All the books reviews
Invention and Tradition: The Art of Southeastern Nigeria - (ENGLISH)
This is an absolutely sumptuous volume that addresses a number of art traditions which are rarely considered sumptuous, that being those of the Igbo, Isoko, Urhobo, Ijo, Ogoni, Ibibio/Oron/Eket, Ejaghan/Efut, Mbembe, Bokyi, Tiv, Idoma-Akweya, and Igala. Most of the objects are sculptures and masks, which are satisfyingly presented in large format. Many are icons of their type, while others are less known (in some cases justifiably) but the object photographs—primarily by Thomas Scheidt—make every piece shine and provide a fresh take on frequently overlooked art traditions. The title refers to a duel lens through which these objects must be viewed: the familiar notion of tradition in African art and the slightly less comfortable one of innovation, which is rarely a positive term in today’s art market. The importance of both is cogently addressed in the in-depth text, which addresses subjects ranging from aesthetics to inventive qualities to meaning and use. Field photos by the author provide additional dimension. This book casts welcome light on a particular niche of African art and should be a welcome addition to any collection or library.
Invention and Tradition: The Art of Sontheastern Nigeria - (ENGLISH)
This book célébrâtes and explores the sculpture and masks of the many diverse ethnie groups living in Southeastern Nigeria. It focuses on the area's sculptural arts, examining thèse mostly unpublished works through the dual lenses of invention and tradition, and with many early and récent contextual photographs. More than 150 examples, dating from the past two centuries, reveal both surprising similarities and significant différences in artworks by the Igbo, Isoko, Urhobo, Ijo, Ogoni, Ibibio, Oron, Eket, Ejagham/ Efut, Bokyi, Tiv, Idoma, and Igala peoples. Qualifies such as the nature of realism, idealism, and abstraction; the nuances of surface and détail; and the in-ventiveness of facial and other features are ail addressed in this exciting and fresh overview. The complex uses and meanings of thèse remarkable objects are also examined, providing rare insight into thèse often neglected cultures.
Jaraï. Art de guerre et de mort chez les montagnards d’Indochine - (FRENCH)
This work is abouth the the art of the ethnic minorities of the Indochinese Peninsula, from the Laotian Boloven plateau to the Djiring (Di Linh) area of South Vietnam, by way of Ratanakiri province in Cambodia. The authors examine the funerary statues and weapons of the Jaraï, Rade, Bhanar, Hmong, and Katu through the eyes of the French travelers who first entered the high plateaus at the end of the nineteenth century. Although blinded by their faith in a misguided vision of the West’s civilizing mission, these observers (missionaries, explorers, military personnel, and administrators) did show real interest in the peoples that they referred to generically as Moï. Their writings, accounts and photographs describe ancient ceremonies such as the abandoning of the tomb and the buffalo sacrifice, as well as the works of art associated with those ceremonies prior to their disruption by colonization Superb photographs, in particular those of Jean- Pierre Guyonnaud, reveal sculptures that have survived despite having been abandoned in a harsh natural environment. The eroded figures testify to the great age of the Proto-Indochinese culture, which Georges Condominas considers the first inhabitants of the peninsula. Some of their weapons recall the time of the wars of the Khmer and the Cham in the thirteenth century, and to the Dongson bronze drums of 2,500 years ago.
Jean Malaurie, un Homme Singulier - (FRENCH)
This book is an homage to Jean Malaurie, anthropologist, geographer, thinker, and man of action. It traces the initiation-like path of this unusual man’s life, whose name will forever be attached to the Great North and its peoples. One step at a time, Jan Borm, a professor of Anglo-Saxon literature, follows Malaurie’s unique tracks, from the Hoggar Desert to Greenland, from the land of Genesis (which he studied as a paleoanthropologist) to the shamanism of the Inuit. Malaurie led thirty missions to Greenland, Canada, the Bering Strait, and northeast Siberia before founding the state Polar Academy of St. Petersburg and dedicating himself to helping indigenous Siberians to prepare for their future. The book is an insight into the ideas of one of the great thinkers of our time, who is also known for producing the much acclaimed Terre Humaine book series.
Karl von den Steinen : Les Marquisiens et leur art. L’ornementation primitive des mers du Sud. Vol. I. Tatouage. Vol. II. Plastique - (FRENCH)
Karl von den Steinen (1855-1929), a physician specializing in psychiatry, was a professor in Berlin when in 1897 the ethnographic museum there asked him to lead an expedition to the Marquesas Islands to collect information about the islands' inhabitants. Von den Steinen was in the Marquesas from August 1897 through February 1898. Between 1925 and 1928, he published Die Marquesaner und Ihre Kunst, a three-volume set now rightfully known as the premier reference work on Marquesan culture. To anyone with an interest in the Marquesas, or in eastern Polynesia in general, von den Steinen's work is vital study tool. In the course of his stay, he compiled the islanders' myths, legends, and traditions, and he scrupulously studied their many forms of artistic expression, all of which were threatened with destruction by European colonial presence. Von den Steinen's thorough studies had immediate and deserved success. Unfortunately they were published only in German and, although subsequently reprinted in very small numbers, remained scarce and inaccessible to French speakers. The publication of this first French translation, made possible by the Musée de Tahiti et des Iles, is significant. Abundantly illustrated and the fruit of careful work, this French language reprint of the first two volumes of Die Marquesaner und Ihre Kunst reaffirms the quality and thoroughness of von den Steinen's work.
