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Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH

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  • Ed Jones
    No, thank you Ann !      ________________________________ From: Ann Porteus To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
    Message 1 of 45 , May 12, 2013
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      No, thank you Ann !
       

       
       
      From: Ann Porteus <ann@...>
      To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2013 3:53 AM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
       
      Thank you so much for your contribution Ed.
      I do understand that there are some who simply cannot "get it"
      Maybe they should have asked for further information rather than the direct silly embarrassing attack that we have all been reading.
      Have you been to Ouidah in Benin? 
      There is a road leading from the town in a direct line to the Ocean. On the edge of the tide line there is a huge memorial to those thousands who passed this point as they were forced to sail as slaves to foreign countries.
      Along that road there is almost an avenue of cement fetiche lining that memorial path. The original wooden carvings were stolen and sold to collectors of African art long ago. The council of Ouidah decided that cast cement was less portable and also less appealing to collectors so replaced lost artefacts with concrete copies. Fakes? Go to Ouidah and look for yourself. You will recognise them. Most are painted dark green.
      Was this the type of beginning of this word when considering the meaning and intent of African art. The word fetich is as it is described and I believe should not be added as the title to cultural objects from people who had already named their pieces as well as describing their function.
      Anglophone people are famous for interpreting other languages as "too difficult" and changing the words to match their Christian cultural thoughts.
      Immigrants come to our countries and immediately change their names to fit with the new language. They are influenced by the reactions of the lazy people they meet after arriving in our countries. Make it simple and we can move into this community with less harassment!
      Who can blame them.
       The problem remains that as soon as these people change their names they begin to loose their culture and heritage as well as their history. They become one of a minority group in the host country that is called migrant. They move to the lowest echelons of that community and for the next 3 generations their descendants work hard to regain the status once held as a right by their families.
      Fetich is a derogatory term that has gained common use among the "superior" host countries to describe these artworks of the minority immigrants to their countries. The colonial powers encouraged the use of this and other words to describe the heathen sculptures of the "primitive" nations. So of course fetich is used commonly across Africa to describe their artworks which hold magical powers to help and protect their communities.
      Did the colonial powers learn and absorb the local languages so that they understood how to communicate with the people they had disempowered and colonised then learn to identify the objects they encountered. No, they described their cultures as heathen and demanded that they discard their history, culture and religions and switch to Christianity or Islam. 
      In doing this the colonised must learn and adopt the languages forced on them from the masters. 
      Did they have the opportunity to name their pieces? 
      Fetich  became the umbrella term used for all magic objects from Africa but much different names were used to describe the magical pieces from the conquering powers. I really believe that we all know the answer to that one.
      Would it really be so difficult for knowing and understanding educated communities of collectors to acknowledge and change this practice. Correct a political incorrectness from the past?
      Why are the Christian amulets called icons and the African power magical figures called fetich?

      A few years ago I was overwhelmed by people who were unfamiliar with African art asking why such powerful and beautiful work was referred to as Fetich. I had a large collection of "fetich' so used the word to title the major exhibition we held that year.
      On the flyer I added the story that I posted to the forum earlier in this debate. It stirred a big debate among the completely uninitiated. The most common reply was "so you mean that these pieces are icons! 
      Well yeah mate! 
      Maybe Australians are different. We have still to learn to live with the wrongs from the past and most people understand the horror and wrongs done.
      Grow up America. Listen and learn but please don't burn the messenger.

      Ann

      Ann Porteus
      Sidewalk Tribal Gallery
      19-21 Castray Esplanade,
      Battery Point 7004
      Hobart Tasmania Australia
       
       
       

      On 12/05/2013, at 3:24 PM, Ed Jones <bucit@...> wrote:
       
      I am not looking to be passified Vero, and do not prefer any specific language to be used.  However, I do believe AWARNESS and onjective sincerity by reason is necessary. 
       
      Elite, passionate and educated / experienced people will find the correct word instead of a historical biased, ugly and word which dauntingly haunts most pieces of African craft (ignorantly and erroneously)... While a crucifix , rabbits foot, or western objects are never referred to as a fetish (and they most certainly are).  Such blatant, overt, hypocrisy and defensiveness.
       
