The simple Ox life

In many cultures, the animal motif carries a symbolism that goes beyond the decorative. Cleopatra chose suicide by the asp, and for every fancy dress party enthusiast (or Las Vegas showgirl) the asp headdress (or snake band) is synonymous with accurate and/or kitsch Egyptian costuming. Think we’re beyond it though? Oh, you really don’t believe that – the high-end endurance of the Lacoste alligator is a perfect example of contemporary anthropomorphic branding (French founder Rene Lacoste was the Michael Jordan of tennis, described as “Le Crocodile” on the court).

So, when we hear that Bata Shoe Museum curator Elizabeth Semmelhack is giving a lecture on symbolism in Chinese art and fashion – with a special focus on the ox and animal motifs – we’re very interested. Inspired by the temporary Chinese New Year exhibit (almost a ‘best of’ the previously successful Watched by Heaven exhibit, expect in-depth analysis of shoes and pullovers with lions, tigers and … ox. After all, it is the year of oxen : a born leader, a prosperous sign that captures springtime and agriculture with ruling hours between 1am-3am. Luckily, the talk is scheduled for the more appropriate hours of 6-8pm.


Exploring Symbolism in Chinese Art and Dress
Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor St. West, Toronto
Tuesday, January 20, 2009, 6pm
$10 per person; $5 per student
Be sure to stay for the complimentary dim-sum and tea afterwards.

-Rea McNamara

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