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Ceremony of Souls

Ethiopian Cabbage and Potatoes

By Tim Hazell

At the heart of Conceptual art in the late 1960s may be the notion that is always present in native and, frequently, in ancient and medieval art—namely, that the content of the narrative, whether secular or spiritual, is uppermost in importance. Images that are transient originators of strong signals are all around us today, infusing mass media.

Many writers, composers, and visual artists have become sensitized “receptors” to energies concealed at the heart of such “logotypes.” Roland Barthes in his essay “Rhetoric of the Image” alluded to the irresistible language of suggestion that graphics in advertising use intentionally in today’s virtual marketplace.

The advertising icon communicates directly, subliminally, with our most vulnerable places of stress. Poets and installation artists have conspired to overturn the standard canons of art and to explore fresh possibilities of tension and struggle between images and text, building upon commercial art applications, but in a more profound way. Destabilizing effects are achieved by a certain degree of impenetrability and controlled chaos.

Hypnotic connections with an audience have been explored since the first decades of the twentieth century by artists such as Rene Magritte, whose incongruous use of labeling in paintings that depict utilitarian objects placed in improbable settings are meant to evoke a sense of foreboding.

This rich stuff of imagination is fertile loam for contemporary animism and magic. A torrent of untempered images cascades through the Internet, without censure or refinement. Mass media fills our everyday lives with tantalizing, unedited alternatives.

The mandorla, or vesica piscis, is the conventional shape of many animals around us. Seeds, leaves, insects, fish, and birds share this common form. To the Greeks, its mathematical implications of perfection aligned the vesica with the Golden Section. In world religions, it has been loved for millennia. The mandorla’s combination of animism and rational order is subliminally attractive to us, and so it used today in commercial slogans and logos as a harmonious field in which to enclose advertising text. It beckons because we are compelled to respond to its mystical power.

Hybrids of evangelism such as voodoo also liberate through a renewal of the imagination. Voodoo conjuration is employed as a medium of cultural reclamation for urbanized and desensitized society. It facilitates connections through a “ceremony of souls” with the revitalizing power of generations of ancestors. Akan, Dogon, Swahili, and Egyptian cultures awaken again in African American culinary traditions.


Ethiopian Cabbage and Potatoes


3 tbsp olive oil

4 carrots, thinly sliced on the bias

1 onion, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/2 head cabbage, shredded

5 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes



Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the carrots, onion, and garlic about 5 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, and cabbage. Cook another 15 minutes. Add potatoes and cover. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, 20 to 30 minutes.


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