Thursday, 1 November 2007

I am time

There is much more to the Adinkra symbols than is explicated in the expositions I have seen so far. Their forms suggest possibilities for a broader range of symbolic associations than is convetionally attributed to them.

What do I mean by the idea that their form suggests possibilities for a broader range of symbolic associations than is convetionally attributed to them?

This is due to two reasons.These are their design patterns and the symbolic values attributed to them.

Their design patterns include their nonrepresentional shapes that often do not evoke any shapes that can be found in nature,their composition in terms of stark elementary colours,black and white,the dynamism evoked by their spare but strongly defined use of lines,curves,circles and spirals.

These design elements indicate an iconographic language that is capable of evoking associations without limiting the mind to particular ideas suggested by representations that are closer to natural forms or even to other well known symbols.This could facilitate the mind contemplating the Adinkra motifs ranging freely over vast evocative and associational spaces without being hampered by specific associational correlatives coming from iconographic and symbolic particularities.The mind is freer to land when it chooses,to identify with particular asociations it chooses rather than be fixed to particular associations.

The second reason-the symbolic associations alreasdy attributed to them:

They all repesent particular values centred on positive social conceptions.Some of these ideas involve social relations among members of a community,such as .Others involve metaphysical conceptions related to the nature of ultimate reality,a reality at times undertsood in what looks like a theistic sense,as described in Danquah's Akan Doctrine of God.I wonder,though,about the level of elaboration of these ideas.One needs to bexamine studies of Akan art and thought to find this out.

But to clarify this train of thought,I need to explore central texts on Akan art and thought to examine this.But even if the level of elaboration is not significantly involved,that minimalist level of ideational develpment could evoke a recognition of the need to leave the visual motif free to engage the mind of the respondent without a wall of commentary blocking a free flow of ideas. th

One could argue,however,for a community of interpretation in relation to Adinkra symbolism that is not bound by any conventions apart from those imposed by the capacities of the human mind.This possibility of interpretive freedom arisses from the relatively unelaborated chracter of Adinkra symbolism.I have not come across more than one effort,for example,to relate the form of the designs to the ideas they are meant to symbolise.That lack of elaboration implies that the symbolism has not been significantly fixed or reified,as has been done by the elite class of the priesthood in most religious traditions or by the weight of convention emerging from a broader based social symbolisation,as emerges from some symbol systems that are not necessarily religious,as with natural language.

The kind of interpretive community I am advocating,one that is not bound by interpretive conventions,would be something like the open source model in computer programming,but would be something even more open,less constrained in its creativity by the framework of codes that distingush one programme from another,or one symbolic system from another.The non-representational,often non-naturalistic forms of Adinkra motifs imply the possbility of interpreting them in relation to their established symbolic correlations or simply seeing them in an entirely new light derived from or facilitated by their starkly simple but dynamic designs.Dynamic in terms of their evocation of a sense of movement,a sense of force, accentuated by the polarisation of a black foreground,in the designs themselves,with a white background.These colours refer,of course,to only the print and electronic versons,and even then,not to all of them.But,whatever the colours used,the point remains about their sense of motion,of iconographic inscrutability,of non-linearity of representation in relation to any possible meanings.

What do I mean by a symbol? How is it different from a sign?

By a sign-at the risk of contradicting scholarly understanding of this concept I mean a visual form that demonstrates an uncomplicated relationship with its referent. By "uncomplicated" I refer to a point in a scale in a sequence of denotation and connotation. At the most literal end of the scale, we find visual forms that correspond, in a literal sense, to what they refer to. Eg,a picture, as understood from one perspective a an effort at dorect represetation. Although, at other levels of analysis, a picture can be understood to demonstrate levels of sigfication that go well beyond the basic direct signification I am describing here.

At another level, we have road signs, which represent basic instructions, using abstract visual language which at times involves representational drawings, of cars, pedestrians, etc or just a simple diagram that indicates a particular traffic instruction. In all these examples basic, simple, linearly described range of ideas are evoked.

Then we have those images that may or may not encompass such linearly realised correspondences. but they are meant or used to convey much more than that. The range of ideas they suggest might be spelt out, but they involve a complex of significations, which may be be centred around or in relation to a central idea but which are meant to evoke a cluster of associations in relation to that idea.

