The Doves

“In Genesis 8:8—12, after the ark has landed on the mountains of Ararat, Noah sends out a dove three times to see how far the flood waters have receded. The first time it found nothing and returned to the ark. The second time it brought back an olive leaf, so Noah could see that God’s punishment was over and life had begun again on the earth. (The image of a dove holding an olive branch continues to be a symbol of peace to this day.)The third time, the dove did not return, and Noah knew that it was safe to leave the ark. A similar flood story is told in parallel passages in the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. There, too, the hero sends out a dove, which returns to the ship unable to find a perch. In fact, from Ancient Near Eastern records to nautical practices as recent as the 19th century, sailors the world over used doves and other birds to help them find and navigate toward land. So, while Noah made use of an ancient sailor’s trick, the dove came to represent a sign from God.”                        -Biblical Archeology Society

 In class a few weeks ago, Dr. McCoy split us into three groups. Within our groups, we discussed Prince’s artworks, each group focused on a few pieces and gave a mini-presentation on what we talked about. My group focused almost completely on two pieces, “Second Line Rebirth” and “Requiem for Brother John”. These two pieces interact with each other, “Requiem for Brother John” comes first and “Second Line Rebirth” comes next.

In “Requiem for Brother John”, we see the family mourning the loss of their close member, John. In New Orleans, this is called the first line. In this piece of artwork, we can also see an obituary of John in the lower right corner.

Next, we looked at “Second Line Rebirth”, the second line in New Orleans culture is when the community joins the mourning family in the march. This provides the family with a sense of communal support. In this art piece, now in the lower right corner, there is a boxed-in dove. We immediately were trying to figure out why the dove was boxed in. When Prince gave his Kitchen Talk, he explained why the dove was there. He said that the Dove in Christianity is a symbol of peace. This was something I had previously known, what I wanted the answer to was “why he had boxed in the bird?”. Prince then said, the box represents a portal to the afterlife, which is why it had taken the obituary’s spot. By doing this, Prince is giving peace to his dear friend and mentor John. Prince uses a lot of symbolism in his artwork but the symbolism in these two artworks are my favorite. The idea that the boxed dove represents a portal to the afterlife is rather interesting to me. He uses a lot of religious symbols in his artwork, which I sometimes struggle with because I will admit I am very unfamiliar with The Bible stories. But the dove is a safe symbol for me because it is so commonly used.


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