Tuesday, 6 March 2007

SONA, DESENHOS NA AREIA

Instigada pelas questoes levantadas pelo post anterior sobre os desenhos geometricos Sona, decidi fazer uma busca na internet sobre o livro "Sona, Desenhos na Areia", das Norueguesas Unni Skogen e Sonja Skaug, que tera' servido de base 'as obras desta ultima apresentadas na exposicao em curso na Galeria Celamar, 'a Ilha de Luanda, entitulada "Restituições Bantu, Versões Escandinavas". Da unica referencia que encontrei, e ainda na expectativa de mais informacoes sobre as alegacoes aqui feitas sobre o livro, reproduzo extractos de um artigo da edicao comemorativa dos 30 anos da Independencia de Angola da publicacao "Sonangol Universo", cujo link podera' encontrar mais abaixo.

As Angolans embark upon a new era of optimism, a precious part of their heritage communicating timeless realities is set for a revival

Flicking through the pages of a new book on Angola’s traditional sand drawings, the
uninitiated would never believe they were viewing an artform dating back more than 300 years. Stylish and clean cut, these mono-linear designs would surely grace the walls of any modern-day gallery or art-lover’s plush apartment. Simplistic yet stunning, they catch the eye and capture the imagination. These sand drawings, revealed in the recently published Sona - Desenhos na Areia (drawings in the sand), have gripped the artistic community and captivated those who appreciate their
straightforward charm. But perhaps more importantly, they are a key to unlocking a rich segment of Angola’s history at a time when the country is re-establishing its own identity, 30 years after its independence from Portugal.

“This is a great civilisation which we are trying to wake up,” says Unni Skogen, an anthropologist, designer and co-author of the book, sponsored by Norsk Hydro – with photographs and images beautifully recreated by ceramic artist Sonja Alvaern Skaug, which have reignited interest in this rich chapter of Angola’s culture. Sona sand drawings (Lusona) are native to the Chokwe people, of which an estimated 500,000 live in Angola’s eastern provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. Striking in their elegance, the illustrations disclose a much deeper form of communication, encompassing traditional rituals, problem-solving techniques and ancient legends of Angola. Even today, they remain a key adjunct to Angola’s age-old tradition of storytelling and a vital tool in educating local communities of the region. The drawings themselves, according to Mrs Skogen, are not dissimilar to Celtic knot designs, the geometric algorithms used by the ancient Egyptians, the mono-linear images drawn in Mesopotamia and by the Tamils in India. But she maintains that the Sona created by the Chokwe people, regarded as the main developers of the sand drawing tradition, are some of the finest around. “I believe the Chokwe people are the best in the world at this technique,” Mrs Skogen says. “Their drawings are very sophisticated. They produce beautiful designs, but they also reveal fascinating stories. This is one of the treasures of Angolan culture and finding out about this was a fantastic journey into the country’s distant heritage.”

Americo Kwononoka, the director of the National Museum of Anthropology in Luanda, is thrilled that a new window to this ancient culture has been opened. “Many people presume that African people in the past could not read or write, but this is simply not true. Methods like Sona were their way of communicating the reality,” he explains. “The word Sona in the Chokwe language means ‘letters’ – both language and literature.” But it would be wrong to consign Sona to the history books. Even today, Sona is a means of conveying the vibrant tales, myths, sayings and proverbs of the Chokwe culture and forms a cornerstone for training young men to take up their social roles at the heart of the community.

For David Alexandre Mwa-Mudiandu, a member of the Chokwe ethnic group, this is the period of intense schooling for young boys, when they are circumcised and garner all the knowledge they must have to hand before they can truly call themselves men, which is central to the Chokwe culture. Crouching down on one knee, Mr Mwa-Mudiandu slowly and methodically creates the lusona which depicts this essential ritual, known as Mukanda. Taking care not to smudge his progress, he draws his index finger in a sweeping circular motion, never once lifting it from the sand. As the illustration takes shape, Mr Mwa-Mudiandu, who works at the anthropological museum and has spent 13 years probing the messages behind his community’s stunning art, explains the legend of Xafwanandenda, the first boy to be circumcised.

