Sudan, probably in the late19th century, it would have been played by a male musician at weddings and harvest festivals as part of a small band. It may also have been used in zār ceremonies – healing rituals involving spirit possession that are still practised in Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia today.

Just as fascinating as the actual instrument are the coins, beads, shells and, as yet, unidentified objects that are attached to the lyre. In a sense, the Sudanese lyre is both a single object and an assemblage of many objects each with their own story to tell. In this blog I talk with some of the curators at the British Museum and the Royal…

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Irini Gonou @ Art International Istanbul 2015, with Nitra gallery

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“…Irini Gonou returns to her inner self, by looking for her own personal “garden”; a garden as a refuge, a “sheltered and secure” retreat; a private place away from the world, an inner space. Sculptures and assemblages of textile, text and talisman, are Gonou’s retreat. The element of nature is evident as the works are made of herbal dyed cotton and linen textiles, antique Turkish and Chinese silks and inscribed reeds are the common place of the widespread belief of supernatural protection. In many cultures script is believed to have a magical power and the written word is thought to provide protection and through the reproduction of these beliefs Gonou manages to create a three dimensional space in which her being is safe, calm and can be regenerated. The calligraphy and the writing have a key role to her work, as “their deep consciousness of the religious, moral and magical association that words have accumulated over the centuries” as Mark Mazower notes about her work. Last but not least, she explores also the concept that cloth is believed to be a living thing, it records life, so the notion of memory and the passing of time is insinuated through the element of the thread‐ the weaving of the past, the present and the future. In Gonou’s work there is nothing that could be considered as a signifier for technology, as the artist agrees with Heidegger that technology is often an enemy to contemplation…”

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Curated by: Aliki Tsirliagkou

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Χ Ο R Κ Ι

la performance musico-magique de Katerina Fotinaki

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D’où date la Sorcière? Je dis sans hésiter:
des temps du desespoir.
Jules Michele
 
I am wondering, when did witchcraft begin
And Ι answer with certitude : at the same time that desperation did.
Jules Michelet

“…Il y a quelques années, il m’a fallu digérer un cocktail indigeste de chagrin d’amour et de trahison amicale. Et tout ça, en plus avec ma jambe cassée. L’immobilité du corps ainsi que celle de l’âme m’ont poussé à faire une espèce de convocations improvisées sans vraie destination :

des petits extraits de poèmes que je répétais interminablement, comme une prière. Mais une prière adressée à qui?

Il s’agissait très probablement d’une bouée de sauvetage qu’a inventée d’instinct la tête pour ne pas sombrer dans la folie. Car cette nature mystique de manière souterraine et arbitraire a agit comme un substitue d’espérance.Quelques années plus tard j’ai lu des choses concernant la magie en Grèce antique.

J’étais très étonnée de constater des similitudes entre ce que je venais de lire
et mon experience personnelle.

Est-ce qu’il se pourrait que la Poésie et la Musique fonctionnent comme un rituel personnel et atypique pour “exorciser” le mal?

Et par consequent un  a n t i d o t e  au désespoir ?

Chacun répond pour soi-même.

Nous, nous posons juste la question”.

“…Some years ago I was forced to.. swallow a bitter cockteil  of frustrated love and friendship betrayd, all at the same time. And on top of that, having my leg in plaster cast!
This sudden state of immobility, both of my body and soul urged me to invent some kind of impromptu invocations
that had no actual addressee : dispersed words, or small extracts of poems that I would constantly repeat, for hours, as if in prayer. But in this case.. a prayer to whom?
In fact, it was the only solution that my mind could find- instinctively reacting – in order to save itself from madness.
Because this unconscious and totally arbitrary mystic sense of this experience acted as a substitute of hope.

Many years later, when I was reading about witchcraft in ancient Greece, I was stunned when I realised that there was some similarity between this and my own experience.

So can actually Music and Poetry be used as a kind of atypical personal ritual so that someone “exorcises” bad things?

And in this case act as an a n t i d o t e  to desperation?

Everyone will give their own answer.

We are just posing the question”.

 THE TEAM:
Musique – Selection des textes : Katerina Fotinaki
Voix off (conjurations) : Aglaia Pappas
Artwork : Irini Gonou, Miltos Pantelias
Historical consultant: Giorgos Andrikopoulos
Mise en scène : Fotini Papachristopoulou
Music – Selection of texts : Katerina Fotinaki
Spells’ voice over : Aglaia Pappas
Artwork : Irini Gonou, Miltos Pantelias
Consultation historique : Giorgos Andrikopoulos

Direction : Fotini Papachristopoulou

COMPOSITIONS :
Jay Hawkins, Leonard Cohen, Violent Femmes,
Guillaume de Machaut, Henry Purcell, Georges Aperghis,
Loudovikos of Anogia,  Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis,
Katerina Fotinaki
TEXTS:
Orphic Hymns, Ancient greek spells, Sappho
T.S. Eliot, William Blake, Alfred Tennyson,
Od. Elytis, K. Palamas, D. Solomos
Première : Athènes – Mardi 3 Novembre – Théâtre Porta
Fist show to come : ATHENS – Tuesday 3rd November – Porta Theater
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Le Village du Tous Ensemble, les Proches et les Lointains

Un peu d'amour et d'eau fraîche...

