the concept of aesthetic of the cool by Robert Farris Thompson

The highest value is reconciliation and generosity, to be at ease, to settle quarrels. Tranquility of mind. To be cool, wet, and silent. When you hear 'chill,' you're in the black aesthetic of the cool. - Dr. Robert Farris Thompson

One of my mentors once told me: if you want to dance bebop, you have to think Snoop Dogg.

It is true, cause it goes straight into the representation of coolness of the attitude. Few months after I discovered Dr. Robert Farris Thompson's work and concept of "Aesthetic of the Cool" which he traces back to the Yoruba traditional beliefs and religion.

To tame or pacify is to cool the face (tu l'oju). Thus, providing the non-figurative symbol of an orisha with sculptured face facilitates the pacification of that orisha, for what has a face is controlable. - Babatunde Lawal


The mystic coolness (itutu) it is a sovereign concept that confers character and àshe. Much Yoruba art is informed by itutu.

> To carve a calm face upon a represented thunderstone, or upon an abstract divination tray, or to incise it upon the swelling curves of a calabash for sacred things is to provide critical focus for acts of sacrifice and devotion.

> Further manifestations of aesthetic coolness in Yoruba art include representation of idealized action. We must take care not to stress character and coolness as separate semantic structures because they shade into each other and also blur into the existential definition of àshe. The interrelation of the concepts is explicitly given in vernacular testimony from the capital of the Anago:

Coolness or gentleness of character is so important in our lives. Coolness is the correct way you represent yourself as a human being. When I saw you, I opened my cap. It is itutu, answering past itutu you made to me.

Opening the cap, instead of doffing or removing it, in Western parlance, is a sign of generosity of response, of coolness in life and art.

Generosity, the highest form of morality in Yoruba traditional terms, is suggested by the symbolized offering of something by a person to a higher force through the act of

kneeling: "While presenting a plate of food, kneel and give with both hands, the mother hand and the father hand, the hand which keeps and the hand which acts".

The act of giving with both hands, in a gesture of submission, emphasizes in traditional terms the act of giving as an embodiment of character and perfect composure, a point given further focus, in both art and life, by the firmness of the facial expression that accompanies the noble act."

Constant smiling is not a Yoruba characteristic.

Sealed lips, frequent in Yoruba statuary, are a sign of seriousness." They, too, imply the coolness of the image, as in an idiom that refers to discretion in ordinary discourse: "his mouth is cool" (enu è tútù), which is one of the ways the Yoruba would say, "he fell silent". Like character, coolness ought to be internalized as a governing principle for a person to merit the high praise: "his heart is cool" (okan è tutu). In becoming sophisticated, a Yoruba adept learns to differentiate between forms of spiritual coolness:

> direct sacrifice (ebo), the cooling of the gods by the giving of cherished objects;

> propitiation (irele), the utterance of conciliatory words or acts to hardened or angered deities;

The notion of coolness in Yoruba art extends beyond representations of the act of sacrifice and acts or gestures of propitiation. So heavily charged is this concept with ideas of beauty and correctness that a fine carnelian bead or a passage of exciting drumming may be praised as "cool".

Coolness, then, is a part of a character, and character objectifies proper custom.

To the degree that we live generously and discreetly, exhibiting grace under pressure, our appearance and our acts gradually assume virtual royal power. As we become noble, fully realizing the spark of creative goodness God endowed us with - the shining ororo bird of thought and aspiration - we find the confidence to cope with all kinds of situations. This is àshe. This is character. This is mystic coolness.

All one. Paradise is regained, for Yoruba art returns the idea of heaven to mankind wherever the ancient ideal attitudes are genuinely manifested.

(Robert Farris Thompson "Flash of the Spirit")