The Treachery Of Images


The Treachery of Images is one of my favorite paintings of all time.Painted by the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte in 1929,it depicts what is seemingly a smoking pipe with the caption "Ceci n'est pas une pipe",French for "This is not a pipe".

When one first looks at the painting and its caption,it instantly appears like it is an oxymoron because looking at it,the graphic clearly looks like a pipe. Magritte's explanation was that the drawing is not a pipe itself but a mere representation of a pipe. He further stated that,if he were to try stuff the pipe with tobacco,he would not be able to so it is clearly not a pipe.

The reason i like it so much because in my opinion,it teaches a lot about subjectivity and objectivity. It teaches that everything we see is not the thing itself but a representation of it.

If you are a follower of this blog,you would have realized that i talk a lot about living the moment and the concept of non existence of the "I" because i believe once one understands it,it can go a long way in helping deal with esteem and confidence issues which are contributing factors to the propagation of mental health deterioration.

It is impossible to objectify yourself as something to think of because you are the object yourself. As an analogy,you thinking of "yourself" is like your eye trying to look at itself. It is impossible because eyes only see what is outside so using the same concept,the person that you think you are is not you but your ego.

The way each thing exists cannot be understood by itself in its own realm of consciousness. That is simply impossible and Magritte's painting goes a long way in simplifying this concept  because it explains that what you think you are is not what you are but a representation that your brain has devised.

To further show the importance of objectivity, yesterday i was having this interesting conversation with my colleagues from Youth Transforming Africa about why the map of the world as we know it is wrong because it was designed by Westerners from the top of a different pole hence their countries look bigger than they really are whilst others like Africa look smaller than they really are.

One of the colleagues shared this article which explains in depth some interesting aspects of cartography,one of them being it is impossible to draw an accurate map of the world which correctly determine the proportions and dimensions of the world's land mass. The world map as we know is distorted because it is based on the Mercator projection which gives the right shape of countries but incorrect sizes. The system inflates sizes of land masses which are north of the equator.

So for example,the current world map represents North America as big as Africa,if not bigger,but the reality is that you can fit the entire North America into Africa and still have space for Argentina,Tunisia and more. The picture below paints a picture of the real magnitude of Africa's land mass:



Magritte's painting actually influenced a concept in cartography called map-territory relation which implies that "the map is not the territory",meaning that people confuse models of territories (maps) with the actual territories themselves.

The misinformation that is facilitated by the world map as we know it as well as the aforementioned concept of how we objectify ourselves though it is impossible shows the importance of the difference between representations of objects and the objects themselves and how far reaching the consequences of intermixing the two can go.

As a thought,if Africans had known how truly big their motherland really is,maybe they would have never let the colonizers bully them around in the first place. As another thought,maybe if we knew that the vision we have of ourselves is not the real but a mere representation,we wouldn't have esteem and confidence issues because we would know that it is all not real.


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