The Mukanda ritual, according to Mr Mwa-Mudiandu, remains very strong and encompasses much more than abstract ideas about circumcision and fertility. “Today, the young men go to the Mukanda school to learn about life,” says Mr Mwa-Mudiandu. “In an oral way – not written – they are taught how to dance, how to behave, how to live. The school is designed to unite youth, creating a good harmony and understanding between them, and allowing them to profit from good sources of information and education.” It is during this rigorous Mukanda schooling that the boys pick up the basics of the Sona, but the true sand drawings experts, known as the Akwa kuta sona, are members of highly-esteemed elite, practising the knowledge handed down by their fathers and grandfathers before them.

The Akwa kuta sona smooth out the ground and relay the stories – be that in response to a question, an answer to a problem, a lesson, or purely for entertainment –as they slowly draw the line. “Then, when the story is finished, it is swept away as a way to protect knowledge and maintain the monopoly of the Sona tradition,” Mrs Skogen explains. However, this mystique threatens the very existence of the Sona. “It’s a great pity that most people, even the Chokwe, don’t know too much about this great art because it was passed down mainly by memory. The sand drawing experts were part of a social elite, so a select few who practised the knowledge handed it down through generations,” she says. Yet it seems the Sona sand drawings are set for a new lease of life. Thanks in part to the book, which reproduces some 60 drawings from around 350 which are known to exist, the tradition has sparked great excitement among the country’s artists and culture-lovers, many of whom were previously unaware of this fascinating
part of their history.

“I had never before heard the word Sona, but when I saw the images I realised that I had to go deeper into African art,” says artist Capitao da Silva, known as Hypo. Barely concealing his excitement, Hypo is enjoying the new inspiration unleashed by the Sona rediscovery. “These sand drawings are the people’s culture. They speak about the reality of life in Angola. They are not created or imagined. No one is dreaming this up,” he says. “The Sona is the real life of the Chokwe people.” Hypo was one of more than 120 artists who participated in a recent Norsk Hydro sponsored competition to create works of art – paintings, sculpture, collages or photographs – using the Chokwe culture as stimulation. His painting, symbolising virginity and its loss, was one of 13 images which will be part of a calendar for 2006. “Each artist gets inspiration in his own way, but all artists agree that reality is very important. There are no lies here; no-one is imagining this culture. It is very real,” he says. “This book is very precious,” he adds, hugging it to his chest, “because it is the renovation of a culture, and a populace without culture is dead.”

Mwana Pwo e Mpovo by Hypo (Capitao da Silva) is, in fact, two pictures displayed together which charmed the judges in the recent Norsk Hydro competition to find 13 images for a 2006 calendar based on the Chokwe Sona culture. The art draws on the Chokwe values of purity and chastity with the first yellow swirl depicting a virgin. She is pure, as represented by the white dots and the yellow. But by the second image, the picture is bloodied with red
and the dots are black. “I have created here my own version of a woman, not exactly the way in which the Chokwe represent women, but a new way through my own expression,” Hypo explains. “The painting is mono-linear like the
Sona and, also like the Sona, there is an important message behind it,” he says. “I created it myself, it is my own, but the inspiration comes from the Sona. If young girls are confused, this can be used as a message, advising them to hold on to their virginity. In Chokwe culture, there is a lot of respect for virgins and it is a tremendous honour to marry a virgin,” Hypo explains.

Back at the museum, Mr Kwononoka is glad to hear that this tradition looks set to live on. Though a Luanda resident for more than 25 years, he is of Chokwe origin and can speak, read and write in his mother language. “But I can’t do the drawings,” he sighs. “The fact that these rich and varied stories are not permanent adds to their mystery, but for me personally it is important that this form of our culture continues,” he says. “This form of education and communication must not die.”

SONANGOL UNIVERSO

Other Sources of Information on Sona:

Sonapolygonals Software

Ethnomathematics

Mirror Curves & Permutations

Exploratorium

Instigada pelas questoes levantadas pelo post anterior sobre os desenhos geometricos Sona, decidi fazer uma busca na internet sobre o livro "Sona, Desenhos na Areia", das Norueguesas Unni Skogen e Sonja Skaug, que tera' servido de base 'as obras desta ultima apresentadas na exposicao em curso na Galeria Celamar, 'a Ilha de Luanda, entitulada "Restituições Bantu, Versões Escandinavas". Da unica referencia que encontrei, e ainda na expectativa de mais informacoes sobre as alegacoes aqui feitas sobre o livro, reproduzo extractos de um artigo da edicao comemorativa dos 30 anos da Independencia de Angola da publicacao "Sonangol Universo", cujo link podera' encontrar mais abaixo.

