Sunday, July 11, 2010

The legend of the twin brothers; Ceramic Sculpture. Gallery 1996-98

The spirit of a wounded nation flows away with it's blood.
Collection Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Size: about 300mm height x 150 mm width.
This particular ceramic sculpture was based on an African narrative, myth and or legend, titled The twin brothers. The tale is attributed to the oral tradition of the Republic of Congo. This ceramic statement evokes emotions surrounding issues of deceit; ultimate betrayal that leads to murder - the killing of one's own family and or kind; brother and or sister. Brotherly love speaks of camaraderie of respect and trust; fundamental principals central to the core of any family, a sport's team, a tribe and or finally a nation.

History recalls numerous cases where these principals are put aside /forgotten/turned on it's head; greed, power and lust, blinding even the most trustworthy and honest of men amongst us. It becomes the key motivating factor to conceal the treacherous deed and the haunting shame, associated with the criminal act.

The twin brothers. 
Foite (Republic of Congo)
A certain woman gave birth to twins, both sons. Each born with a valuable charm. The one son was named Luemba and the other, the first born, Mavungu. He immediately embarked on his travels (fully grown at birth) to pursue a very special and desirable woman, the daughter of Nzambi. He came to hear about her and was determined to marry her. He called upon his charm to help find her. Equipped with a blade of grass changed into a weapon (knife) and another into a gun and a horse, he embarked on his mission. 
After lengthy travels he arrived at Nzambi's town. Her daughter, at the site of Mavungu, instantly recognized her husband to be. Their love was celebrated and in the morning he cast his eyes on numerous covered mirrors, each when laid bare, perfectly reflected every town he knew including his own. However one mirror image embodied the terrible place of no return, it beckoned him to uncover the mystery, and more importantly to use his charm to reverse the fateful fortune that awaited all that embarked thus far. However he too met his fate and disappeared entirely.
Luemba, his younger brother, wondered at the long absence of his elder bother, Mavungu. He too called upon the  magic powers of his charm. With a knife, and a gun and on horseback he went about his search. However when he reached the village of Nzambi, a feast was prepared in celebration of the return of her daughter's husband. Luemba did not know how to react; he was not assured of his twin brother's marital status to the daughter. He used his charm to protect his family honour. In the morning he too was incapsulated by the mirrors; especially the terrible place of no return. Infatuated, and knowing he would find his brother there, he went on his way. 
On arrival at the terrible place of no return, Luemba caught the woman by surprise and killed her (who murdered his brother). He found his brothers bones and that of his horse and restored them to life, including the bones of those found in the area that would become their faithful followers. 
On their return journey to the town of Nzambi, Luemba informed his twin brother of his in-laws mistaken identity for him, and that he had used his charm to save his wife from dishonour. All was well between the two brothers, untill they got caught up in a leadership struggle for the followers, which led to the slaying of the younger twin brother Luemba. His body was dumped there and then and the rest continued on their journey to Mzambi's village. Miraculously Luemba's horse, that had stayed with him, managed to bring him to life, using the magic charm. Luemba mounted his horse and sought his elder twin brother and killed him. The town on his return welcomed him and appeased him of his actions.

Abbreviated version of the narrative as recorded in African Tales compiled by Harold Scheub (2005:64).

Symbolism: The sculpture's symbolic meaning, the design and conceptual development and overall gestalt of the finished statement, is derived from the evocative quality of the literary source; the tale titled the twin brothers (recorded above). Two brothers are depicted side by side in a shoulder embrace, the preparatory drawings above, indicating they both have weapons in their hands (held at their brothers back), ready to stab each other in the back. 

The shape of their entwined bodies is attached at their midriffs with their bloodline flowing freely (manifested as dismembered heads);  a representation of the loss of blood (due to stabbing) - blood being a symbol of their unity, associated with brotherly love (camaraderie explained in the introductory paragraph (see the detail of the sculpture and the drawing above and the headrest serving as reference below) . However the ceramic statement ultimately is a metaphor for a unified nation ravished by violence and crime due to greed, lust and power.
Headrest, wood, pokerwork cited in
Art and Ambiguity: (Till:72)

The weapon is represented in the form and shape of a blade of grass stretching  out  above the sculpture, as an extension of the brothers' necks and heads;  remember it was the blades of grass that were changed into the various weapons, including horses, that aided the brothers on their journey, made possible by the magic charms as mentioned in the  narrative recorded above. 

1 comment:

jim said...

hi eugene, you have a tremendous amount of work and it always amazes me the ethic behind it all. i love the twins piece and the preparatory drawings are excellent as always. i particularly like the dismembered heads and the detail of the drawing with the heads too is great. the previous posts are great too. when i first glanced at the "origin of murder I" the two discs immediately conjured up the biblical account of the torture of st. margaret (i think it was margaret) where she gets torn apart by two spiked wheels... not that that has anything to do with the piece but it just hit me that way. it's a great shot of your working too and i can't get over the faithfulness that you employ to the drawing with you holding the sculpture up to the drawing... amazing. i envy that level of craftsmanship and wish i had it in me. great pieces and great posts. i've been trying to catch up a bit lately.