Dans la cuisine commune, Sara, une jeune femme afghane de dix-sept ans, qui n’a plus rien d’une adolescente, prépare un kabuli palaw, un plat traditionnel à base de riz, de carotte et de fruits secs. Ses deux grands frères jouent les assistants, vont chercher de l’eau, nettoient les casseroles, cherchent la passoire et s’amusent de me voir prendre des photos et noter la recette de ce grand classique de Kabul, leur ville. Une heure de tourisme gastronomique, avec des amis.

Cuisine

En arrivant à Pikpa, ils ne pensaient y passer qu’une nuit ou deux. En réalité, il a fallu une dizaine de jours pour que la famille obtienne ses papiers, c’est à dire l’autorisation de rester trente jours sur le territoire grec. Ils ont tous les trois moins de vingt-cinq ans, parlent un anglais impeccable, sont pleins d’espoir pour l’avenir et pleins d’attention pour leur mère qui est atteinte d’un…

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Au village : pourquoi les femmes ne dépassent jamais les hommes sans leur présenter cet objet quand elles veulent l’utiliser ?

QUAND LE VILLAGE SE REVEILLE

DSC_0887Fabriqué par les potières à partir de l’argile pétri et brûlé, cet ancien ustensile de cuisine est utilisé dans la préparation de certains repas avec du riz, du fonio, du haricot, du mil comme par exemple pour faire le couscous. On le trouve encore dans les localités rurales, mais il est remplacé en ville par un autre fabriqué par les artisans avec du fer avec une forme beaucoup plus aplatie.

Ces repas cités, dans leur préparation ont besoin de la vapeur d’eau. Pour cela, on met du riz, du fonio, du haricot ou de la poudre de mil dans cet objet.  On le place sur un canari (mais aujourd’hui, une marmite) placé sur le feu et contenant de l’eau bouillante produisant de la vapeur. Avec un tissu fin bien propre et mouillé, on remplit le joint entre la marmite et cet objet pour empêcher la vapeur de s’échapper. Ainsi, la…

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Whispering Reeds in Woven Gardens

Protective cloth with inscribed reeds

“Whispering Reeds in Woven Gardens” is an exhibition of the visual artist Irini Gonou composed of seven in situ ritual installations integrating the restorative elements of the Islamic garden with the protective power of the written word in Arabic script.

“As a jannah or a bustan the Islamic garden and its archetype of paradise is nature in its tamed state and the serenity and harmony this provides. The arrangement and structure of my woven gardens – with articulated fields of plant-imbued fabrics irrigated with water-like indigo blue areas – are a reference to the Islamic garden paradigm. In the sequel, cotton, linen or silk cloths are dyed naturally with roots, barks, leaves or flowers and filled with their protective qualities. I explore the concept that in many traditional societies and cultures cloth is believed to be a living thing, it records life.  And, as a storyteller narrates, filled with signs and permeated with plants, it can be a messenger emitting healing and protective essences.  

 In Islamic culture script is considered to have magical force and the written word provides supernatural protection.

 My whispering reeds – which are both ornamental amulets and writing implements – are inscribed in Arabic with the verses of the Syrian poet Adonis, offering in this way their protection through art”.

The exhibition will take place on October 2014 at the Imaret and at the Mohammed Ali Museum in Kavala, Greece

1st International Conference

Aspects of Islamic gardens: Multi-meanings of paradise”

Organized by I.M.A.R.E.T. (Institute Mohamed Ali for the Research of the Eastern Tradition) and EMATTECH (Eastern Macedonia & Thrace Institute of Technology).

http://islamic-gardens.imaret.org.gr/

http://www.imaret.org.gr/index.php/activitymenu/mohamedmuseummenu

http://irinigonou.gr/

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Death, the great equaliser: Christianity on the Middle Nile

British Museum blog

Julie Anderson, Assistant Keeper (curator), British Museum

A herd of Sudanese camels (photograph A herd of Sudanese camels (photograph J. Anderson)

People are often surprised to discover that two of the largest Christian kingdoms in the medieval world were in Sudan in northeast Africa. Ibn Selim Al-Aswani, an Arab traveller, visited Sudan in the 10th century AD and described the region north of Old Dongola, capital of the medieval kingdom of Makuria, situated roughly 750 kilometres upstream of Aswan Egypt, as an area of ‘about thirty villages, with beautiful buildings, churches and monasteries, many palm-trees, vines, gardens, cultivated fields and broad pastures on which one can see camels’.

Further to the south, Soba East, capital of the medieval kingdom of Alwa, located near modern-day Khartoum, was said to have ‘fine buildings and large monasteries, churches rich with gold and gardens’. This conjures up quite a romantic picture of medieval Sudan and provides us with an insight…

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