      Ann Porteus also commented and provided an article wich was simply ignored.   The "wild dogs" were too busy trying their damnest to eat my lunch, and deny, so there is something much more going on than the "attack of on the messenger Ed, along with the "I don't like his delivery".   Interesting.
       
      Anyway, nice to know that you are still around...
       
       
      From: Veronique Martelliere <proximatribal@...>
      To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 5:56 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
       
      Fetich, fetiche, Fetisch, fetisj,… anyone aiming to eradicate this word from dictionaries will have a hard time.
      Ed : which other word do you wish people to use instead ?
      Anyway, the word « fetish » has no pejorative echoe in my frog ears. It is :
      - either an object of unreasoning devotion (cf. Krafft-Ebing’s « Psychopathia sexualis »), as Elisabeth mentionned ; 
      - or an object of superstition (whereever it comes from and for whatever protective purpose) : it has to do with belief and only with belief… and, in all, with a search of well-being.
      My current fetish is a handphone, and my first one was a teddy-bear - you never had one, Ed ?
      Cheers,
      véronique

      From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
      To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 10:22 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
       
      Then, as a linguist anthropologist, you have missed something vital and "original", and (perhaps), failed to pay close enough attention.  This is a well documented account, but "fetishism" is eradicated currently in the western world's unless it has to do with certain erotic sexual behaviors, or underlying positive attributes.
       
      Hmmn.
        
       
      From: Elizabeth Busbee <erbusbee@...>
      To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <african_arts@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 12:53 PM
      Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
       
      As a linguistic anthropologist, I'd like to respectfully disagree that the term "fetish" has a pejorative context as you describe.  It's used cross culturally to reference an object with additional significance beyond it's material characteristics, whether it be a religious fetish, a commodity fetish, an erotic fetish, etc.  It's a term that's quite broadly used, in and out of ethnographic circles, and has in my experience been spoken and received as a neutral term.

      Elizabeth R. Busbee, PhD
        

      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com From: bucit@... Date: Fri, 10 May 2013 08:57:12 -0700 Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH 
      Maybe you are not aware (as most) that the etymology of the term "fetish", carries a disparaging, derogatory and insulting element. The term fetish is taken from the Portugese word "feitiço" meaning artificial, false and sorcery -- most likey introduced by Portugese sailors and traders in the 16 C.  The Africans which created and used these objects ceratinly did not refer to them as a "fetish", so why many still does this amazes me?
       
      The book titled  Fetichism and fetich worshipers, by Rev. P. Baudin is quite frank and telling.  One would think that "respectful" dealers, enthusiasts and collectors should know better.
       
      Ed
       
      From: actofchange <df4shinedesigns@...>
      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:52 PM
      Subject: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art
       
      Any ideas on the art that I have submitted? I know that the statue is a Nail Fetish, just not sure from what region. The second piece, I guessed an old Songye Mask maybe? The third photo, just not sure, thinking Chokwe? The Nail Fetish actually stands 54" Tall....my mistake of 40". Please help with identifying these if possible? I greatly appreciate your time and thoughts! J. Butiti http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/1521183002/pic/list
       
    • rpearsonpeaol
      d Wolf : Well written, and true. Like all good arguments, no one has changed their mind ,and eventually it will run its course and be replaced by something
      Message 45 of 45 , May 13, 2013
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        d Wolf :  Well written, and true. Like all good arguments, no one has changed their mind ,and eventually it will run its course and be replaced by something more interesting or argumentative.
         
        bob
         
        In a message dated 5/13/2013 9:55:36 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time, dwolf22@... writes:
         

