Geometrical, Perceptual, and Cultural Perspectives on Figure/Ground Differences in Bakuba Pattern

Donald W. Crowe and Dorothy K. Washburn
Renaissance Banff: Mathematics, Music, Art, Culture (2005)
Pages 269–276


Two tabletops carved by a Bakuba wood-carver reveal a surprising duality. Although the carvings at first glance appear completely different, closer attention shows that the carved portion of each is exactly the uncarved portion of the other. Hence, in a certain sense, they have exactly the same symmetries. We discuss the cultural insights suggested and supported by this observation.