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Art Through Time: A Global View

Dreams and Visions Compare: What Is the Relationship Between Art and Dreams?

Headrest

Headrest
Artist / Origin: Shona artist, Zimbabwe
Region: Africa
Date: 19th–20th century
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Wood
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions: H: 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. James J. Strain

“Sisilia Sii–Weaver”

“Sisilia Sii–Weaver”
Artist / Origin: Flores Island, Indonesia
Region: Oceania
Date: 20th century
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Video still
Medium: Textiles and Fiber Arts
Credit: Courtesy of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

What is the relationship between art and dreams?

Across the world, many cultures hold the belief that artistic creation can influence or be influenced by one’s dreams. Sometimes, as in the Flores Island culture to which Sisilia Sii belongs, patterns or ideas for art are believed to be communicated to a sleeper in his or her dreams, often by an ancestor. In other cases, as with the Shona, an object like a headrest can act as a conduit for communicating with the spirit world through dreams.

Questions to Consider

  • Both of the Shona headrest and the ikat made by Indonesian weaver Sisilia Sii have a connection to dreams. What is that connection in each case? Do you think there is an inherent connection between art and dreams?
  • Both the headrest and the ikat speak to their respective culture’s beliefs in dreams as a point of contact with the spirit world. What role does art play in facilitating or revealing that communication in each case? What can you infer from this about each culture’s broader views concerning art?
  • What is the relationship between visual culture in your community and dreaming? How does this compare to the cases presented here? What does it suggest about your own culture’s beliefs and values?

Series Directory

Art Through Time: A Global View

Credits

Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2