Wednesday, 30 November 2011

So what's with the Darwin Fish, then?

To understand what the significance of a little fish with legs is, you have to understand what the little fish without legs means. The fish symbol adopted by Christians is called Ichthys, which is the Greek name for fish. Written in the original Greek, it becomes an acronym and I think it’s really quite clever: ΙΧΘΥΣ – ησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ, (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour”.

Fish also feature quite prominently in the gospels, what with the “feeding of the five thousand”, etc… The ichthys is also seen in 1st-century catacombs in Rome, where according to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes.

It was later revived in the 20th century when members of the University of Queensland Evangelical Union used the ichthys symbol when they formed a temporary Christian commune to be a witnessing presence at the Aquarius Rock Festival in 1973. From this time people started to display the ichthys symbol, sometimes together with an Aquarius Festival sticker in the rear window of Kombi vans. The car bumper sticker came soon after.
The “Jesus Fish” has become an icon of modern Protestant Christianity. Apart from the now famous bumper stickers, it can  now also be seen as pendants or necklaces as a sign that the owner is a Christian.

In 1983, two friends, Al Seckel and John Edwards who were involved in the Southern California atheist and freethought movements, co-created the Darwin fish design, which was first used on a freethought leaflet entitled “Darwin’s Views on Religion” for Atheists United in 1984. It was then sold by Atheists United and other freethought groups, which got free permission from Seckel and Edwards throughout the 1980s, for it to be used on bumper stickers and t-shirts. In 1983, Chris Gilman, a Hollywood propmaker, claimed not to have seen Seckel’s and Edward’s design, joked about the idea as an “advertising” alternative to the “Jesus fish” when the employees’ conversation turned to a court case involving teaching evolution versus creationism. He manufactured the first plastic car ornaments in 1988, and started Evolution Design in 1990. Evolution Design’s fish faced right, while Seckel and Edwards’ design faced left, like the Christian symbol. When Evolution Design was at risk of losing its trademark on the design, they began threatening to sue creators of look-alike Darwin fish emblems and unlicensed products. Recruited by one of the sellers of unlicensed products, Seckel and Edwards in turn sued Evolution Design for copyright infringement. Seckel and Edwards did not seek royalties, but wanted Evolution Design to allow free use of the design by anyone authorised by them. Seckel and Edwards felt that in the spirit of parody and free speech, their design predated Gilman’s claimed origin of 1988. During the discovery phase Gilman was not able to offer any proof that he had created the design during the 1980s (which during that time was widely distributed), while Seckel and Edwards were able to supply postmarked and dated material containing their Darwin fish design from as early as 1983. The suit was settled when it became apparent that Seckel and Edwards had not properly protected their design.

So, that’s where I come in. The Darwin fish, fortunately for me is available for free reproduction, and being a “free thinker” myself, I liked the idea of incorporating this design into various jewellery designs. I started with a simple representation on a silver chain and have since started making “pebbles” where the Darwin fish is engraved onto a melted and flattened blob of silver and blackened to bring out the detail. I’m not a big fan of that ubiquitous Christian symbol, the cross; why wear a symbol of torture? Darwin fish are a fun, friendly poke at creationism and are sure to set off heated debate for anyone who wears it with pride.
Source: Wikipedia, accessed 30/11/2011

1 comment:

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