Pasquier, Charlotte

May 26, 2021

21.What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?

Object 1. N’Tomo Mask


Culture is widely believed to be influential on one’s knowledge-related behaviours of individuals and can often be used as a reason to explain someone’s actions. This mask was and is still utilized today by the Bambara people of West Africa in male initiation ceremonies. Before the boys can be referred to as men, they must pass through six initiation ceremonies. For each ceremony, a different mask is used and the N’Tomo mask is the one used in the first ceremony.

This mask is interesting because it shows the knowledge that can be transmitted from other cultures. Preceding the ceremony, the boys were taught lessons to prepare for becoming a ‘man’. The mask’s purpose is to reinforce those disciplinary lessons and to remind them of their preparation for the ceremony. The relationship between knowledge and culture in this object can be interpreted through the knowledge that the boys gained when preparing to become men; they learned information that could not have been learned without preparing for this rite of passage.

In addition, the boys are lacking knowledge about other initiation societies before undergoing their own ceremony. Some people say that the number of horns on the mask is to represent the level of increased knowledge depending on the initiation stages. This confirms that through every stage the boys pass, they gain more and more knowledge. This leaves open the question of how much knowledge they gained after they have successfully passed their initiation ceremony. It can also be assumed that once they are a man, they start to learn about other societies and what their ceremonies and culture looks like. Therefore, the knowledge that the boys are gaining is the knowledge of cultures other than their own.

Object 2. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Flying Machine Sketch:


This sketch is a hand-drawn drawing made in the late 15th Century of a machine Leonardo Da Vinci wanted to invent. When one thinks of the Renaissance, one’s first thought is the art that was made during that period but not of how advanced the knowledge that the people had in that time.

Not only was Da Vinci a great painter, but one of his main interests lied in science. This led him to experiment and build machines in his thoughts to then draw them on paper. He used the environment around him to influence himself to come up with this machine. The idea for his sketch was triggered by looking at the anatomy of birds, bats and kites. This leaves the question open to interpretation as to how much the culture of the Renaissance era around Da Vinci influenced him. His inspiration for this machine came from his eagerness to fly. The renaissance was a time for cultural change and Da Vinci’s life was based on the philosophy that an individual’s development and capacity were unlimited. This allowed Da Vinci to contribute to history by designing this machine. The link to culture and knowledge here is Da Vinci’s philosophy of the time.

Moreover, Da Vinci’s thinking was way ahead of his time. He was trying to create something which could permit humans to fly in the air. His knowledge was very advanced for that century. For this sketch, he managed to insert his visual knowledge of the machine that he had come up with in his head on his piece of paper. This serves as a link to the relationship between culture and knowledge because Da Vinci’s surroundings allowed him to gain the knowledge to draw and design this machine on the piece of paper. Da Vinci came up with this idea with the help of the influence of his surroundings and searching his mind to invent objects. This can include his travels in between France and Italy as well as people he met along the way. Furthermore, the Renaissance was quite a famous time for scientific advancements such as the printing press and muskets. Great inventors at that time could have motivated Da Vinci to establish his creation. Moreover, Da Vinci managed to stimulate his own creativity while he was working for Ludovico Sforza, an Italian nobleman who ruled as the Duke of Milan.

Object 3. Lacrosse Stick:

Object 3. Lacrosse Stick:

This is a traditional lacrosse stick made of wood and string which was invented by Native American Indians in 1000 A.D. It is used to catch the ball and to strike the opponent to take the ball from them; it’s the main tool used when playing lacrosse.

Lacrosse, originally known as stickball, has widely changed since it was first invented. In today’s world, lacrosse sticks are used to play this quite violent game for fun and competition. But it wasn’t always like this, lacrosse was first invented as a game to train young Native Americans to prepare to fight. This relates to the culture of the Native Americans and its now culture of the modern-day Americans. Americans have now acquired lacrosse and they have turned it into an activity used for entertainment and competition. This is the culture of the Native Americans being passed on to Americans.

Knowledge is something that can be communicated. Therefore, the link between knowledge and a lacrosse stick is the traditions being carried on. The fact that lacrosse is still being played today tells us that the Native Americans were able to carry on their traditions and therefore give their knowledge to future generations. Americans have taken the Native’s knowledge and turned it into their own.

Image Sources:

Figure 1: “Bamana N’tomo Horned Mask 8, Mali.” n.d.

Accessed May 10, 2021. omo08.html.

Figure 2: “Flying Machine by Leonardo Da Vinci.” 2019. 2019.

Figure 3: “Exult 400TM Complete Stick.” n.d.


Leonardo. 2014. “Leonardo Da Vinci Inventions.” Leonardo Da Vinci Inventions. 2014.

“Bamana Mask | Christa’s.” n.d. Accessed May 10, 2021.

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