Spider

Introduction

By Fernando Galan, Espanha Critico de Arte & Editor Director art.es Magazine.

“The spider, why the spider? Because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider.” Louise Bourgeois. The spider is an ancient and universal symbol with three principal meanings: creative power, as exemplified by its silken web; its arachnid aggression; and its web, spiraling toward a central point, the spider immobile in the middle, symbolizing the center of the world. The symbolism of the spider goes beyond this, and is seen as the continual transmutation of human beings over the course of their lives. It represents the endless cycle of transformation and is associated with belief in reincarnation. Spiders are lunar creatures because the moon is identified with the world of physical phenomena, and on a psychic level, with imagination. So in its arachnid embodiment, the moon weaves the destiny of humans. Accordingly, in numerous ancient myths our satellite is depicted as an enormous spider. For the people of the Indus Valley, the spider was a symbol of illusion and cosmic order, since they saw it from the viewpoint of the spinner or weaver of the somatic and sensory worlds. In certain of the most ancient tomes of the peoples of this region, a spider’s legs, which move with dexterous rapidity, supposedly confer their qualities on those in need of their abilities: “When playing a singlestring rabel and your fingers move clumsily, all you have to do is capture some long-legged wild spiders, then burn them and rub your fingers in the ashes: this will make your fingers as flexible and agile as a spider’s legs.” Kwaku Anansi is the daughter of Nyambe, African god of the sky, and of Asase Ya, goddess of the earth. In ancient times, Anansi lived as a mortal; she was the chief of a tribe in what is now Ghana. She had supernatural powers, such as the ability to move among the treetops like a spider. One day, she decided to climb higher than anyone; she climbed and climbed without resting, until she realized that she could make it all the way to the sky, where she met Nyambe, chief of African gods. Anansi wished to take back to her village some proof that she had reached the sky, but Nyambe demanded something in return. Anansi promised Nyambe that she would serve him for life if he let her take back to earth his secrets. Nyambe accepted and Anansi was able to return to the village. Anansi used the secrets that she’d acquired in the sky to bring civilization to her people and to cultivate the earth. During one of her adventures a giant serpent captured her and her six children ran to her rescue, but when she was freed from the serpent she was attacked by an immense bird. Her six children again freed her. Grateful, Anansi wished to compensate her progeny, but she was unable to decide which of them had shown greater courage. Incapable of deciding, she went to Nyambe to ask for help and he decided that the one chosen would be transformed into the sun, and would be placed high in the sky as eternal reward. Hildebrando Melo was a mortal from Angola, dedicated to the strange profession of artist. Since he was a young man he often painted one of his favourite African motifs: baobab trees. Until one day, Anansi’s son, transformed into the sun and jealous of his artistic skill, caused him to suffer from sunstroke, making Hildebrando climb to the top of a baobab and then making sure the artist fell from such a great height. Hildebrando Melo broke all the fingers of both hands and seemed condemned never to paint again… But Nyambe felt sorry for him and regretting the loss of such a good artist, placed a copy of the tome from the Indus Valley on his bed while he slept. The next day, Hildebrando went to hunt spiders in the countryside; he burned them and rubbed the ashes on his broken fingers. His hands were cured and he began to paint again fervently. And this how his paintings of spiders came about…

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