Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Four

Our final post for 2010...another gleaning of reasons to be cheerful as we enter 2011.

The Shahnameh (the Persian Book of Kings), compiled and composed by Hakim Abu’l-Qasem Ferdowsi (940–1025, common era).

The Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge mounted a major exhibition of the Shahnameh this fall. In the words of curator Barbara Brend: "The most important creation of New Persian literature – the Shahnameh, or the ‘Book of Kings’ – has been defined as the national epic of the Iranian people, their ‘identity card’ (shenas-nameh) and an encyclopaedia of Iranian culture. It celebrates the survival of a civilization that originated some 7,000 years ago at a dynamic crossroads of cultures, the Iranian Plateau, extended at its peak from Anatolia and the Caucasus across Transoxiana to China, withstood countless invasions, absorbed diverse influences, and conquered its conquerors by virtue of its timeless values.

Twice as long as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey taken together [!!-Lobster & Canary], the Shahnameh blends Iran’s ancient myths and legends with accounts of major events in its past. Its 55,000 rhyming couplets chart the history of the Iranian world from its creation to the fall of the Persian Empire in the seventh century".

Ferdowsi is at once the preserver of Persian culture and one of the world's great authors. The Shahnameh is one of the great epics, Persian at its core yet a gift for all of us. For more, click here, and click here.

Paul Klee, The Goldfish (1925).

I have a framed reproduction at my work-desk, and another one at home. The first time I saw the original in Hamburg's Kunsthalle I stood transfixed for half an hour, a votary at the altar, glimpsing the numinous just beyond our daytime vision.

Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa, a major exhibition mounted this year by and at the British Museum. I wish I could have seen this, but the photographs alone indicate the stunning beauty, the detail, the empathy of these pieces, created c. 1200-1400 common era. (The photos above are--to the best of my knowledge-- copyright of the photographer Karin L. Wills; no infringement intended.) The "Ife Heads," produced by Yoruba peoples in what is today Nigeria, must surely put to rest outmoded ideas about what constitutes "African art." For more, click here and click here.


Michael Hedges, "Aerial Boundaries."

Victor Wooten, "Amazing Grace."

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