As Angolans embark upon a new era of optimism, a precious part of their heritage communicating timeless realities is set for a revival

Flicking through the pages of a new book on Angola’s traditional sand drawings, the
uninitiated would never believe they were viewing an artform dating back more than 300 years. Stylish and clean cut, these mono-linear designs would surely grace the walls of any modern-day gallery or art-lover’s plush apartment. Simplistic yet stunning, they catch the eye and capture the imagination. These sand drawings, revealed in the recently published Sona - Desenhos na Areia (drawings in the sand), have gripped the artistic community and captivated those who appreciate their
straightforward charm. But perhaps more importantly, they are a key to unlocking a rich segment of Angola’s history at a time when the country is re-establishing its own identity, 30 years after its independence from Portugal.

“This is a great civilisation which we are trying to wake up,” says Unni Skogen, an anthropologist, designer and co-author of the book, sponsored by Norsk Hydro – with photographs and images beautifully recreated by ceramic artist Sonja Alvaern Skaug, which have reignited interest in this rich chapter of Angola’s culture. Sona sand drawings (Lusona) are native to the Chokwe people, of which an estimated 500,000 live in Angola’s eastern provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. Striking in their elegance, the illustrations disclose a much deeper form of communication, encompassing traditional rituals, problem-solving techniques and ancient legends of Angola. Even today, they remain a key adjunct to Angola’s age-old tradition of storytelling and a vital tool in educating local communities of the region. The drawings themselves, according to Mrs Skogen, are not dissimilar to Celtic knot designs, the geometric algorithms used by the ancient Egyptians, the mono-linear images drawn in Mesopotamia and by the Tamils in India. But she maintains that the Sona created by the Chokwe people, regarded as the main developers of the sand drawing tradition, are some of the finest around. “I believe the Chokwe people are the best in the world at this technique,” Mrs Skogen says. “Their drawings are very sophisticated. They produce beautiful designs, but they also reveal fascinating stories. This is one of the treasures of Angolan culture and finding out about this was a fantastic journey into the country’s distant heritage.”

Americo Kwononoka, the director of the National Museum of Anthropology in Luanda, is thrilled that a new window to this ancient culture has been opened. “Many people presume that African people in the past could not read or write, but this is simply not true. Methods like Sona were their way of communicating the reality,” he explains. “The word Sona in the Chokwe language means ‘letters’ – both language and literature.” But it would be wrong to consign Sona to the history books. Even today, Sona is a means of conveying the vibrant tales, myths, sayings and proverbs of the Chokwe culture and forms a cornerstone for training young men to take up their social roles at the heart of the community.

For David Alexandre Mwa-Mudiandu, a member of the Chokwe ethnic group, this is the period of intense schooling for young boys, when they are circumcised and garner all the knowledge they must have to hand before they can truly call themselves men, which is central to the Chokwe culture. Crouching down on one knee, Mr Mwa-Mudiandu slowly and methodically creates the lusona which depicts this essential ritual, known as Mukanda. Taking care not to smudge his progress, he draws his index finger in a sweeping circular motion, never once lifting it from the sand. As the illustration takes shape, Mr Mwa-Mudiandu, who works at the anthropological museum and has spent 13 years probing the messages behind his community’s stunning art, explains the legend of Xafwanandenda, the first boy to be circumcised.

The Mukanda ritual, according to Mr Mwa-Mudiandu, remains very strong and encompasses much more than abstract ideas about circumcision and fertility. “Today, the young men go to the Mukanda school to learn about life,” says Mr Mwa-Mudiandu. “In an oral way – not written – they are taught how to dance, how to behave, how to live. The school is designed to unite youth, creating a good harmony and understanding between them, and allowing them to profit from good sources of information and education.” It is during this rigorous Mukanda schooling that the boys pick up the basics of the Sona, but the true sand drawings experts, known as the Akwa kuta sona, are members of highly-esteemed elite, practising the knowledge handed down by their fathers and grandfathers before them.

The Akwa kuta sona smooth out the ground and relay the stories – be that in response to a question, an answer to a problem, a lesson, or purely for entertainment –as they slowly draw the line. “Then, when the story is finished, it is swept away as a way to protect knowledge and maintain the monopoly of the Sona tradition,” Mrs Skogen explains. However, this mystique threatens the very existence of the Sona. “It’s a great pity that most people, even the Chokwe, don’t know too much about this great art because it was passed down mainly by memory. The sand drawing experts were part of a social elite, so a select few who practised the knowledge handed it down through generations,” she says. Yet it seems the Sona sand drawings are set for a new lease of life. Thanks in part to the book, which reproduces some 60 drawings from around 350 which are known to exist, the tradition has sparked great excitement among the country’s artists and culture-lovers, many of whom were previously unaware of this fascinating
part of their history.