        And here I thought the group had rendered itself more or less defunct in the wake of Facebook etc ... and ... bam! ... I wake up to this swarm of bilingual cyber bees in my mailbox ... A frantic buzz from the hives of intellect and reason that it seems someone had the audacity to whack with a big stick! What is most curious to me is the degree of intolerable anger with which the perceived ignorance of an innocent inquiry is addressed and the dismissive tone delivered to all with an opposing view. The delineation between right and wrong hinged primarily on the etymology of a word. The underlying and what appear, deeper issues concerning the injustice and hypocrisy of a shameful history (and not just in Africa) cannot be assuaged with a sword (or a tongue) honed on the grinding wheels of history and academics.  <swatting a few bees here> Words too <have you noticed?>  can be like fetish nails hammered into wood, fashioned just so, to give them power. Anger can be wielded in a belief that it will ward off what is perceived as threatening. Truth in a world of, at the very least, dualistic complexity is an acquired taste for most and as such is subjective. Not until one has silenced all the barking dogs and embraced a broader perspective do more pertinent truths emerge... at least that's what I've heard. Until we all attain such liberation ... kindness and compassion seem like good options. As for words - they too live in time, and like us, often grow old with but a faint semblance to the innocence of infancy. They morph into something new though the roots remain. It doesn't take a lot of effort ... only a bit of willingness ... to see that individual truths that appear to be in opposition ... can both be true ... and the need for contention nil.

        From '1984' by George Orwell ~

        "You are a slow learner Winston," said O'brien gently.
        "How can I help it ?" he blubbered, "How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four!"
        "Sometimes, Winston, sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane."

        From Tom Waits ~

        "Come down off the cross - we could use the wood."

        From the Chockwe fetish here in my living room ~

        "For every stone you turn to find truth there lies another your ignorance has yet to discover."


        -----Original Message-----
        From: Veronique Martelliere <proximatribal@...>
        To: African_Arts <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sun, May 12, 2013 9:07 pm
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH

         
        Ed…
         
        I also have gherkins that i keep in a pot of vinegar. Who has not such a pot ?
        One of your gherkins is the word « fetish » - ok, why not, but if i read you well and understand you well, we have to read between the gherkins.  I'm not sure this is the right forum to discuss about proselytism, missionaries and other soul-robbers - i'm sure we would agree on that subject, anyway. The point is that you wish to call for a fatwah against a word, which, to your point of view, is not acceptable/ appropriate.  
        Manifestly, you hear in this word pejorative echoes that most of people OF TODAY do not hear, and you wish make them feel guilty for using it : isn't this subjective and unfair ? Especially because i do not see any other word to replace it - do you ?
        Words have a cradle and then a life. Just check the origin of the word « handicap », for example.
        What about « hell«  or « devil » ? Devil is a fearsome red and horned character for my old bigot neighbour - for me, it’s the god-damned little boy who ruined my sofa with his muddy shoes, this afternoon. Different echoes.
        And Ed : if i tell you that you are an angel, you know that I do not mean that you are sitting on a cloud, with a pair of wings and no sexual « device«.
        « Je suis, donc je me révolte », Camus wrote. So, keep on, Ed, but better not against the common dictionary and its common users - unless you have an alternative word to offer.  
        Be well, revolted angel.
        véro
        PS 1 : some of my previous comments were addressed to Antwan who started associating the word « fetish » with « racism » . Racism and sectarism are two distinctive faces of fear.   
        PS 2 : I never use the word « fétiche », anyway.

        From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2013 5:47 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
         
        ... "Religiously-incorrect" has nothing to do with racism. And "fetish" has nothing pejorative to my point of view, except when it is used by a square-head-proselyte-stubborn-arrogant missionary of any kind who wants to change the world into religious soldier-barracks of his kind.
        As Nietzsche wrote, it is not doubts which make people crazy - certitudes make people crazy (and cruel, sometimes).
         
        Interesting yet, wrongly conclusive to the specific point of perpetually calling African items as fetishes.  Religion has indeed brought about many wars, rumor of wars, impervious greed and RACISM.  And titling "African" relics "fetishes" most certainly had / has pejorative meaning.  Problem today is ignorance versus known and establish acceptance.
         
        Second to that is bigotry... Although, this is the first time the word racism has been mentioned.  Racism and bigotry are two ENTIRELY SEPARATE words and meanings, so I am not sure why you mentioned it.  However, both words can often have close associations.  Bigotry is as simple as "intransigence", stubbornness, un-yielding or willing to chance... Which is an inherent characteristic of most racist individuals.  There is a difference.
         