Kastom: Art of Vanuatu - (ENGLISH)
This is the catalog to the eponymous exhibition on display at the National Gallery of Australia until June 16. It was also the subject of a recent feature in this magazine. If you liked that article, you’ll love this book. It features more than fifty sculptures (and a couple of textiles and paintings) from the island group of Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides. Many although not all of the works were collected in the early 1970s by Jean-Michel Charpentier, a field collector who was working on Ambrym and Malakula on behalf of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board. Although Charpentier was engaged in this process relatively late, he acquired a group of remarkable objects of which this is the first formal presentation. The photography is exceptional and the text is both informative and engaging. For anyone interested in Oceanic art, or even art in general, this beautiful catalog is a must, especially if you can’t get to Canberra to see the exhibition.
Kongo Kingdom Art from ritual to cutting edge - (ENGLISH)
This is the catalogue of the exhibition on display at the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, China, through October 2004, which intends to introduce the Chinese people to the art of the ancient Kongo Kingdoms through an installation of objects that represents its history and culture. Thanks to a dynamic layout, the great historical eras of the Congo, from prehistory through contemporary creations, are presented in this insightful volume. It also deals with the perspective of the European world on the subject, particularly from an artistic standpoint. The major themes that structure life in Congolese society are also addressed. The book is illustrated with more than 300 pieces from DR Congo, Angola, Gabon, and PR Congo, drawn from major private and public collections.
Kota - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
After Fang, published in 2006, and Punu, published in 2008, this third work completes this trilogy dedicated to the arts of Gabon. In keeping with the “pocket” format of the series, and with its sixty color plates illustrating eloquent examples of the principal Kota groups and styles, the book is a fine and practical resource both for novice and more experienced collectors and aficionados. While it does not pretend to be an exhaustive study given the limitations of this format, it treats the canons of the genre evenhandedly accords as much attention to pieces in private collections and recently on the market as it does to lesser-known works in museums around the world, from Lisbon to Périgueux and Antwerp. Most of the book is on reliquary figures, but the author also devotes two chapters to other types of sculptures and masks. In addition, he provides an interesting autobiographical prologue and narrative of his own experiences in Kota territory at the end of the 1960s—“relatively late,” as he readily admits, but not too late to observe the last expressions of the yet surviving traditional culture.
Kulango Figurines: Wild and Mysterious Spirits from the Collection of Pierluigi Peroni - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
In early October of 2017, this book dedicated to the Pierluigi Peroni's collection of Kulongo bronzes will be a significant addition to the small body of literature relating to metal sculpture from West Africa. Published with attention to detail, this work explores the wide diversity of the copper alloy figurines of the Kulango, a people of northeastern Côte d’Ivoire. With their stylized shapes, sinuous bodies, and elongated faces with globular eyes, these figures are characteristic of this culture area. Beautifully photographed by Francesco Pachì, some 100 of these figurines are reproduced in this book, many as full-page plates, despite their small size. This allows for a better appreciation of their sculptural nuances as well as the beauty of the surfaces due to wear and time. Boyer’s text provides interesting insights into these enigmatic artworks.
L'âme de l'Afrique. Masques et sculptures - (FRENCH)
Painter and decorator (and a notable pioneer of body art) Serge Diakonoff has collected African art since the age of twenty. His fascinating and eclectic collection boasts some 900 extremely diverse pieces and is well represented in this work, which is a partial inventory of his holdings. The objects are presented from a painter's point of view in large format and rich in iconography. Some 500 reproductions unveil these objects, which were assembled over a period of five decades. Initially published in 2006, the current reprinting has added eighty pages and 150 photographs, generally of hitherto unpublished pieces. The detailed descriptions abound with information on the cultural significance of the illustrated works, without, however, dwelling solely on their symbolic aspects. The painter's perspective is also present, and explanations are given of technical matters relating to the forms of the masks and sculptures. For example, hypotheses regarding the striations on kifwebe masks and the concavity of Kota reliquary figures add to the originality and interest of this publication. The index reveals an impressive number of ethnic groups represented, some of whose works are rarely seen, and the organization of the book into a succession of short texts relating to the selected pieces makes for agreeable and informative reading.