“I had never before heard the word Sona, but when I saw the images I realised that I had to go deeper into African art,” says artist Capitao da Silva, known as Hypo. Barely concealing his excitement, Hypo is enjoying the new inspiration unleashed by the Sona rediscovery. “These sand drawings are the people’s culture. They speak about the reality of life in Angola. They are not created or imagined. No one is dreaming this up,” he says. “The Sona is the real life of the Chokwe people.” Hypo was one of more than 120 artists who participated in a recent Norsk Hydro sponsored competition to create works of art – paintings, sculpture, collages or photographs – using the Chokwe culture as stimulation. His painting, symbolising virginity and its loss, was one of 13 images which will be part of a calendar for 2006. “Each artist gets inspiration in his own way, but all artists agree that reality is very important. There are no lies here; no-one is imagining this culture. It is very real,” he says. “This book is very precious,” he adds, hugging it to his chest, “because it is the renovation of a culture, and a populace without culture is dead.”

Mwana Pwo e Mpovo by Hypo (Capitao da Silva) is, in fact, two pictures displayed together which charmed the judges in the recent Norsk Hydro competition to find 13 images for a 2006 calendar based on the Chokwe Sona culture. The art draws on the Chokwe values of purity and chastity with the first yellow swirl depicting a virgin. She is pure, as represented by the white dots and the yellow. But by the second image, the picture is bloodied with red
and the dots are black. “I have created here my own version of a woman, not exactly the way in which the Chokwe represent women, but a new way through my own expression,” Hypo explains. “The painting is mono-linear like the
Sona and, also like the Sona, there is an important message behind it,” he says. “I created it myself, it is my own, but the inspiration comes from the Sona. If young girls are confused, this can be used as a message, advising them to hold on to their virginity. In Chokwe culture, there is a lot of respect for virgins and it is a tremendous honour to marry a virgin,” Hypo explains.

Back at the museum, Mr Kwononoka is glad to hear that this tradition looks set to live on. Though a Luanda resident for more than 25 years, he is of Chokwe origin and can speak, read and write in his mother language. “But I can’t do the drawings,” he sighs. “The fact that these rich and varied stories are not permanent adds to their mystery, but for me personally it is important that this form of our culture continues,” he says. “This form of education and communication must not die.”

SONANGOL UNIVERSO

Other Sources of Information on Sona:

Sonapolygonals Software

Ethnomathematics

Mirror Curves & Permutations

Exploratorium

4 comments:

Denudado said...

Estes desenhos são verdadeiramente fascinantes, não só pela sua beleza e pela elegância da sua feitura, mas também pelas conceitos matemáticos que lhes estão subjacentes. Estes conceitos (entre os quais se encontra o do máximo divisor comum) foram extensamente estudados e divulgados por Paulus Gerdes, um matemático nascido na Holanda e naturalizado moçambicano. Gerdes tem vindo a exprimir de forma explícita os conhecimentos matemáticos detidos de forma intuitiva pelos Cokwe (nome escrito na ortografia que julgo ser a oficial) e outros povos angolanos, como os Ngangela.

Nesta página da embaixada de Angola na Alemanha é afirmado que, no passado, o uso dos sona estava muito mais espalhado pelo actual território angolano do que agora. A página refere, nomeadamente, que o monge capuchinho Antonio Cavazzi, pouco depois de meados do séc. XVII, representou desenhos deste tipo nas aguarelas que pintou na corte da rainha Nzinga em Matamba.

Até há pouco tempo, o site da Associação dos Professores de Matemática, daqui de Portugal, mostrava um exercício que fez parte de um exame de Matemática para os alunos portugueses e que se baseava nos sona. Infelizmente, o exercício já foi retirado do site.

M.Silvera said...