        Since this is an African arts group, perhaps, it would be more effective and meaningful if you would expound on specifics of how "fetishism" has evolved in say... Nigeria or another country or region... even concerning religions in Nigeria since there is a religion-centered demonimator with the word.  the context of this response seems intentionally broad and general.  If you cannot, perhaps, someone else has the ability.  In fact, that stubborn missionary was not singular, but plural... Hundreds if not thousands, and he / she represented the moral compass and ideology of a different countrie's society and beliefs!  It is condensending in many ways to try and down-play that as a trivial "block-head" acting out of order, and writing about it. The vast majority of missionaries certainly were no "Leo Bittremieux". Leo was the rare exception.
         
        And, when I stated that "fetishism" is eradicated in the western worlds, I am stating that the USE of the word with Xmas trees, candles, mistle-toe, crucifix, rosary prayer beads, necklace or wrist charms, "grandma;s ashes in the urn" on the fireplace mantle,  are not even thought of or considered to be fetish objects, yet, african tribal relics are.  Funny how one cannot see (blind) hypocrisy in this... Even, bigotry.   
         
        It does not take an advanced education of any sort to see the failure in this. Nor is the use of English terms overwhelmingly confusing or problematic.  Communications is usually "fluid" --- meaning   Besides, the simply and inconclusive Internet definitions that have been fling around, how about addressing the article that Ann Porteus provided, or addressing the book link suggested?  Tritely statements and editorials suggesting"  the following such as;
         
        ..  "I see nothing pejorative with the word fetish",
        ..  "the Africans use it"
        ..  "political correctness"
        ..  I reside "here or there" in Africa (as if that provides some sort of unique credentials that automatically trumps reason and logic).
        ... "Half-baked" word definitions (not complete eytmology) citing convenient and ignorant examples implying rather neutral and positive word phrases.
         
        The intransigence and willful averting of this topic, and debate tribal African related trends around the "arts" are  appalling, and proves unwillingness and blind hypocrisy at the very least.   In itself, will stymie the group and its vision.
         
        Thanks for breaking some surface about this.
        Ed
         
         
        From: Veronique Martelliere <proximatribal@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2013 6:05 AM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
         
        Everyone defines a border between religion and superstition, according to his/her own beliefs.
        In general, a belief starts to be called a religion when it reaches a great number of followers. Proselyte religions are those which make people ready to fight their neighbours to convince them to join them in their belief. The purpose is to grow the human herd. Nothing to do with racism.  
        The proselyte designate anyone or any group who do not follow them,  as "pagan"... whose beliefs, in their eyes, are designated as "superstitions"... and so started the creation of the word "fetish" to designate objects which are not "religiously-correct", to their point of view. 
         
        Established religions never could erase humans' superstitious needs.   Humans need objects that they can see, touch and even speak to, to communicate with God/s. These objects are virtual bridges to reach the beyond and/or to get magic protection and, i completely agree with you, Ed, they all are objectively fetishes : crucifix, Maria figures and other fertiity Venus, hands of Fatimah, tiger eyes, medals, Buddha figures, Shiva trident... temples,... whatever medium/media.
        It is just not "religiously-correct" for established religions to designate them as "fetishes"... (could even have been dangerous during the Inquisition - thanks Gods, the game is over -  or is, even today, in some areas of Islam). 
          
        Thus, as to hypocrisy, it is a very close neighbour of all religions. I was raised in a christian religion, supposed to be a monotheism, but I was told to pray God, his son, his spirit, his mother, angels, and saints which are nearly as numerous as the Hindu Gods. So, I'm supposed to have a Saint Christopher medal to be attached to the keys of my car to keep away road accidents : anyone thinking that it is not a fetish ?
         
