All the books reviews
Ibeji. Divins jumeaux - Divine Twins - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
By Xavier Richter, a long-time ibeji enthusiast and connoisseur of the arts of West Africa, this book offers a comprehensive overview of the traditions of twin statuary of the Yoruba of Nigeria and Benin. The key to this book’s success is a collection of eighty beautiful objects, the sensitive photographs of them taken by Christophe di Pascale, and the varied and informative text about them that provides valuable contextual details. The book combines personal refl ections and avowals of passion for Africa and its art forms with excellent and instructive text, which includes a remarkable introduction by Hélène Joubert, curator of the African patrimony at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac and a recognized Yoruba specialist. The story of the apparition of twins as explained by Yoruba oral tradition is discussed, and the detailed commentaries that accompany the objects, which are organized according to style centers, are valuable contributions to our understanding of this rich tradition.
Icons of Perfection: Figurative Sculpture from Africa - (ENGLISH)
Icons of Perfection, originally an exhibition at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, December 2005- February 2006, can now be viewed in book format. The exhibition was part of a course on “Museum Studies and Introduction to African Art History,” led by Frank Herreman, former exhibitions director of the Museum for African Art in New York and one of the main contributors to this publication. All forty-one pieces assembled for the exhibition are featured in this publication, which details each item with its symbolic meaning, material, and region of origin. The essay, written by Herreman, offers detailed description about the cultural aspects and the aesthetics of the artifacts. Herreman also contributed an article to the Spring 2006 issue of TRIBAL Magazine, in which he provides further insight into the Hamline exhibition.
Images of Congo: Anne Eisner’s Art and Ethnography, 1946–1958 - (ENGLISH)
This book brings to light New York artist Anne Eisner, who lived in the former Belgian Congo during the 1940s and 1950s. Her passion for maverick field anthropologist Patrick Putnam brought her to his Camp Putnam on the edge of the Ituri forest. The bond that she formed with the people there caused her to stay nine years. An eccentric in the colonial context, she spent extended periods of time in Pygmy camps, transcribing legends, writing ethnographic notes, and bringing up three orphaned Pygmy babies. She was also a prolific painter. Putnam destroyed almost everything he had built before he died in 1953, but Eisner salvaged the camp (now named Epulu). This book contributes an important aesthetic perspective to the understanding of an area that has long fascinated anthropologists. The writers in this volume come together to discuss Anne Eisner’s life and collecting, her art and her writing.
In The Shape of Tradition. Indigenous Art of The Northern Philippines - (ENGLISH)
This important reference is the first attempt to make a comprehensive guide to Northern Philippine traditional art and artifacts. The people inhabiting the remote mountain regions of Luzon include the Ifugao, Isneg, Itneg, Kalinga, Gaddang, Bontoc, Kankanay, Ibaloy, llongot, and Negrito and are the remnants of early Philippine culture. Their distinct customs and traditions have remained largely unchanged well into the twentieth century. The art of this region is bold and distinctive, and this book offers a panoramic view of approximately 500 objects, mostly unpublished and specially photographed, from some of the most important private collections and museums worldwide including the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden; Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Madrid; Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle; Museum fur Volkerkunde, Vienna; National Museum of the Philippines, Manila; Museum fur Volkerkunde Dresden; and Musee du Quai Branly, Paris. The book is also profusely illustrated by period postcards, which add a clear and interesting picture of traditional life and its collision with foreign culture. This book is a "must have" for anyone with an interest in the fascinating art and peoples of Southeast Asia.
Indiens d'Amazonie. Reminiscence d'un passe lointain - (FRENCH)
Swiss ethnologist Rene Fuerst was born in 1933 and is a specialist in the Indians of Amazonia, among whom he lived between 1955 and 1975. The story he tells is one of times forever gone, as he traces the path that he and his travel companion Gerhard Baer followed during their encounter with the Brazilian Indians of the upper Xingu. The work is an exceptional account of the condition of the Mato Grosso as it was just after the end of the Second World War: an area ten times the size of Switzerland of dense and nearly unexplored forests, inhabited by Indians hostile to any approach. In his account, the author also discusses the Roncador-Xingu Expedition, the Villas Boas brothers, and the Xingu National Park. The presentation resembles a travel journal and, with the help of photographs, the author gives an account of the events that he and Baer witnessed, of the places they visited, and of the people they encountered. The images included are a testament to the author's talent as a photographer, and offer a wealth of information and details about the Indians' daily life. This story is the culmination of a lifelong and consuming passion. It also resulted in the creation of a film titled Kapalo, Indians of the Upper Xingu, which was released in 1957, and in Baer's development of a collection of objects that is now in the Basel Museum of Ethnography.
