This standing figure, carved and polished from unknown mottled green stone, was probably reworked from a celt, or hand axe. The handle of the axe was reworked into the figure’s head. Here it has a flat and rounded shape, prominent eyebrows, slight nose, and indentation to create a mouth along with vertical cuts to represent ears. The center of the figure has been cut or hollowed away to create a torso, arms, and lower hands folded across the body. Finally, the original blade of the celt has been worn away in the center to create the figure’s legs.
For the Mezcala, stone celts such as these represented the most refined technology available. They provided food, perhaps were used in sacrifices, and contributed to political and social power along with wealth and prestige. The green stone was believed to be evidence of gods on Earth, symbolizing their reciprocal relationship with humans. Many scholars believe these objects are associated with elite burials, though because much contextual information has been lost to looting, archaeologists are still piecing together the history of Mezcala figures.
Iman Issa receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fine Arts for exploring, through works of various media, difficult philosophical questions, such as the individual’s relationship to places, figures, and events that are collectively familiar, or the difference between experience and recognition.
Meleko Mokgosi receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fine Arts for paintings that rely on intensive research, reflection, and conversation in order to address widespread misrepresentation of Africa and Africans, and to accurately portray the continent’s complex social and political realities.
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