        So, all this to say that the word "fetish" started to be applied for objects which did not belong to "established" religions/beliefs, by megalomaniac people who think/thought that their own belief/religion was THE right one.
        The word started to be applied in Africa but then, later, in the Americas, Oceania, North Pole and wherever there are micro-cultures and, so, micro-systems of belief.
        "Religiously-incorrect" has nothing to do with racism.  And "fetish" has nothing pejorative to my point of view, except when it is used by a square-head-proselyte-stubborn-arrogant missionary of any kind who wants to change the world into religious soldier-barracks of his kind.
        As Nietzsche wrote, it is not doubts which make people crazy - certitudes make people crazy (and cruel, sometimes).
        Cheers
        véro
           
          

        From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:24 AM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
         
        I am not looking to be passified Vero, and do not prefer any specific language to be used.  However, I do believe AWARNESS and onjective sincerity by reason is necessary. 
         
        Elite, passionate and educated / experienced people will find the correct word instead of a historical biased, ugly and word which dauntingly haunts most pieces of African craft (ignorantly and erroneously)... While a crucifix , rabbits foot, or western objects are never referred to as a fetish (and they most certainly are).  Such blatant, overt, hypocrisy and defensiveness.
         
        Ann Porteus also commented and provided an article wich was simply ignored.   The "wild dogs" were too busy trying their damnest to eat my lunch, and deny, so there is something much more going on than the "attack of on the messenger Ed, along with the "I don't like his delivery".   Interesting.
         
        Anyway, nice to know that you are still around...
         
         
        From: Veronique Martelliere <proximatribal@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 5:56 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
         
        Fetich, fetiche, Fetisch, fetisj,… anyone aiming to eradicate this word from dictionaries will have a hard time.
        Ed : which other word do you wish people to use instead ?
        Anyway, the word « fetish » has no pejorative echoe in my frog ears. It is :
        - either an object of unreasoning devotion (cf. Krafft-Ebing’s « Psychopathia sexualis »), as Elisabeth mentionned ; 
        - or an object of superstition (whereever it comes from and for whatever protective purpose) : it has to do with belief and only with belief… and, in all, with a search of well-being.
        My current fetish is a handphone, and my first one was a teddy-bear - you never had one, Ed ?
        Cheers,
        véronique

        From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 10:22 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
         
        Then, as a linguist anthropologist, you have missed something vital and "original", and (perhaps), failed to pay close enough attention.  This is a well documented account, but "fetishism" is eradicated currently in the western world's unless it has to do with certain erotic sexual behaviors, or underlying positive attributes.
         
        Hmmn.
          
         
        From: Elizabeth Busbee <erbusbee@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <african_arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 12:53 PM
        Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH
         
        As a linguistic anthropologist, I'd like to respectfully disagree that the term "fetish" has a pejorative context as you describe.  It's used cross culturally to reference an object with additional significance beyond it's material characteristics, whether it be a religious fetish, a commodity fetish, an erotic fetish, etc.  It's a term that's quite broadly used, in and out of ethnographic circles, and has in my experience been spoken and received as a neutral term.

        Elizabeth R. Busbee, PhD
          

        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com From: bucit@... Date: Fri, 10 May 2013 08:57:12 -0700 Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art - FETISH  
        Maybe you are not aware (as most) that the etymology of the term "fetish", carries a disparaging, derogatory and insulting element. The term fetish is taken from the Portugese word "feitiço" meaning artificial, false and sorcery -- most likey introduced by Portugese sailors and traders in the 16 C.  The Africans which created and used these objects ceratinly did not refer to them as a "fetish", so why many still does this amazes me?
         
        The book titled  Fetichism and fetich worshipers, by Rev. P. Baudin is quite frank and telling.  One would think that "respectful" dealers, enthusiasts and collectors should know better.
         
        Ed
        From: actofchange <df4shinedesigns@...>
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:52 PM
        Subject: [African_Arts] Help To Identify Source of African Art
         
        Any ideas on the art that I have submitted? I know that the statue is a Nail Fetish, just not sure from what region. The second piece, I guessed an old Songye Mask maybe? The third photo, just not sure, thinking Chokwe? The Nail Fetish actually stands 54" Tall....my mistake of 40". Please help with identifying these if possible? I greatly appreciate your time and thoughts! J. Butiti http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/1521183002/pic/list
         
         

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