Monday, October 25, 2010

Lime, thyme and cocoa

My tincturing experiments which I began a while back have been coming along quite nicely, so I thought I would post a few photos of the results here.
As you may recall, I had started tincturing the lime leaves and broadleaf  thyme from my garden back in May, and then I tinctured some cocoa beans from Grenada in early August.

Grenadian cocoa

Broadleaf thyme

Lime leaf

 I'm quite pleased with the results, especially as this was my first attempt at tincturing anything.
The cocoa tincture has the strongest smell - I am quite surprised at how strong it is - and it's aroma is also very sweet and caramel-like, along with the chocolate smell. When I first decided to tincture the cocoa, I had envisioned it to smell like rich dark chocolate, so the sweetness surprised me - but in a pleasant way.

The lime leaf and thyme are much lighter in their scent but also very pleasant too. I think I will give these two a bit longer to marry with the alcohol.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ife: Portrait of a city

The British Museum recently held an exhibition on the Kingdom of Ife. Ife (pronounced ‘ee-fay’) was one of the great city-states of West Africa, and was located in what is now south-western Nigeria. Ife first emerged around AD 800 as a commercial, political and spiritual centre with access to lucrative trade networks.

The London exhibition showcased rarely seen brass, copper, stone and terracotta sculptures from medieval West Africa – an extraordinary display of beautiful, long-forgotten art.

Ife’s artists made remarkable works of art in copper, brass, terracotta and stone. The refined and highly naturalistic sculptures they produced were of such exquisite beauty that Ife’s place in the history of world art was assured.

By the 1100’s Ife had developed as a powerful urban trading centre. Trade operated across local, regional and long distance routes.

Trade routes ran across the Sahara desert linking North Africa and the Mediterranean to West Africa. A wide range of commodities was imported into the region including glass and carnelian beads, copper and brass. These were exchanged for locally-made glass beads, ivory and forest products such as kola nuts.

The superb sculpted heads in the exhibition featured statues of sick people, monuments to warriors, royal heads whose intriguing vertical scars tell of the ceremonies of the court. This brass head with crown, possibly representing a queen of Ife, comes from Wunmonjie Compound, Ife, 1300s - early 1400s:

Here, curators set up a seated figure cast in almost pure copper, from the village of Tada on the river Niger, late 1200s - early 1300s:

Sculptors in Ife imitated the human face with extreme detail, accuracy and sensitivity - achieving in each sculpture - like this 14th - 15th century mask - a sense of harmony, balance and proportion:

This terracotta head (below), wearing an elaborate tiered headdress or crown, was discovered from the pavement site of Ita Yemoo, Ife, 1100's - 1400s.
As you can see, there is so much still to learn about the art of Ife and the amazing world that created it. Hopefully this exhibition will be a starting point. To behold these royal heads is to travel to a fabled realm far beyond our imagination.