Art: The Shape of Death

The traditional European symbol of death is the skeleton with a scythe, toothy, faceless, but curiously fragile. Recently, a young, African art student at Uganda's Makerere College set out to make his own symbol. Gregory Maloba, 19, had some tribal lore in the back of his head, little knowledge of any other art tradition. Death, he thought, should be "not unkind but inscrutable." Out of a three-foot mahogany log, he carved a horned shape of power (see cut). Maloba's Death did no grinning, whispering, or shoulder-tapping; the Shape stood pityingly behind its victim, and crushed him.


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