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

Donald W. Crowe, Dorothy K. Washburn

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.