Bowen's Beautiful Blog (Page)

Yoruban seems very ritualistic in nature. It's primary purpose seems one other than to "entertain". There is a strong emphasis on ancestry. I would like us to zoom in on the Egungan mask work as well as the Praise poetry. By picking apart these individual artistic forms (there are some great examples of this online) we may grow to a fuller understanding of the significance of Yoruban performance. We are also constantly considering "is this art?" "Why?" "What purpose does it serve?" Excited to move forward.

11/20
Exhausted. No longer capable of coherent thought. Desperately need Thanksgiving break. Thoughts on the project have not shifted much. Hopefully the group will be able to narrow down our points today. This topic is so broad and our annotated bibliography scales a wide span of topics. Egungan mask is a springboard, but I am far more interested in the Yoruba people as a whole. What is unique that can be expressed about the Yoruba people through these art forms?

#3
Thought I uploaded this, but it was saved as a draft. What follows is my planned outline for the presentation day. I decided to go a different route than the one I laid out originally. "Is this art?" is a bit to heady of a question and a bit too broad to fit into 4 minutes. I was inspired to go into a new direction by an article I read by Margaret Drewel. Her introduction highlights some truly interesting historiography questions and goes into the problems one faces when researching Yoruba. I discussed the problem of translating words.

START HERE
Yoruban history is mostly comprised of oral tradition written down after the 17th century. Oyo empire rose to power in the 15th century and still held fair amounts of influence through the 17th century.

Let's start here. Our focus of study is the Pre-Oyo empire, the period of time prior to the 15th century.

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Before we begin our research we need to hit this point one more time.
Between then, and when much of Yoruba history began to be recorded, an empire rose and fell. This had major implications for the region and how the histories were recorded. We must try not to let this be a limiting factor, but should acknowledge this when researching and discussing. It makes things trickier

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The focus of this presenation, which we have discussed extensively, is Egungan mask ritual.
This term is not ours. It has been found everywhere in our research. Is this term accurate? Is it fair? Difficult to say. Here's a quote from Margaret Drewal.
Quote

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Fancy words, but I think the last two sentences highlight an important point.
Perhaps the best way to highlight this is with an example. The word Orun in Yoruban has roughly been translated in various ways as the "other world" or "heaven". However, this doesn't adequately represent the concept within the Yoruban perspective. It's more than just a shoddy translation. Orun isn't "heaven but kind of different", it has completely unique connotations to the Yoruba people.(Next section a bit of a joke) If we were referring to greek mythology, to say that Hades equates to Hell is a vastly miss placement of the likenesses. One is a fairly exclusive Christian term that referred to a land of eternal punishment for your earthly sins and was a universally feared place. In Hades, you put a coin under your tongue to get in, you drank from a river to forget everything you knew in your past life, and, according to Greek myth, some people get to come back. Also, unless a god really liked you, everyone went to Hades. JUMP HERE? Hades held a very different place in the minds of the Greek people, and we can at best make informed assumptions on what that might be. HOWEVER, our Western, English, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic word list limits our vocabulary (so to speak).

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The "ritual" part of the "Mask ritual" is translated from the Yoruba term etutu. What connotations do we have when we hear the word ritual? Sally Moore has written a fairly reasonable guess.

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"Rituals represent 'fixed social reality' and 'stability and continuity acted out and re-enacted.' She continues, 'by dint of repetition they deny the passage of time, the nature of change, and the implicit extent of potential indeterminacy in social relations'".

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This however, seems fairly contradictory to what we have just heard. Yoruba mask ritual has evolved with the time, and continues to evolve. It is an old structure that inserts current topics into the frame. Indeed, we can only make assumptions that the mask rituals we see today closely resemble those rituals that were present in the Pre-Oyo empire so long ago. So when did we start using the term ritual? Well that would be when the histories began to be writ down by Europeans post 17th century. Thus, our material of research is derived from a chain of materials that go all the way back to the 17th century and may very well have been founded on misconstrued, likely European ideas about the term "ritual". This is one of several challenges historiographers, and certainly brings up the argument of oral history over written history. Whew.
That's all. Thank you.

#4
Presentation day. We were group number one. Hooray for us. This was unsettling, but not all together horrible. People are usually attentive to the first group in a series of presentations. The presentation went fairly well. Our points were clear, and the class seemed at least moderately responsive to our work. Unfortunately, my fellow group members, as a whole, took a little more time than we'd planned. Being the last one to present, I was cut off before I reached the conclusion. We should have timed our piece more closely, but we had observed the 20 minute mark as guidelines, and hadn't anticipated that Will would actually cut us off. Oh well. Our bad.

The other groups collectively had moments that worked quite well, and moments that didn't work so well.

The Spanish group had a dialogue that was clear enough (Minus the plot of the play that was discussed. That made no sense at all.), however, their presentation slides were, in my mind, rather poorly used. They placed paragraphs of information on nearly every slide, and I eventually stopped reading them because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to follow what they were saying. It's hard to read and listen at the same time. However, their presentation over all was clear enough.

The Tudor group was no doubt the strongest of the three other groups that presented. They alternated talking between group members (assuring that no one person's research was cut off. hint hint). They also created a narrative that was interesting and really easy to follow. This was further enhanced by their funny and interesting powerpoint, which mostly functioned as clear and simple visual aide. If I were to enhance our presentation I would apply some of these elements.

The Baroque group started out promising. The first presenter was humorous and fairly clear, but he seemed to meander as he continued to talk. The next presenters contributions rather confused me, because it rather failed to flow with the first presenter's information. However, their visual aide was fairly easy to follow, and the narrative gained clarity towards the end.

Overall, I'm fairly happy with the work my group did, and I think we took the challenge of going first in stride. Good work all.

2 Comments

Bowen,

Your initial blog post well expresses the numerous questions and observations you make upon first viewing Yoruban performance. The goal of this journal is to document how you begin to make sense of these initial impressions and deepen your understanding of a performance genre that initially appears completely different to you. I understand your exhaustion leading up to break, but I am looking for evidence of a more detailed understanding of what you're studying, and more nuance in the questions that you're asking as this journal progresses. Look at the things you bring up in your second blog post and think about how you might talk about them a little more thoroughly - if you bibliography is so broad, for instance, what books look most promising? Which have you read? Were they helpful? Based on your initial research, how can you strategize for the future?

Attempt to find this more detailed conversation.

Bryan

Grade: 80%

Bowen,

Your further blog updates showed that you were doing solid research and being attentive to the other groups, but I'd like to see you take some more time at self-reflection. What did you think that you did well in your research? What insights surprised you? What did you gain from doing the work?

As you look at these other groups presenting (or, I should say, as you reflect on them now), rather than think about the style, try to think more about the substance of what they said. What argument were they trying to present? Were you swayed by it? Did it interest you? These are the things that Will and I were grading on for the presentations.

Bryan

Final Grade: 85%

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