Long before Octomom, Nadya Suleman, was implanted with a dozen embryos by a California doctor, diverse cultures across Africa were employing sacred objects to ensure fecundation.Octodoc, Michael Kamrava, later had his license revoked when it was discovered that he had also produced Suleman's first six kids through in-vitro fertilization. Talk about gross negligence. Maybe he should have boned up on Africa's rich tradition of fertility rituals to maintain his practice in good stead.
Entire villages from all over that continent often used fertility masks while participating in festivals offering their gods songs and libations. While wearing the imposing masks they rhythmically danced with rapid, erratic stamping motions to thank the ancestors for a good crop or bushels of healthy babies. "African Treasures," on view at the World Erotic Art Museum, offers a rare view at a range of fertility objects and furnishings from numerous African cultures that used these items to bridge the gap between the sacred and profane and embrace reproduction through ritual without risking jail time.
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"There are many unique and different nations within the boundaries of the continent of Africa," observes Naomi Wilzig, world-class erotic artifact collector and the museum's owner. Among the 60 art pieces on display are Bundu ceremonial helmets and masks from Sierra Leon, a Makonde pregnant belly Njorowe mask from Tanzania, and Luba tribe divination tables from the Congo.
"Universal to all is the history of depicting human sexuality and fertility in their sculptures and artworks. Local customs are also illustrated and evident within the different countries," she says. "However fertility was the original subject of many artworks throughout history, particularly in ancient times. These fertility objects were used in agriculture for bountiful crops as well as human reproduction for large families and for protection" Wilzig adds.
Couples even placed fertility dolls near their beds hoping for fruitful pregnancies since big broods were welcomed to ensure survival of their culture. "The phallus was a symbol of power, good luck, and fertility and was glorified and exaggerated in much of the artwork, Wilzig concludes.
"African Treasures" opens Tuesday, June 21, with a reception at 7 p.m. at World Erotic Art Museum (1205 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) and runs through August 13. Tickets cost $15, no one under 18 will be admitted. Call 305-532-9336 or visit weam.com.
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