Re: Humor Across Cultures

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Posted by R. John Howe on March 17, 1999 at 05:09:32:

In Reply to: Re: Musical metaphor posted by Yon Bard on March 15, 1999 at 08:32:47:

Dear Yon et al -

You wrote in part:

"If you find no sense of humor in Turkomans, please look at the wedding-procession panel on a Yomud tentband illustrated in Sotheby's NY catalog of sale 6687 (4/13/95) lot 17. Note, in partricular, the upside-down baby camel seeming to fall out of the lead camel's belly."

My thought:

I wonder if the weaver intended this image to be humorous. I've lived for good portions of my life in areas where there are lots of farmers. For awhile my wife and I lived on a working dairy farm. I've been struck by how matter-of-fact farmers are about such things as birth, sex and death. They live in close contact with them and seem rather accepting, not very often joking in this area.

George O'Bannon once showed another Turkoman piece at the TM that showed a wedding procession in which one of the male animals had a visible erection. This was greeted with polite, but salacious titters in the audience but again I wonder whether any humor was intended by the weaver. It could be a literal depiction simply expressing hope that the marriage would produce a child.

Someone has said that humor is one of the aspects of human experience that travels least well between cultures (making love and measurement type counting are said to be two others). My own personal take is that we may need to be cautious in projectiing our own sense of humor on artifacts from a different culture in a different century.

On the other hand you may be absolutely right.

An interesting issue.


R. John Howe

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