An example of this could be the Christian use of the cross, amongst other religious symbols. The cross represents first the manner of death of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, who is understood to have been was crucified. It does in relation to what is understood to be the significance of that death as a salvific act, an act symbolised by the exposure of body represented by a crucifixion. Then beyond the fundamental nexus of what is understood to bea historical account and its attendant immediate symbolism of surrender to a mission and sacrifice of self, it evokes the relationship of this basic complex of iconographic form and its symbolic values to the significance of the conceptions of sacrifice and surrender to a self transcending vision vision preached by Jesus, where the kind of radical love of God and human beings he advocated is intimately related to self sacrifice, surrender and crucifixion,smbolically understood, whether at the hands of one's own self mortifying discipline or at the hands of others who are threatened by that style of living..

In sum, a universe of ideas is evoked from one image. One can describe this example as describing a significant number of symbols or to a significant degree the character of a symbol. Its levels of interweaving possibilities of signification. Not included here is the capacity of the symbol to evoke meanings not included in its original brief, as it were.

The cross, for example, could signifiy sacrifice and crucifixion in non religious contexts. In relationships with others. in terms of commitment to a mission. See the way it is used in the neo-religious context of the matrix, for example, where the light that penetrates Neo's body at the salvific self sacrificial conclusion is shaped as a cross-?

Or it could even evoke notions of repugnance to such ideas of self sacrifice as an elevation of weakness etc as Nietzsche saw Christianity.

Other symbols could be even more multivalent, less fixed to a particular complex of ideations, of associations and their related emotional topography. But the heart of the matter is the issue of evocative range, of the moving outward from a specific ideational, verbal or visual centre. or even centred in a particular action, as in ritual, or a commonplace action that evokes particular associations.-see zen on commonplace actions and enlightenment.-the movement of a stranger that reminds one profoundly of the actions of someone else who has affected us deeply and the relationship of that to large areas of meaning in our lives-see proust. or even aural/auditory, olfactory, kinetic symbols, symbols can emerge in relation to any of the five senses.see Keats ode to a nightingale-see basho-frog poem-see Soyinka on egrets sailing into the sun-see Brutus and Solzhenitsyn and van gogh -on the stars-see akan drum poem on the river and the path etc

Now to Adinkra.

The Adinkra forms suggest symbolic associations. One quality that stands out with them which is perhaps one of their greatest points of value, is their often non-representational character. They often do not depict, or even incorporate material forms into an ultimately non-naturalistic framework,as in combining natural elements in creating something that does not exist in nature, although the forms they depict can at times be found in nature. Their combinations, however,more often do not denote or suggest any natural form. They are also at times geometric forms, but suggest geometries different from conventional forms. These geometries could be close to what are understood as fractal forms. This largely non-representational character enables the Adinkra forms to mean anything to anybody. To evoke the free play of the human mind in an even more radically independent way than poetry, which still operates in terms of the manipulation of socially agreed symbols represented by language.

It is on account of its evocative possibilities that I think that the interpretations of Adinkra I have encountered so far need to be expanded in relation to the possibilities of this artistic and to some degree, mathematical form.

I am not advocating an expansion of possibilities of interpretation to embody a fixed canon of meanings, no matter how complex, how diverse. No.

I am suggesting that the Adinkra forms are excellent structures for contemplation. And the more they are used in this manner, with or without reference to their Classical or traditional meanings, the more they will yield fruit in ideas of particular relevance to each person contemplating them, and, by inference, to others, who are likely to find some resonance with others' sensitivities in the reflections inspired in other people by Adinkra. I am arguing in sum for the use of Adinkra as contemplative supports, as aids to letting the mind roam to those spaces that we at times find so difficult to enter into on account of the walls created by our social and embodied existence, but which prove so refreshing for our embodied and socially conditioned worlds in the soothing of our emotions, the emergence of empowering ideas,among other aspects of value.

I am exploring these possbilities through this blog-a general introduction with links to my favourite Adinkra sites -and other blogs,each of which which explores the associative value of a particular Adinkra symbol :

1 comment:

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