Life and Culture in Art HArn Museum
Medium of the Art
Anatsui, El. Old Man's Cloth. 2003. Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville.
This giant sculpture by El Anatsui is made of metallic tapestry, bottle tops, cloth, and copper wire. Each medium is a physical representation of the colonial history and Asante and Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo.
When I viewed this piece via online, I did not grasp the magnitude and three dimensional aspect of this piece. When I visited the Harn to see this sculpture in person, I was able to see the fine details of the woven materials and the grandeur of the artwork.
The woven metallic tapestry, bottle tops, and cloth illustrates unique and intertwined history of Ghana and Togo. The metallic tapestry and bottle tops comes from brand-name bottles introduced by the colonists. In history, the colonists usually did not show respect for the indigenous people and mistreated them. This sculpture, however, demonstrates that these embarrassing, regretful, and painful period of time counts as part of history and makes up the culture. For instance, the mass genocide that occurred in World War II, is one of the notorious example of horrible event in the history. At that time, Germans were not aware of the reality in concentration camps. After they found out about the truth, however, they expressed deep sorrow and grievance for the neglect. Now, it is embedded as part of the German history and culture. Many people from all parts of the world visit Auschwitz to remember and commiserate with the prisoners.
Unlike the Germans, there are many countries who refused to apologize for the behavior of their ancestors. For example, after the Korean War, Japan dethroned the ruler of Korea, banned the use of the Korean language and mistreated the local people. Even to this day, the Japanese officials has not shown remorse and has not educated their own people of the fault. As a citizen of South Korea, I want to deliver this message to Japanese: Don't be like the Nazis, be like the today's Germans.