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Art Challenging Perception

By Tim Hazell

Native art draws admiration for its universal appeal. To the sensitive eye, its aesthetic qualities may appear to exist independently from their milieu. This assumption does not account for critical standards that indigenous peoples apply to the products of their craftsmanship. Much of the criteria used to evaluate venerated works such as sand paintings and ceremonial masks evolved as the growing uniqueness of tribal artisans set them apart from secular community life.

Neo-primitivism is limited to the conscious adaptions by sophisticated artists of authentic specimens of rustic and native craftsmanship. The first major artist to employ exotic patterns and motifs in his woodcuts and paintings was Paul Gauguin, and such works as his Mahana No Atua, painted during his stay in Tahiti, clearly reflect native influences. Examples of Polynesian manufacture such as oars, arrows, and harpoons were purchased from traders by avid connoisseurs and shown at the Paris expositions of 1879 and 1889.

“Primitive” art, with its negation of progress, embodied the promise of new beginnings. German Expressionists were fascinated by the strange configurations and anti-intellectualism of the images. Fauve painter Henri Matisse (1869–1954) found justification for the abstract rendering of form in their simplified geometry.

This recipe was inspired by Matisse’s 1911 painting Still Life with Aubergines, completed during a period in his career when he was under the spell of his travels to Algeria.

Stuffed Aubergine (Eggplant)


2 eggplants

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup couscous

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 cup tahini

1 lemon

1/4 cup water

Pinch of salt and pepper

Handful of basil leaves


Preheat oven to 420F. Wash eggplants and cut-off tops. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides (cut into small pieces and reserve for later), leaving about one inch of flesh still attached to the skin. Drizzle one tablespoon of the olive oil over halved eggplants and arrange, cut side down, on an oiled baking tray. Roast for 30 minutes.

Heat remaining oil in a large frying pan. Gently fry the chopped onion. Add 3 of the minced garlic cloves. Fry for another 2 minutes. Add reserved eggplant and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. Add tomato and chickpeas and cook until eggplant is soft, around 10 minutes.

Combine couscous and boiling water in a small bowl. Cover with a lid and set aside for 5 minutes. Once water has been absorbed, fluff with a fork. In another small bowl, combine the remaining clove of minced garlic, tahini, juice of half a lemon, 1/4 cup of water, salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

When the eggplants have finished roasting, turn them onto a serving platter. Fold couscous into the chickpea/eggplant mixture in the frying pan and stir well. Squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon. Scoop mixture into the hollowed-out, roasted eggplants. Scatter over the basil leaves. Drizzle the tahini sauce and serve immediately.


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