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Humans Create Powerful Symbols - Hornbill Figure - Essay Example

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In ancient times, humans had primarily used natural resources to manage their primitive way of life. They found that almost anything they needed could be derived from nature. People living in this era believed in the possibility of a powerful entity residing in a tangible form within nature…
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Download file to see previous pages They also believed this entity allowed energy flow from one being to the next in a cyclic process. This connection between mankind and the rest of all living things inspired men to associate the image of nature to the theory of the existence of a higher being with supreme powers. These connections could be either supernatural or spiritual. This symbolic connection has been passed down through numerous generations throughout history. Different cultures and religions use the symbolism in the ways that are adapted to suit their beliefs. The specially skilled Ibans of Sarawak, whom are known for their carvings include an exclusively designed hornbill figure. This is an example of the combination of religion, nature, and art. The ‘Hornbill Figure,' known as 'Kenyalang,' has essentially been the chief subject of interest among the Iban carvers of Sarawak, Malaysia (Davenport). It was between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the Iban people began to show their culture by sculpting images of the hornbill. This also become a very important part of sacred ceremonies conducted by the Iban community. With a standard length of over 33 feet, the Hornbill Figure is traditionally created using wood, paint, cotton thread, plant, and wool materials and textiles. At the Fowler Museum, a person can take in the details of the art form of the hornbill sculpture. Its sharply pointed bill draws a huge curve and the painting on the body uses various strokes and pigments portraying how colorful the Iban festivals and culture are. Hornbill carvings are recognized as an art form but also is an indicator of the way of life of the Iban people. The unique portrayal of the carvings are associated with Iban’s greatest festive celebrations with religious rituals (Davenport). The Hornbill Figure typically is a special embodiment of a bird believed to possess knowledge and wisdom. Aside from bringing a prophecy to which Iban communities deeply relied on in the past, it is also considered a fundamental medium. This allowed for the blending of a spiritual dimension with the world of humans so they may possibly pass on their freedom to interact with spirits and supernatural beings for many reasons (Davenport). To achieve victory during war, the hornbill symbol and faith in its image was believed in to help aid in obtaining extraordinary power to intimidate and eventually subdue enemies. In particular, the custom of Iban’s Gawai Kenyalang had such strong meaning that it was used for the purpose of reaching success in raiding and headhunting (trophy-taking). During this, the heads taken from the enemies were claimed to have powers that could potentially add to the overall strength or invincibility of the victorious community (Davenport). Looking at the figure of the hornbill and evaluating the different features, one can feel the depth of the strong Malaysian history and culture. There is an aesthetic feeling that is brought out in its design that is highly representative of the culture of its people. Regardless of the complex processes of politics and the changes of culture for the Iban people through history that has impacted their lifestyles in several ways, the Ibans still believe in the hornbill image. The carved figure of the bird reflects the symbolism of courage and power of the Iban people. The artist takes the approach of providing exquisite carving as well as adding vibrant colors. The bird's eyes contain an intense yet subtle look. Unlike other icons of religion, the Hornbill Figure is more influential than many other types of symbols. This in turn makes the believers in its powers very strong. As the making of hornbill images increased ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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