Before I discuss black and its interpretations and connotations in contemporary popular culture and media I thought we should explore how it has been used throughout history.
Black has always figured predominantly in culture value segmentation. Black can be seen as the color of authority, seriousness and sumptuousness. It is used in academic dress, for formal occasions and by law practitioners; such as barristers and judges. In the Maasai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania, the color black is associated with rain clouds, a symbol of life and prosperity, sweeping across to North America black plays out all its valued roles in the Peace Pipe Ceremony .
Black is the color of the west
Where the sun goes down.
Black is darkness, release, spirit protection.
In the darkness, the spirit beings come to us.
The spirit beings warn us,
Protect us, foretell for us, release for us.
They are the spirit helpers to Wakan Tanka.
Black is the cup of water;
The life-giving rains come from the west,
Where the thunder beings live.
Water is life.
Black stands for the spirit world…
The aesthetic perfection of black can be seen in the revered master craftsman of Japan and the beauty of their traditional lacquer techniques. Black is also associated with honour and achievement (black belts).
How does all this feed into our contemporary world? With new media and global marketing the collective history of all these cultures is vocal, we can also thread a connected human response. In ancient China black was the symbol of north and water, like many of the other cultures discussed in this post, the themes of water and life begin to surface. How can we as communicators engage these similarities efficaciously?
Next week I shall explore black as a representative of societies negative agenda. How colour has been used to define people and polarize us for the benefit of powerful agenda setting groups.