I went to the conference of the humanities and social sciences of UNAM on Thursday and Friday. It was deeply satisfying and enriching, I not only learnt a lot but I had a chance to network with sociologists who are keen for us to push for a scientific presentation of the sentinel survey results of 2010 – I am excited at the prospect!
Finally, I will have a chance to do something really epidemiological in Namibia. I think I have done quite a few med anthro things (at two published op pieces, which you will find in this blog). A rigorous treatment of the sentinel survey of HIV prevalence amongst pregnant women is what I need. Perhaps I will have access to the data and I will manipulate in R! How fun.
Rather than elaborating at length about the conference, I wish, for the sake of time, to speak about the work of a visual artist. She presented on her exhibition “Images of Fertility and Abundance”. A cross between a mandrake and an octopus with branching tentacles is what some of the works resemble. Then there are prehistoric like images of mother figures with burgeoning wombs and opened seed pods that resemble the female genitals. “Nature is fool of images that I find erotic” said the artist. Of course, she did not elaborate on exactly how they were erotic.
I enjoyed this exhibition, because of its earth-like references and how it valued the human body. Spirals of colored wind that flew all over a canvas comprised one of her paintings, in my perspective. It was also great to see how as an artist, she connected her works with sociologically relevant themes. She spoke of how she aimed to counter “the culture of consumerism and materialism” that is becoming dominant in Namibia: “We all want to live in a big house in Ludwigsdorf [affluent suburb of Windhoek] with a four by four car and many accounts, but I just want to question that – can everyone in Africa do that and what will happen if they did?” Her artwork – full of the colors in the wind – was inspired by abundance and it drew you in with the warm red, orange and yellows. To me it illustrated how consumerism draws people in.
Her references to alternative, pre-Christian, forms of spiritually were equally intriguing. She had an “earth altar” that she was inspired to create by the personal, home, Christian shrines that people employed in the Byzantine empire, at some point in time. Her shrine of an open white carnivore jaw – like an ivory serrated V – affixed to a brown earth background. Bones in the dirt, a fossil or the first human shrine in Africa tens of millennia ago? I really enjoyed this and I feel moved to explore the connection my own spirituality has to nature. Indeed, I feel I have been overburdened by patriarchal, heterosexist forms of Christianity. Apart from valorizing the inherent validity of homoerotic relationships, I need to also explore the role nature has in the sacred.
Alright, that’s it for now!