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Art lecture takes a different view of the heavens

By Leslie King | Emory Report | March 31, 2015

Myth and art about the supernatural aspects of the cosmos will be presented in "Heaven's Things in San Art and Folklore," Tuesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. in the Reception Hall of the Michael C. Carlos Museum.

In her lecture, Jessica Stephenson, assistant professor of art history at Kennesaw State University, will bring together the expressive forms of myth and art to explore San beliefs about the moon, stars, sun and astral events. The San are communities in South Africa and Botswana.

Stephenson describes how the San worldview requires a different way of looking at cosmology: "The night sky with its halo of stars is not seen to be above the viewer, or accessible by moving upwards. Nor does it exist in the present moment in which the viewer witnesses it," she says.

"Rather, the celestial realm is accessed by traveling downwards, through a body of water which takes one into the celestial realm, into the distant past where stars are the souls of deceased ancestors."

"Heaven's Things in San Art and Folklore" is one of the events planned in conjunction with the Carlos Museum's "African Cosmos, Stellar Arts," an exhibition and series of programs on African cultural astronomy and how it has influenced traditional and contemporary African arts.

The exhibition, featuring approximately 80 works of ancient, traditional and contemporary works from African cultures, will be at the museum until June 21.