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16th century Instagram – The story of a unicorn | Tamara Forrest-Smith

16th century Instagram – The story of a unicorn

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unicorn

Somewhere at the border of boredom and curiosity I found myself going through the tapestry exhibition in Stirling Castle in Scotland with Alan during our wedding anniversary, I’d already done a full lap of round through the exhibition rooms, when I realised Alan was still staring tapestry number 2… I went up to him and asked if he was enjoying it. In his usual genius simple way, he said “here’s your 16th century Instagram”.

Now he got my attention.

You see, Once upon a time majority of people, especially those classed as peasant could not read or write, but the church wanted to promote the the story of the bible. To do so they had to communicate with people using something everybody would get – images.

I guess it made sense, images looked fun, interesting and told the stories without having the need to learn how to read or write.

Without having to become a unicorn expert, I have discovered there are a few versions of the unicorn stories, the particular facsimiles of these unicorn tapestries that are displayed in Stirling castle tell a hidden story of the bible.

At the time it must have been easier to tell the important story through images, and if the subject was off-topic the “promoters” would tell hidden stories through those images. The 16th century PR agents of the bible were clever, openly promoting the bible must have felt unpopular, instead cleverly chosen stories of mystical creature of the unicorn on a handwoven tapestry worked better than any open propaganda.

Nice story, but that’s not the point of it. Alan’s comparison of the tapestry images and the stories told through those images to the Instagram could not have been more relevant.

In the increasingly image driven society, when we shop, buy, research and learn pretty much everything through Instagraming or Pinteresting I could not help but wonder how different are we from our 16th century ancestors?

Are we allowing too many hidden images and stories to influence our daily lives and behaviour, or are we in control of what we read, write, learn and therefore make up our own mind from buying shoes to choosing the government?

Well the images worked in the 16th century, they sure work now too, although this time no need to spend
months and months handwoven the tapestry, instead clever snap, snap snap can tell a lot about you, your personality and your brand.

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