The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s educational department invited me to teach a class based on the making of Daedal Doodle. To come up with alliterations such as Appreceptive Achatina, Bifoliated Bonito and Caoutchouidal Chelonia, I read 8,000 pages of varying dictionaries. For this class before we used the dictionary to source words we used the Museum’s Oceania Galleries, where the museum displays the artifacts of Polynesia, New Britain, Australia and New Guinea.
The class consisted of 9-18 year olds. Before giving the assignment to a young group I made a sample image to let the class better understand what they were being asked to do. Initially I was doing the assignment out of a sense of responsibility. However, after roaming the galleries and finding the Kavat Masks the assignment quickly changed into the world of unimagined possibilities that reminded me of why I made Daedal Doodle in the first place. I was stunned by the absolutely looney*, other worldly, Kavat Masks of the Banning people in the New Guinea section of the Met’s exhibit. Not only had I never come across something so physically and culturally ornate, I had never come across something so spiritually enchanted.
The next part of the assignment was to go to the letter “K” section of the dictionary and find a word or words that would make the alliteration. Sometimes that takes a while; this time it happened in mere minutes. I found the word Khedah. My imagination felt like comets colliding in space. I immediately changed the scale of the Kavat to be the walls of the Khedah thereby creating the….
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Kavat, n. The dramatic bark cloth kavat masks created by New Guinean’s Central Baining people, are used exclusively in night dance. This mask represents spirits associated with the forks of tree trunks.
Khedah, n. (in India, Myanmar, ect) an enclosure into which wild elephants are driven to be captured.
*Looney is not meant as a pejorative but rather is an example of my initial ignorance of the Banning /New Guinean culture. With a little investigation it became apparent that their beliefs are ecologically vibrant and are as anthropologically as exciting as the thought of visiting another planet.