Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Activating the daliluw

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Mande sculpture

The foundation that nourishes the institution of smithing, so that it may nourish society, is the simple axiom that knowledge can be power when properly articulated. Behind most of the smiths’ works are units of highly focused, very practical information, the daliluw, which themselves are grounded in smaller units, the bits and pieces of organic matter and other materials that derive from “the science of the trees.” For the blacksmiths, making sculpture is much like activating daliluw. First, in sculpting they reduce their subject to a collection of highly abstract elements, just as in the use of daliluw they collect raw materials from nature and refine them down to essences. Next, in sculpture these elements are linked in dramatic but carefully controlled configurations through the acumen of smiths, so that a vigorous new entity is created. This too is like the use of daliluw, where essences are distilled and rearranged through knowledge to create something new and useful. In both instances, knowing which elements to use is important. It is equally important to synthesize them very carefully. A poor mix in art produces a flaccid composition or an artificial union of parts that clash rather than meld.

Patrick R. McNaughton, The Mande Blacksmiths

Written by nevalalee

August 10, 2014 at 7:30 am

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