By Nii B. Andrews.
The poet Milton designated the horned Greek god, Pan as “the bounteous Pan, the god of rural scenery, shepherdi, and huntsmen”.
Pan in earliest paintings from 2500 years ago, was shown as a goat standing upright on his hind legs. Much later he acquired a human head and torso but the goat horns remained.
Always a paradox; Pan continues to evolve as an uncivilized god in a civilized world; much like a goat – never really a fully domesticated animal.
He symbolizes instant gratification; the price of recklessness and abandon; regret, despair, foolishness, ugliness and heartbreak.
His sexuality was obviously depicted as unacceptable to ordered society.
With this background, we can then view the colorful and provocative mural executed by the Ghanaian artist, Nana Yaw Ananse (Richard Kusi Ampem Darko I), at the last Chale Wote Festival in Accra.
Which section or element in our society best fits the Pan trope of disorder and recklessness?
Who are those that behave like uncivilized gods?
Which groups make you wonder whether they are fully domesticated – or enlightened?
Ananse adds text to his mural in order not to leave any doubt in our mind as to his deep feelings of frustration; for him even the dismembered animal parts hanging on the mural are not enough to express his angst.
He has also added chains to the Pan figures and has them engulfed in flames – while someone has left their sandals behind.
Ananse then adds his barefooted physical being as part of the work by adopting disconsolate poses at the bottom of the mural.
Are the abandoned sandals his?
Fresco showing Pan accompanied by a lyre playing nymph. From the House of Jason in Pompeii, Naples National Archeological Museum.
We hope that Ananse’s flames are not the fire of barbarism and destruction but instead a true alchemical fire that produces gold – not literal gold, but an inner essence of the soul.
Is it realistic at this stage to have hope?
It is; if only we understand the need for and work relentlessly towards change for the better; discipline, honesty and hard work while eschewing sycophancy, mediocrity and opportunism.
Perhaps there is indeed hope since according to Plutarch, Pan was the only Greek god who did die.
For G.K. Chesterton, Milton and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; the death of Pan is linked to the Advent and the Nativity.
Happy Holiday Season, folks.