Indonesian Tribal Art - (ENGLISH)
With the discovery of 40,000-year-old cave paintings on Sulawesi, Indonesia has been included in the elite group of nations that are home to the world’s oldest art. Inspired by this and other new discoveries, Indonesian Tribal Art is an exciting introduction to Indonesia’s dynamic tribal art. The book is illustrated with 400 photographs of high-quality art pieces from the Rodger Dashow Collection, the majority of which have never been published before. In addition, Indonesian Tribal Art contains two thought-provoking and provocative essays, the first by noted Indonesian art expert Bruce W. Carpenter, and the second by Professor Andrew Gurevich and Robert Walter, the president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Beautifully designed and produced, this book is a must for anyone interested in Indonesia’s tribal art legacy.
Indonesian Tribal Art. The Rodger Dashow Collection. - (ENGLISH)
Growing interest in recent years in the tribal art traditions of Southeast Asia —especially those of Indonesia—has been reflected in the publication of numerous specialized books. Indonesian Tribal Art is distinguished by its holistic approach through which it seeks to identify the threads that unite the artistic productions of diverse peoples, each with their own traditions and myths, that are spread over a vast territory and throughout varied landscapes. Following the essays that open the book, the main vector of Carpenter’s effort showcases some 400 artworks from the private collection of Rodger Dashow and photographed mostly by Marc Assayag. These are accompanied by explanatory notes that point out their formal qualities and discuss the context of their use. Excellent representations of their various types, the statues, architectural elements, masks, musical instruments, ritual containers, weapons, etc., that appear in the book are united by the quality of their artistry.
Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art - (ENGLISH)
Inscribing Meaning is the result of a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and UCLA’s Fowler Museum. The ninety spectacular works that made up the original exhibition are reproduced in this excellent catalogue, which offers a fascinating examination of African writing systems that have existed for millennia but are little known outside the continent. Africa is an immense geographic and cultural area, and the birthplace of some of the oldest writing systems, including Egyptian hieroglyphics. Writing is a system of symbols that serve as a visual representation of spoken language, which is adopted by convention by a group of people. Each culture either invents its own graphics or appropriates or adapts an existing system to satisfy the need to transmit information and to record facts and ideas for extended periods of time. In some societies, writing serves as a foundation for social and political orders, and may guarantee power to designated parties. In Africa, the written word is ubiquitous in visual representations, appearing on utilitarian objects used in daily life as well as on specialized ritual ones, such as pottery, calabashes, textiles, sculptures and masks, both older and contemporary. Objects embodying the concepts of the exhibition include an Egyptian Canopic vase, an Ethiopian processional cross, a royal Ghanaian textile, an Igbo mask, a Koranic tablet from Nigeria, and the paintings of Wosene Worke Kosrof. Essays by the various authors involved in the exhibition and the production of this accompanying book are particularly informative and instructive.
Instruments de Musique du Monde - (FRENCH)
Present in nearly all of the world’s civilizations, musical instruments are often considered sacred objects serving as intermediaries between the world of the gods and that of man and representing a means of accessing knowledge. Their structural diversity, the richness of their sonic language, the varieties of playing techniques, the refinement of their manufacture, their presence in rituals, and even their extra-musical functions, testify to their real and symbolic powers. The analysis techniques developed by Sachs and von Hornbostel at the beginning of the twentieth century are generally used to describe, catalogue, and classify their methods of sound production. The system identifies four major instrument families: membranophones, aerophones, chordophones, and idiophones. Using the collections of the Musée de l’Homme as her reference point, the author of this book, who is both an ethnologist and a musician, provides considerable information on the relationships that link these instruments to man, nature, social life, and belief, as well as how these relationships vary regionally and from culture to culture. Over 250 instruments, accompanied by often- rare documentation showing the objects in situ and in use, make this an important and fascinating reference source on the subject. This is the second published edition, following the first from 2000.
Intimate Conversations - African Miniatures - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
John and Nicole Dintenfass have long collected African art—with passion, diligence, depth, and rigor. Here, they share part of their collection: wooden miniatures, including statuettes, masks, and pulleys, none more than eleven inches high. Chosen primarily for aesthetic reasons, these works are shown in stunning new photographs by Vincent Girier-Dufournier, many pictured from multiple angles. In the brief essays, the Dintenfasses discuss their history as collectors, sharing the almost personal relationship collectors develop with their most treasured pieces. Through their collection, they have found a connection both to African master carvers and to the creators of modern Western art, who were strongly influenced by African works. They also delve into the psychology of collecting. An introduction by Heinrich Schweizer discusses the particular nature of miniatures. Following these essays, the text is minimal and the objects are allowed to speak for themselves. They are arranged in a series of thematic sections, determined by object type, use, or aesthetics, and the full-page images provide a sense of monumentality that belies the small scale of the artworks. This is a beautiful volume that would benefit any collector’s library.