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HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

Introduction and Reaction:

When I first saw the Seated Couple, a wooden sculpture of Dogon tribal art, several details caught my attention. I noticed the differences in headpieces, the placement of jewelry and accessories, the presence of breasts on one figure, and what appeared to be male genitalia on the other. 

The gesture of the man’s arm around the woman conveyed affection to me. I immediately associated the artwork with an African couple due to the size and shape of their lips and eyes. The vertical and horizontal lines on their faces and bodies seemed like tattoos or tribal markings that intrigued me. 

HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

Examining the back of the sculpture, I felt a heartwarming connection seeing the baby clinging to its mother’s back, resonating with my own experience as a mother. I was curious about what was depicted on the man’s back and eager to learn more about it. 

Throughout this paper, I will explore the historical and artistic context of the Seated Couple, analyze its interpretation through various lenses, and reflect on how my initial reaction changed after gaining a deeper understanding of the culture. 

Describe and Discover:

The Seated Couple is a carved wooden sculpture that portrays a couple seated on a bench. The artist, although unidentified, is believed to be a member of the Dogon tribe. This artwork is said to have been created during the 18th and early 19th centuries in Mali. 

The use of metal to represent accessories and jewelry is noteworthy, and it is interesting to observe that men and women in the Dogon culture have piercings in different locations for distinct reasons. 

HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

By looking through the lens of their culture, it becomes apparent that the sculpture represents not just any couple but a married couple within the Dogon community. When examining the back of the artwork, a quiver is attached to the man’s back, while the woman carries a baby on hers. 

Research on the Dogon culture reveals that they consider a couple to be officially married only after the birth of their first child. The sculpture’s dark, smooth, and waxed wood reflects the typically dark and rich complexion found among the Dogon people. 

The nearly equal height of the man and woman suggests parallelism, and the presence of the quiver and child further symbolizes the importance of procreation and maintaining family stability. In this culture, the partnership between men and women allows for functionality, with men providing protection and women nurturing the children. HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

Interpret and Connect:

The Seated Couple artwork embodies traditional gender roles and reflects cultural norms that can be supported or challenged based on different belief systems, family dynamics, customs, and communities. It has the potential to elicit both positive and negative opinions.

It is essential to acknowledge that this “traditional” family dynamic sustains Dogon societies, particularly in environments where resources were scarce. While some may view this sculpture as a beautiful representation of traditional values, others may perceive it as oppressive or limiting in terms of what men and women are capable of. 

Religious beliefs and practices also play a role in interpreting the artwork. As a Christian, my own interpretation was influenced by the emphasis on traditional gender roles within my faith, where men are encouraged to provide and women to nurture. However, in my family, we approach these roles with kindness and flexibility. 

HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

Traditional roles do not restrict men from expressing profound love for their wives and children, nor do they prevent women from contributing to the household’s provisions. As I researched the Dogon people, I realized that the way we live out our similar faiths can differ based on our geographic location and the circumstances we face. 

This understanding helped me recognize the biases I may have held while examining the artwork. I found myself contemplating various aspects depicted in the sculpture, such as the husband’s perception of his wife beyond her role as a bearer of children, the prevalence of multiple wives in Dogon culture, the extent to which the woman is allowed to work or contribute to the family’s resources, and whether the patriarchal theme portrayed is oppressive or indicative of a true partnership. 

Different cultures may interpret the man’s arm around the woman differently, with some perceiving it as a display of affection and others viewing it as a manifestation of male possessiveness over the female. 

Similarly, the space between the seated couple can be interpreted as a sign of respectful distance or a lack of deeper meaning, depending on cultural norms regarding physical closeness between genders. HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

Through this reflection, I realized that I had approached the artwork with certain biases stemming from my upbringing, faith, race, and customs that I wished to pass down to my family. I had initially viewed the sculpture through a positive lens based on the beauty and balance experienced by previous generations in my family. 

Conclusion:

Examining the Seated Couple sculpture proved to be an enriching experience. By comparing different perspectives and worldviews, individuals can better appreciate the richness of diversity and gain insights into various ways of life and problem-solving. 

This exploration enhances the human experience as a whole, allowing for the sharing of family dynamics, community practices, faith, beliefs, and customs in a way that fosters understanding rather than judgment. It became clear that our own backgrounds and biases shape the way we perceive art and cultural artifacts. 

By acknowledging and challenging these biases, we open ourselves to a broader understanding of different cultures and histories, promoting empathy and respect for diverse perspectives. HUM 1150 Assessment 2 Comparative Analysis and Reflection

References:

Dogon Peoples. (n.d.). Figure: Seated couple [Wood, metal]. The Met Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, United States. Retrieved from 

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/310325

Wikle, T. (2016). Living and spiritual worlds of Mali’s Dogon people. Focus on Geography, 59. Retrieved from 

https://doi.org/10.21690/foge/2016.59.2f


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