Arts of Africa
ART OF BELIEF
Each of these works is the product of a religious tradition that synthesized and adapted new beliefs and art forms to existing faith systems. Both objects are testaments to the long-standing global nature of African religions, ideas, and art.
The stone sculpture represents Serapis, a composite god created early in the Ptolemaic (Greek) rule of Egypt to unite Greeks and Egyptians. The deity combined aspects of Egyptian gods (especially Osiris, the ruler of the Underworld) with Greek deities (particularly Zeus, the king of the gods). Worship of Serapis continued in the Roman period and eventually spread to Europe.
The painting depicts al-Buraq, the winged horse with a woman's head on which the prophet Muhammad flew the mi'raj, his nocturnal journey to heaven to meet God. Like many in Senegal, Gora Mbengue was a member of a Sufi order, a group dedicated to the practice of a mystical interpretation of Islam. Sufism played an important role in the spread of Islam in West Africa, inspiring schools and movements particularly open to melding new and existing systems of belief and image making. Reverse glass painting (souwère) developed by 1900 in Senegal's cities, as pilgrims on the hajj to Mecca brought the technique back from the eastern Mediterranean.
13 1/2 x 19 1/4 in. (34.3 x 48.9 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Blake Robinson
Figure of Al-Buraq (winged half human, half horse) painted on glass with gold metal frame. Condition good.
This item is not on view
Gora Mbengue (1931-1988). Al-Buraq, 1975. Glass, paint, 13 1/2 x 19 1/4 in. (34.3 x 48.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Blake Robinson, 2004.52.21. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2004.52.21_PS2.jpg)
overall, 2004.52.21_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
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