Sempre interessante este blogue da nossa amiga Koluki. Bem haja!
De facto, já conhecia estes desenhos e a sua significação.
Curiosamente já tinha visitado todos estes sítios a que nos conduzem os links aqui expostos.
Há um bom tempo, procurava pela internete informações sobre esta escrita idiomática e cheguei a um site muito interessante sobre a cultura Chokwe. Há muito que não passo por lá, mas acho que se chama «Tucokwe.org», organizado por dois angolanos dos quais conheço a Ana G. Marques e o seu trabalho na dança e na investigação sobre esse povo.
Foi lá que tomei conhecimento do fantásticos estudos de Paulo Gerdes na etnomatemática.
Como ando sempre à coca de assuntos sobre a cultura angolana, cheguei - também através do mesmo site- ao Mazungue onde encontrei mais links para os sona, a etnomatemática e para o blog da Phwo, onde fala também desses motivos.
É interessante, reflectir-se também sobre a exist~encia destes desenhos noutros países e noutros continentes nomeadamente na Índia.
Um abraço.

Koluki said...

Amigos Denudado e Silvera,

Obrigada pelos vossos contributos.
Denudado, o Gerdes e’ precisamente o unico nome, dentre os que teem vindo a ser citados sobre esta materia, que aparece na bibliografia dos documentos expostos nos sites que aqui referencio. Portanto, ele e’ certamente uma referencia obrigatoria. Mas convem notar que a chamada “Etnomatematica” nao se confina aos conceitos derivados dos Sona. Como o nome indica, ela refere-se a conceitos matematicos derivados das culturas e tradicoes de varios grupos etnicos do mundo. A primeira vez que tive contacto com a Etnomatematica e com algumas das fontes referenciadas nessa bibliografia foi na LSE, num dos varios seminarios complementares a disciplina de ‘African Economic Development in Historical Perspective’, e ai, precisamente, os Sona eram apenas mencionados como uma das fontes da etnomatematica, havendo portanto bastantes mais fontes a serem estudadas. Seja como for, e’ uma pena que mais nao se investigue em Angola sobre os Sona no contexto da etnomatematica e nao apenas nas suas vertentes cultural e decorativa (por isso, amigo Silvera, nao me importo nada que de outros veiculos de informacao sobre essas materias seja aqui feita publicidade…), mas para uma investigacao seria e’ preciso irmos as fontes de conhecimento e aos cientistas…
Denudado, se ‘Cokwe’ e’ a grafia “oficial”, entao eu prefiro adoptar qualquer outra grafia, porque sinto-me sempre mais confortavel no terreno das “unofficial languages”!
Acho sempre fascinante como em certos circulos se da’ mais importancia as formas do que a essencia das coisas, como se a ciencia fosse apenas “mais uma forma de arte”… Nao sou linguista nem filologa, mas quer-me parecer que Cokwe, Tchokwe, Tsokwe ou Chokwe, nao so' se referem ao mesmo significando, mas tambem se pronunciam praticamente da mesma maneira e que as suas variantes apenas reflectem formas vocais que a mesma palavra assume nas diversas regioes correspondentes ao antigo Imperio Lunda-Tchokwe – que, nunca e’ demais recordar, nao se confina/va a actual Angola, ou as actuais Lundas – e tambem as grafias adoptadas pelas diferentes linguas Europeias. Assim, vemos que em textos escritos em Ingles e’ mais comum encontrar-se Tchokwe ou Tsokwe… De qualquer modo, se e’ verdade que a unica grafia original dos Tchokwe e’ precisamente essa representada pelos Sona, quem e’ que tem legitimidade para “oficializar” qualquer que seja a grafia dessa palavra?
So’ gostava de fazer uma breve mencao ao texto deste post: voltando um pouco a nossa conversa anterior, a descricao do processo criativo da obra Mwana Pwo e Mpovo pelo artista Hypo, corresponde precisamente aquilo que penso serem as fronteiras da arte e da apropriacao ilegitima - perante a mascara da Mwana Pwo, ele le o seu significado simbolico e recria-o/reinterpreta-o, deixando intacto o original e nao tendo quaisquer pretensoes de o transformar em algo que nao e', nem os seus criadores originais alguma vez pretenderam que fosse... ele nao se apropria da mascara, apenas do seu significado e simbolismo e com base neles cria a sua propria obra. Isto, quanto a mim, e' ser artista e ao mesmo tempo respeitar profundamente a cultura original onde ele se inspira, deixando-a, depois de a "usar", em boas "condicoes de conservacao" e sem adulteracoes para que outros artistas se possam tambem nela inspirar 'ad infinitum'... E assim se defendem, diversificam e perpectuam as culturas: sejam elas quais forem!

Anonymous said...

http://www.jackzen.com/2008/11/28/narrative-nexus/#comment-28418


http://www.jackzen.com/2008/11/28/narrative-nexus/