In art we find our best selves
As the new museum of African history and culture opens in Washington, I once more turn to art and culture to find the meaningful root below the tapering. The traditional art of African culture reflects the deeply held spiritual values of its people throughout the vastness of the continent and proliferation of various tribes. For example, art produced by the Yoruba reflects a religious belief system as rich and archetypal as that of ancient Greece. Even a brief consideration of traditional African art leaves one with a sense of the depth of its people, and though we do not have museums here in Alaska that display such art, at least the Internet can provide a glance at the fabric of a cultural richness that is on a par with any culture in the world. Though the cultural traditions and the art it produced were fractured by the egregious slave trade, the art itself carries forward through time what is essential in the human fabric. That human fabric holds a fundamental struggle between “good and evil,” and that the slave trade was made possible only with the cooperation of native African slave traders highlights that struggle. But turn to art, and there, there we find what is fundamental and enduring in our essential goodness.