Inspired by Uwa Okoso (West African Igbo String-Wave cosmology), the image Playing the Cosmic Strings explores the origins of the universe and music. In this model, the universe emerges out of a Primordial Androgynous Blackness. A portion of this Blackness - Atu Chukwu (the divine mind-force or dark energy) - manifests in the guise of Ududo-Okwa-Nka (a sacred spider), who spins Ete Ofu (the first cosmic cotton/dark matter) into Akwa Ete (a grand spiral-string egg). This egg subsequently breaks to form Ete Oghele (a web of infinite string patterns or particles). The Cosmic Spider is a rich, multidimensional symbol. From one viewpoint, it is an ancient Igbo mnemonic metaphor for the Milky Way Galaxy, which possesses the shape of a gigantic spider when viewed from an aerial position, and its strings are a metaphor for the vibrating loops of energy that form the physical structure of the world. This cosmology is presented in miniature form in the recreational game (meaning both a pleasurable diversion and a “re-creation,” repetition of creation) of Ikpa Owu Aka (string hand game), in which children make angular loops of string around their fingers. In this way, they learn how to mimic and invoke the vibrating strings that form the basic energy patterns of everything from the most distant stars to the smallest atoms. Arising from this cosmology and its integration into everyday life, music in the Igbo sensibility is understood as all of the sonic harmonies emanating from the subtle, spirit vibrations of the infinite strings everywhere in creation, including those consciously produced by human beings.
Playing the Cosmic Strings features Marques Redd, multi-media artist and frequent collaborator with Owunna, as simultaneously the Cosmic Spider and a child playing a string game. Looming large on Heinz Hall over passersby below, he reaches out and beckons all viewers to reach back. To join the game, everyone must strive to penetrate into the higher realms of creation, which can only be reached through pure energy and pure spirit sound. Just as the Creator does, we must learn to play the cosmic strings.