Chicago Reflections


A. Bunce Island is infamous for its role in the African slave market. It is considered to be the most important historic site in Africa for the United States. Bunce Island was a British slave castle that was used by slave traders to imprison slaves before they were loaded onto the ships and sent to America. Thousands of slaves were sent from Bunce Island to the plantation owners in the Southern Colonies during the 1700s.

B. Edward Hopper was an artist that had a career in commercial illustration and print making. Even though he won critical acclaim for his print making, he is most famous for his paintings of American life depicting the loneliness and struggle of city living. His pictures portrayed loneliness and desolation by either emptiness or the presence of anonymous non-communicating characters. His paintings portrayed the chilling truth of the hopelessness of the Great Depression. (While at the Art Institute of Chicago we could see his painting Nighthawks.)

C. Georg Philipp Telemann was one of the greatest German composers of his time. He is considered to be unusually prolific and versatile because he could write in many styles of music and composed hundreds of pieces of music. Telemann was friends with both Bach and Handel. Bach even named one of his children after him. The Chicago history played music by both Handel and Bach during its first year but waited 62 seasons before performing any of Telemann’s music. (We heard selections from Telemann’s Tafelmusic, II at the Chicago Symphony.)

D. Kumbha Mela has gained international fame for being the most massive act of faith. It is the largest pilgrimage gathering in the world with millions of people attending. This pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years. The next one is scheduled to occur in 2010. Pilgrims line up to take a dip in the sacred Ganges River. It is believed that simply bathing in the Ganges River will cleanse one from past sins.

E. The Great Rift Valley is the name given to the continuous geographic trench that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to Mozambique in East Africa. It is more than 3700 miles long. The Rift Valley is continuously moving and in a few millions years will probably result in eastern Africa being split off to form a new land mass. (We saw this in the African exhibit at the Field Museum.)

F. A savanna is land covered with grass and scattered trees or an open canopy of trees. The absence of canopy allows the light to reach the ground and the grass to grow. A savanna is considered to be a transitional place between dessert and forest. Approximately 20% of the Earth (not including the oceans) is covered by savanna, with the largest amount of savanna in Africa.

G. Porte de L’Afrique can be translated to Gateway to Africa. There is a famous vintage French travel poster by Roger Broders that was published around 1930 which shows the Port of Marseille, France and the steamer ships in the water. The Port of Marseille, France is the Port to Africa.

H. Three ingenious ideas of the MesoAmerica:
1. State Power Triad
2. Architecture – They made scale models out of rock before building.
3. Grinding corn with rocks to make flour

Question 2:

The tour guide at the DuSable Museum suggested that when looking at art we first look at the artist’s name, the date it was made, when during the artist’s life was it made (college, mid-life, etc), what was society like during the time it was made and finally look at the piece of art. By following the steps you will have a better appreciation of what the art is trying to portray. The artist’s name will help if you know them and some of their other work. The date it was made and the artist’s land of origin will help you reflect on what society was like and what was going on in that country at that time. (For example, Africa, Asia, America, etc. were all in different sections of the Art Institute to create a cohesive story.) These items with an understanding of the artist’s age group will help you to understand what people of that same age group were feeling at that point in history. One good American example from a previous question is Edward Hopper. Edward Hopper was in his working years during the creation of Nighthawks. This painting depicted the isolation and hopelessness felt by many other working class individuals during the Great Depression. African Art in the Art Institute, the DuSable Museum and the Field Museum had African statues with nails in them. These nails represented people’s religious beliefs because they were driven into the statue by people in the community to obtain specific results. For example, at the Art Institute the nails were put into that statue to do justice to enemies. At the Spertus Museum, there were four pieces of art by a Jewish artist that had the common features of being dark and angry with one red dot on the creature. One possible explanation is that as a Jew, the artist always felt angry and targeted. The collection of art and artifacts is an important part of preserving our history. The feelings and beliefs of the artist comes out of the art and helps explain the human side of the story for that time in history in the area depicted.

Question 3:

Today in Africa there are many forms of wildlife nearing extinction due to hunting and harvesting of animals. For example the slaying of elephants to harvest the ivory tusks. In addition, the cutting down of trees is threatening the forests. In order to regain and preserve Africa, conversation measures must be taken. Wangari Maathai is one African starting to take such measures. She founded the Green Belt Movement focused on planting trees and environmental conservation. The Great Rift and its lakes are home to many forms of wildlife including fish, amphibians, elephants, gorillas, hippos, etc. The Great Rift Valley and Lakes are also at risk due to pollution, deforestation, etc. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has targeted the Great Rift as one of its priority ecoregions of the world and is currently channeling funds towards the development of wildlife preserves and conservation in that area. At the Field Museum, I found that to preserve the wildlife in Africa, conservationists formed the Serengeti National Park in 1940. In addition to the environment and wildlife, the human population is also at risk in Africa due to AIDS, political unrest, etc. From 1948 to 1994, Africa was under the rule of apartheid which was racial segregation. Racial segregation caused much unrest and violence in the country resulting in many violent acts and deaths. It took the assistance of many strong political leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, to end apartheid and begin the rebuilding of one unified nation. Nelson Mandela has also been instrumental in the fight against AIDS, especially since his political retirement. AIDS is currently the leading cause of death in Africa. In summary, Africa is faced with many challenges. It will take dedication and support from many organizations and countries to be successful.

Posted at 5:44 PM by Amanda Hanlin