It is possible that cuneiform, one of the earliest forms of linear writing, was developed by women.
Originating in Sumeria circa 3100 BC, cuneiform text was the method used to record temple accounts and keep track of temple estates and stock.
At this time, human spirituality was based around a Goddess culture, an earthy worship of fertility and abundance. Temples were established to facilitate worship of several female goddesses. The Goddess Innana the supreme divinity of ancient Sumeria is depicted holding two reeds, the agricultural symbol of abundance.
Cut with a reed
These reeds, when cut at an angle, created a stylus with which to impress clay with symbols and letters. The reed stylus imprint forms a V shape, also the symbol for woman. Formations of V strokes formed words, concepts and letters. Non pictorial writing was born.
The exhibition at Noosa Regional Gallery
Words by Kari with commentary from Tania Murray
This exhibition explores cuneiform in the ancient medium of ceramic, and the more modernistic medium of glass, one we can see through to another layer of understanding. The body of work features high-fired ceramic, produced in a kiln - wood fired over three days. Paths of flame decorate the surface, and reference the baking of clay tablets in ancient times, when temple libraries were burned by invading forces. Ironically, this burning preserved the texts for future readers. Heat formed glass complements the textural surfaces, and brings cuneiform books to life in a new way.
A solo exhibition of ceramic and glass held recently at the Noosa Regional Gallery by ceramic artist Kari, explored cuneiform, the earliest known form of writing. From temple via library to museum to art gallery, cuneiform has traveled a long way from its origins in ancient Phonecia.
Originating in Mesopotamia circa 4000 BC, cuneiform text was the method used to record temple accounts and keep track of temple estates, offerings and stock on clay tablets. At this time, human spirituality was based around a Goddess culture, an earthy worship of fertility and abundance.
“Kari constructs her broken pieces of wood-fired ceramic into beautiful ‘phonecian love letters’. Each piece carefully aligned together like some decoded hieroglyph. Flame traces across the tablet surfaces are mnemonic of ancient ruins bearing marks of resilience and destruction.
These assembled letters, temple tidings and chronicles, of wood-fired ceramic and formed glass, are displayed in a recessed alcove space. This being adjacent to the gallery’s own library and reading room. The work reads beautifully as a horizontal narrative, one’s gaze being drawn around the wall to the plinth with its ‘cuppa and a good book’.” TM
The Sumerian temples and lands were administered by priestesses, called the Kunta (pron:’koonta’).
“Kari’s installation of five Shino glazed, wood-fired Sumerian priestesses, line the wall of the glass Foyer gallery. Like columns from a Greek temple, their rounded hips are inscribed with cuneiform, reminiscent of bridal henna motives. Their torsos given flight and paradox, with bamboo flute- like uprights.” TM
The body of work ‘Cunei Forms’ features stoneware ceramic, wood-fired over three days. Paths of flame decorate the surface, and reference the baking of clay tablets in ancient times when temple libraries were burned by invading forces.
“Unconstrained by the exactitudes of science, an artist can bring her own archaeological discoveries and dialogue into a contemporary gallery setting. Kari’s exhibition of Cunei Forms gathers together many fragments to create a complex and layered narrative, sometimes informative always lyrical.” TM
My other projects
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Creating a Puppet Kari - artist in residence at Ceres, November 2009 Each year the Sacred Kingfisher birds return from…