One of the last shows I attended in 2018 was the Fowler Museum’s Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths. Of the 200+ works on display which included tools, totems, weapons, jewelry, and adornments, the most interesting items told stories of people who commissioned blacksmiths to create pieces that told their life story. Other works were used as historical artifacts that serve as living narratives of entire communities and tribes. These specific works brought to mind how families used Bibles as family trees to record generations of family members.
One of my favorites was a small hourglass shaped piece of embossed metal and wood with beads and stones attached to the surface. These Lukasa, also known as “Memory Boards” (which look like printed circuit boards), were used as visual and tactile mnemonic devices by high ranking elders in the Mbudye Society, who were the keepers of knowledge for the Luba of the Democratic Republic of Congo. During ceremonies, the Mbudye would read the boards and tell stories of the past, while also using this history to solve current problems and predict the future.
I’ve been thinking about memories and how we keep our most cherished ones alive, especially in light of social media. For the past 2 weeks I’ve been barraged with countless recaps of personal highs in carefully selected 2018 highlight reels. I just don’t roll like that. My online presence remains niche focused entirely on art (with the exception of my un-dying love for pop culture commentary via gifs) and by art writing standards, 2018 was both a beautiful and incredible year. I’ve worked with a group of supportive editors who have pushed my writing in new directions, and I’ve built a freelance portfolio that I am proud of. I got to travel a bit at the beginning of the year, and I’ve met some amazing people along the way.
In many respects this year has been extremely challenging, as I’ve been dealing with compounded fatigue from 2016 and 2017, but this year I am far better equipped to deal with it and release it. I’m using this image of a Memory Board as a totem, as a reminder to use the lessons of past to guide my future without feeling stuck in it. I look back on the lessons I’ve learned in 2018 and I am ready to hit the ground running to push myself to new levels.
I always end the year with gratitude and I want to send a huge THANK YOU to everyone who continues to ride for this blog, supporting my love for art. I want to wish you all the best for a happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year. Onward!