Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Of zebras, pandas and penguins

Photo by Robbert van der Steeg; licensed on Creative Commons

Black and white is a striking combination: the darkest dark and the lightest light. Primitive languages with only two color words have words for black and white, or more specifically dark and light.

"Mission Impossible" was a popular TV series which ran from 1966 until 1973. The series was shot in color, yet always one of the opening scenes took place in the team leader's apartment which had a color scheme of black, white and gray.  Producer Bruce Geller felt that the most striking thing in color would be... black and white.

Zentangle uses black ink on white paper, then adds gray shading. One reason is to keep it simple. Bring in color, and there's a lot more you need to know, many more decisions to make, and that can be intimidating.

Photo: Margaret Bremner; Chengdu Panda Breeding Center; Sichuan, China; February 2008
BLACK is a color of mystery, the obscure, the unknown. It is the night sky, the depths of a cave, the heart of a forest.

In ancient times, black represented the earth and the underworld, corresponding to the belly of the earth where the regeneration of the world happens. It was a symbol of fecundity and the color of fertility goddesses. Black is the color of pre-beginning in creation stories, representing the void, the non-existent.

In many North American aboriginal cultures black is the color of the West and represents adulthood and maturity.  The “black road” runs west/east and is the path of earthly difficulties and lessons. The '"red road" runs north/south and is the path of spiritual awakening. The place where they intersect, where our two modes of existence converge, is considered to be holy.

Of the five Hindu elements a black or indigo oval or egg-shape represents ‘ether’. In the west it represents death and mourning. The “Black Standard” is the prophetic symbol of the coming of the Mahdi, the redeemer of Islam.

Photo: Karl Normington (HighlandBlade); licensed on Creative Commons

WHITE is a color of innocence, purity, and radiance. It is the sun, the moon, and the stars.

White may symbolize chastity, illumination, and transcendence.  It is the color of mourning in the Far East and of brides in the west.  In many North American aboriginal cultures white is the color of the North and represents old age and wisdom. In Christian tradition, children (innocents) are buried wrapped or dressed in white, in a coffin that is white or decorated with white flowers. In India, the element ‘water’ is represented by a white or silver crescent moon.

A piece of white fabric on a pole could be seen from a great distance and could not be mistaken for any kind of flag. Thus the white flag became a symbol for surrender.

White pigment is the lack of any additional color, while white light contains all colors.  In relation to the physical body, white light is considered to be beneficial for everything as the innate intelligence of the body will absorb whatever light energy it needs.

And now for a black and white musical interlude. :-)

(Oh hurray! I think it worked! I embedded a video! Yay me!)


  1. The tangle "braze" (re construct the letters) was inspired by a photo similar to the zebras in your photo (or would they then be zedbras?) ....hmmmm. beautiful pictures..Nature is so amazing. Maria

  2. Very nice essay. And I'm jealous that you got to see pandas in China.

  3. I think I can just echo Cris here... *sigh* one day!

  4. I love reading your posts, Margaret! The language of colour (or of black and white in particular) has always been a topic of fascination to me. I'm also tickled that you've got an embedded video too (yay, you, indeed - it took me *ages* to figure that one out!). Now I can listen to someone else's musical commentary (and I love that song!).