Why Did The Navajo Listeners Mentioned In Line 39 Laugh?

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Monalisha Ghosh 1 Year Ago

This passage on Navajo sandpainting was published in 1989 by a scholar of Navajo traditions who was trying to interpret them for non-Navajo readers. Sand paintings are made by trickling fine, multicolored sands onto a base of neutral colored sand. 


We cannot fully appreciate some Native American objects we consider art Without also appreciating the contexts in which they are produced. When our understanding of art is heavily focused on objects, we tend to look in the wrong place for art. We find only the leavings or byproducts of a creative process.


The concerns I have are deepened as I begin to compare how we, as outsiders, view sandpaintings with how the Navajo view them, even just from a physical perspective. Let me list several points of comparison. We have only representations of sandpaintings drawn or painted on paper or canvas, which we enjoy as objects of art. The Navajo strictly forbids making representations of sandpaintings, and they are never kept as aesthetic objects. Even the use of figures from sandpaintings in the sand-glue craft has not met with the approval of most Navajo traditionalists. Sandpaintings must be destroyed by sundown on the day they are made. They are not aesthetic objects, they are instruments of a ritual process. The sandpainting rite is a rite of re-creation in which a person in need of healing is symbolically remade in a way corresponding to his or her ailment. This person sits at the center of the very large painting and identifies with the images depicted, experiencing the complexity and the diversity, the dynamics and the tension, represented in the surrounding painting. The illness is overcome when the person realizes that these tensions and oppositions can be balanced in a unity that signifies good health and beauty. In terms of visual perspective, we traditionally view sandpainting from a position as if we were directly above and at such a distance that the whole painting is immediately graspable, with each side equidistant from our eyes. This view is completely impossible for the Navajo. I got a laugh when I asked some Navajo if anyone ever climbed on the roof of a hogan to look at a sandpainting through the smoke hole. When a painting 6 feet in diameter, or even larger, is constructed on the floor of a hogan only 20 feet in diameter, the perspective from the periphery is always at an acute angle to the surface.  A sandpainting cannot be easily seen as a whole. The most important point of view is that of the person for whom the painting is made, and this person sees the painting from the inside out because he or she sits in the middle of it. These differences are basic and cannot be dismissed. The traditional Navajo view is inseparable from the significance that sandpainting has for the Navajo. I think we can say that for the Navajo the sandpainting is not the intended product of the creative process in which it is constructed. The product is a healthy human being or the re-creation of a well-ordered world. The sandpainting is but an instrument for the creative act, and perhaps it is the wisdom of the Navajo that it be destroyed in its use so that the obvious aesthetic value of the instrument does not supplant the human and cosmic concern. The confinement of our attention to the reproduction of sandpaintings is somewhat analogous to hanging paint-covered artists palettes on the wall to admire, not acknowledging that these pigment covered boards are not paintings but the means to create them. There is a certain aesthetic value in artists palettes, I suppose, but surely most would think of this action as foolishly missing the point. 


 Why did the Navajo listeners mentioned in line 39 laugh?

(A)  it would be dangerous for a person to climb onto the roof of a hogan.

(B) the view from the periphery is more assuming  than the view from the center of the paintings

(C) only the person in need of healing should act in the way suggested by the author

(D) critical details in the sandpaintings would be imperceptible from such a distance

(E) A birds eye perspective is irrelevant to the intended function of the paintings 

asked Jun 22 11:35:39 AM

Monalisha Ghosh

Q: 105 A: 0

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