Arts of Africa

After attending several exhibits on Africa and its culture I picked one that
I found most interesting. Built around 15 B.C. the Temple of Dendur was built as
a shrine to the goddess Isis. Facing flooding issues from the Nile River it was
given to the United States and rebuilt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Standing as it did back in Egypt to some reasonable scale, the site is one of
grand status.

Upon entering the exhibit the first thing to catch my eye was the wall of
glass all along the right. The bright light of the sun shone in and lit the
enormous area around the temple. As I got closer to the temple I noticed the
hieroglyphics carved throughout the temple. Then I noticed names carved as well
and dates. As if people who came across the temple wrote their own name onto it
as graffiti. As if it was a sort of paper for them to deface it as they felt
pleased. I walked into the temple as for in as the velvet rope allowed me to and
the most obvious thing to catch my attention was written “J LIVINGSTON, JANURY
1, 1818”. Written exactly as that, misspelling and all, it dawned on me that
all these names written just a contemporary form of defacement but rather
history of its own. The names seemed to come from nations wide. Names like
Leonardo, which was written on the outer wall of the gateway facing the temple.

The hieroglyphics depict the Egyptian culture and way of living. On the right
hand side outer wall I noticed a carving of a table with objects on it, possibly
an offering to Isis herself. To me the hieroglyphics are all just pictures but
to a translator they tell stories about the two men, Pedesi and Pihor, sons of a
chieftain, who are buried at the temple.


With a river flowing around it, and the sun shining upon it, the Temple of
Dendur is by far the best exhibit of all. If some sort of translation was made
available to read and understand the hieroglyphics, then the visit would have
been more of an adventure instead of an assignment.

After a brief walk I came across the room of Nur ad Din. Coming out of
Damascus around the 1700’s the room is a replica of a room from Nur ad Din’s
home. With a water fountain setting the audio volume of flowing water for the
room, the feeling of peace comes into play. Floored with symmetric designed
marble and red velvet seating, the room was used to meditate and pray in. The
key word for the room was symmetric from the floor to the window shutters
everything was beautifully even. Unfortunately I could not get close enough to
see the pottery and didn’t understand the writings on the walls, which were
possibly phrases quoted from the Koran. The Koran was a terrific expense. Seeing
that thick book sitting on that stand open, with the words written in gold, I
realized how much importance historical artifacts play in a culture. Take the
mihrab that I saw for instance. It’s amazing sea of blue mosaic enchanted me.
Astonished by it’s craftsmanship and detailed symmetry I needed to know more
about it, and found out that a mihrab was placed in a Mosque and used to point
out the direction of Mecca. Written on the mihrab were inscriptions probably
quoting the Koran. A translation wasn’t made available.


Next up was the African Art Collection. Filled with many different types of
historic artifacts from Central Africa. It had masks and pipes, musical
instruments and much more. The one display to catch my eye was that of a wooden
sculpture of a Chokwe seated chief. Angola and the Democratic Republic of the
Congo witnessed many wealthy states. In these states art objects were created to
show the power of chiefs. This sculpture of a Chokwe chief is one of them.
Chiefs showed they’re power by staffs, ceremonial weapons, tattoos, jewelry
and chairs. This one chief is obviously showing of his status in life by his
enormous headdress and his powerful stool.

Another interesting carving I noticed was a Caryatid stool. It was a wooden
stool of a man holding up a flat surface. It was a really well carved out stool
and was used by a Luba chief. All caryatid stools were used by Luba chiefs. This
one specific stool was probably carved by Buli Master, who is one of the best
known African sculptures. The stool itself