More Than Paper

Submitted By trishatvu
Words: 4158
Pages: 17

More Than Paper
Trisha Vu
Professor Gerstel
Course 118255200
March 5, 2013

Typically, art and medicine are seen as two completely different categories, however, these unrelated fields are merged together in Ethiopian healing scrolls. Ethiopians believe that these scrolls contain healing properties and that they play a role in ensuring health. These scroll’s abilities demonstrate the interrelationship among art, religious faith, and their effects on a person’s well being. Several features on these scrolls include talismans, words, and a range of colors that are all used to promote their healing abilities. Unlike this art, Western Christian art is narrowly conceived as it acts to spread the faith and is made for the whole community. This art then incorporates several elements from biblical and gospel texts along with new techniques and mediums used to create art that reflects the magnificence of the churches and monasteries. With such different functions for each culture’s art, their purposes highly influence the features and therefore, show that function plays a role in a work’s visual elements. And it is through their specific functions that each culture’s art becomes different. Medicine is revolutionizing the world with its many advances, however in Ethiopia, they continue with their tradition of creating healing scrolls that provide the qualities needed to assist in maintaining a person’s health. They continue to believe that inscribed works communicate meaning through the mystical powers of words, letters, symbols, and the act of writing1 and it was through the creation of scrolls that helped emphasize and justify their beliefs. The healing properties of the scrolls influenced the unique elements put on them. For instance, the scrolls are personalized; the features are astrologically determined as each person has a corresponding zodiac sign and thereby, have their own “destiny, illnesses, enemies, protectors, colors, prayers, figures, and talismans.”2 As a result, a scroll is relevant to the person and plays an active role in their life. The length of a scroll also corresponds to a person’s height and the animal skin used to make the parchment is astrologically determined and acts as a substitute for the sick person.3 All these features of the scrolls are affected by the idea of curing a person of their ailment as only specific images, talismans, and prayers tied to that person are capable of doing so. Therefore, it can be seen that a scroll’s healing purpose highly influences how it is created and what decorations are put on it. And this all depends upon the person for which the scroll is made for. While Ethiopians believe that words and images contained healing properties, the Western Medieval culture focused more on using imagery and words to spread Christianity and educate the people. During this time, Christianity became a major part in people’s lives and it became important to create art that showed their faith.4 People believed that art could incarnate the power of the divine and through it, artists could create a place as “great as heaven.”5 As a result, the art that was produced was based upon the idea that it could spread their beliefs and teach others of their faith. With an emphasis upon meeting the needs of the community, artists incorporated important figures from biblical texts, such as Christ, Peter, and Paul, along with elements that promoted prayer and their religious stories. With such a difference in functions for art from Ethiopia and from the Western Medieval culture, it is evident that both cultures took different approaches in creating their art as they took into account what the work’s purpose was and what features would be used to support that purpose. While medieval Christian art focused more on innovation, aesthetics, and creating new ways to address the public, the Ethiopian art of healing scrolls continued with tradition. The aesthetic aspect that is seen in Medieval…