Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign

Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign

Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign
    Book Description:

    Written symbols, religious objects, oral traditions, and body language have long been integrated into the Kongo system of graphic writing of the Bakongo people in Central Africa as well as their Cuban descendants. The comprehensiveKongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Signprovides a significant overview of the social, religious, and historical contexts in which the Kongo kingdom developed and spread to the Caribbean.Author Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz, a practitioner of the Palo Monte devotional arts, illustrates with graphics and rock art how the Bakongo's ideographic and pictographic signs are used to organize daily life, enable interactions between humans and the natural and spiritual worlds, and preserve and transmit cosmological and cosmogonical belief systems.Exploring cultural diffusion and exchange, collective memory and identity,Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Signartfully brings together analyses of the complex interconnections among Kongo traditions of religion, philosophy and visual/gestural communication on both sides of the African Atlantic world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0818-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Kongo Graphic Writingis a study of structured visual expression among the Bakongo people in Central Africa and their descendants in Cuba. The book is built around the central argument that multiple, varied communication tools, including written symbols, religious objects, oral traditions, and body language, have consistently been integrated by the Bakongo into structured systems of graphic writing. These systems are used to organize daily life, enable interactions between humans and the natural and spiritual worlds, and preserve and transmit cosmological and cosmogonical belief systems.

    The systematic modes of graphic expression documented among the Bakongo over the past few centuries...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Atlantic Passage: The Spread of Kongo Belief in Africa and to the Americas
    (pp. 15-28)

    The Bakongo people are found today in northern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. A subset of broader Bantu culture that today stretches across much of eastern, central, and southern Africa, the Bakongo first settled in Central Africa as a result of larger migrations across the continent. It is generally believed that the Bantu originated in the vicinity of the Cross River Valley, an area covered by present-day Chad and Sudan. Archaeologist John Desmond Clark, in his bookThe Prehistory of Africa, calls the spread of Bantu-speaking people “one of the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Process of Meaning Making: The Kongo Universe
    (pp. 29-46)

    Complex belief systems are used across cultures to help individuals and communities identify themselves and understand their place in the world. While varied in their substances and outward expression, such systems serve a similar purpose in that they create a narrative through which culture is formed and transmitted to later generations. This narrative engenders a sense of both identity and purpose, helps individuals understand where they came from and how they got here, and defines the role of forces that exist to guide them through life and beyond. Understanding any such narrative requires the exploration of several interrelated strands that...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Afro-Atlantic Graphic Writing: Bidimbu, Bisinsu, and Firmas
    (pp. 47-148)

    The termgraphic writing systemscan be credited to Gerhard Kubik. Building on existing scholarly work on particular writing traditions that facilitated an awareness of graphic expression in Africa,¹ Kubik was the first scholar to study and explain in systematic terms graphic writing traditions.² He argued that graphic writing must be understood as a “visual communication system whose constituent parts are graphemes, the smallest meaningful unit in the system.”³ In the context of Kongo graphic writing, these constituent parts include ideograms, pictograms, and cosmograms, which can be differentiated as follows:

    Ideograms: Visual signs or abstract graphic representations of an idea...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Beyond the Scripture: Physical Forms of Graphic Writing
    (pp. 149-190)

    Although scholars have traditionally conceptualized graphic writing only in two-dimensional form, Kongo graphic communication is better understood as involving a wider range of forms, some two-dimensional, but others multi- or nondimensional. These varied types of communicative devices are bound together in a structured, consistent way in Bakongo culture and give rise to what can be termed graphic writing systems.

    Within identifiable but flexible boundaries, graphic writing systems bring together elements as diverse as sculptures, rhythms, songs, gestures, and divination tools; and numeric, color, or food identifiers can be systematically integrated, understood, and passed down through multiple generations. In this chapter...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 191-192)

    Intended to encapsulate my work on visual practices in Central Africa and the Kongo diaspora in Cuba,Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Signhas explored the extensive range of visual communication forms documented across Bakongo and Bakongo-descended communities in Central Africa and Cuba and demonstrated the systematic usage of such forms and the complex meanings conveyed through them. After introducing the historical context from which the Kongo emerged as well as the stages of extreme disruption imposed by the “civilizing,” colonizing, and enslaving of the Bakongo, this book has focused on the manner in which the Bakongo...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 193-210)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-228)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-229)