All the books reviews
Life in the Pacific of the 1700s - (ENGLISH)
This substantial documentation of the past and present Pacific Islands was published to accompany an exhibition at Honolulu Academy of Arts which then moved on to Canberra, Australia, where it is presently on display. Captain James Cook’s three journeys to the Pacific (1768–1779) proved to be a valuable resource to the world beyond his explorative purpose. On his journeys he both traded and received gifts of works produced before the islanders had any contact with Europeans, and this compilation contains more than 350 artifacts that he brought home as part of his legacy, which eventually came to rest in the German city of Göttingen. Volume 1 contains the collection, illustrated mostly with one image per page. The bulk of the collection is utilitarian objects such as weapons and tools for everyday use, jewelry and ornaments, clothing, etc. The volume is well organized in its division both of regions and of the different purposes of the artifacts. Volume 2 offers essays on the Pacific Islands written from Western perspectives. It also includes detailed descriptions of the artifacts featured in volume 1. Volume 3 is a testament to the identity of the indigenous islanders and includes their accounts of traditional stories, legends, and poetry, providing insight into the identity that is so important to both the society and the individual. The three volumes truly compliment each other and allow considerable perspective on the Pacific Islands, past and present. An article on the exhibition and its background by Stephen Little can be found in the Spring 2006 issue of TRIBAL Magazine.
Links to the Past: The Work of Early Hawaiian Artisans - (ENGLISH)
Links to the Past reunites for the first time more than a thousand-eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Hawaiian artifacts from over seventy institutions and collections worldwide. The book is divided into twenty-one sections (wooden bowls, gourds, stone vessels, etc.), each introduced with color photographs, quotes from contemporary sources, and brief historical and technical information. These are followed by line drawings (more than 1,400 in all) based on actual artifacts or photographs and drawn to scale within each object category. Together they support and enhance learning about object shapes, patterns, sizes, and, in some cases, changes over time. Accurate and detailed illustrations reproduce gourd, basket, and mat patterns—now faded and almost invisible on the objects themselves—as clearly and vibrantly as when they were first created. Links to the Past is unique in bringing together hundreds of traditional Hawaiian objects into one publication. In the case of fans, helmets, and patterned water gourds, almost every known artifact is represented. Numerous pieces presented here have rarely or never been seen in print. Sadly, while meticulous and accurate, the drawings do little to express the vibrancy and immediacy of Hawaiian art. This deficiency is doubtless less the author’s fault than that of the protective copyright practices of many museums. Nevertheless, the book will prove invaluable to those involved in the study and creation of Pacific art and visual culture as well as readers interested in early cultural exchange and pattern and design among indigenous cultures.
Lobi Maternities - (ENGLISH / FR / German)
Lords of Creation The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship - (ENGLISH)
With a cover as intriguing as its contents, this book jumps right out at you. Mayan urban societies in what is today southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and western Honduras, 2,000 years ago developed a strong system of sacred kingship that allowed the culture to develop power and stability. This book delves into the ancient customs and rituals of the Maya, and also follows the developmental patterns that have led to the present-day inhabitants of the region. Informatively and aesthetically, this book offers insight into rituals and belief systems, and invites a deeper and broader understanding of important aspects of Mayan life. Fully illustrated with masterpiece after masterpiece, this book expands knowledge and sparks interest for this pivotal culture. Lords of Creation is published in conjunction with the traveling exhibition of the same name, currently at the Dallas Museum of Art through May 7, 2006, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from June 11–September 6, 2006.
Lower Congo Whistles - ()
Are musical instruments decorated with miniature figures or abstract designs utilitarian objects or are they sculptures that produce sound? This question is particularly relevant to the whistles of the Lower Congo because so much importance is attached to their form. They are composed of two elements: a small wooden sculpture and an antelope horn, nshia, the actual whistle that is either embedded into the sculpture by its tip or bound together with fiber cordage. These objects are testaments to the creative talents of the Bakongo artists who are dispersed across a vast area, which includes the enclave of Cabinda in the south western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Angola. These interesting works, which were used in various contexts and have been long and avidly sought after by Western collectors, are now the subject of a monograph for the first time. The origins of the project lie in the aesthetic eye of art dealer Alain Lecomte, who, with the collaboration of Raoul Lehuard, is presenting a revised edition of the standard text on the subject by Swedish musicologist and former director of the Stockholm Museum of Ethnography, Bertil Söderberg. This originally appeared in 1975 in issue 9 of Arts d’Afrique Noire. Lecomte does not merely update the text. He also presents the results of his work to create an inventory of this type of whistle. Photographs of the objects, many of which have the advantage of being reproduced actual size, include examples from private collections as well as from museums such as the Musée du Quai Branly, the Musée d’Angoulême, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de Troyes in France, and the Musée Royal d’Afrique Centrale in Belgium.
L’Allée des Rois - (FRENCH)
This book is a gallery of fifty-three portraits, each a full- page illustration, of the principal traditional chiefs of Burkina Faso. These include the Mossi Emperor Mogho Naba Ban Oogo, Mossi ministers and kings, and chiefs of the Lobi, Fulani, Dagara, Gan, Senufo, Bobo, Gouin, Marka, Samo, Bisa, Gurma, and Gurunshi. Photographed in their traditional ceremonial attire and holding the objects that mark their rank, the wisdom— and often the humility—of these leaders is plainly evident in these sensitive portraits. In his introduction to the book, Duniwangada Haruna Ouédrago, a retired government administrator from Burkina Faso, explains the organization of traditional leadership in that country. At the end of the book, each portrait is reproduced again in a smaller version, accompanied by proverbs in the local language, also translated into French, all of which relate to the Zinga Naba of Noaka, most important of the Mossi fetishes: “Vine sap cannot be mother’s milk to an orphan.” Realized between January and August 2004 by Belgian photographer Jean-Dominique Burton, this project was produced by the Belgian company Altitude Graphic, with the support of the French Community of Belgium and the Burkinabe government. The images were exhibited in large format at the Tenth Francophone Summit Meeting in Ouagadougou.
L’Amazonie disparue, Indiens et explorateurs 1825-1930 - (FRENCH)
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, dozens of European expeditions assaulted the Amazonian forest. In the name of the advantages of progress, explorers charted the thousands of Amazon tributaries, identified “unknown” plant and animal species, and encountered Indian tribes that no one in Europe had suspected existed. This epic exploration is examined by the author, a specialist in contemporary history, in this richly illustrated book, full of period photographs, sketches and maps, drawn from the archives of libraries and ethnographic museums. With contributions by novelist Michel Braudeau, ethnologist Patrick Menget, scholar Séverine Charon, and journalist Tinka Kemptner, the book clearly depicts the insanities and atrocities that accompanied the conquest of the “green continent” at the beginning of the twentieth century. These include the pacification of hostile tribes in order to lay 5,000 kilometers of phone line, the West’s desperate need for rubber, the enslavement of Indian populations, and the construction of a railroad, of which it is said that the laying of each tie cost a human life. Amazonian Indians are still fighting today to preserve their traditional cultures and to stave off the destruction that modern civilization threatens them with.
L’art aborigène - (FRENCH)
For more than 40,000 years, Australian Aborigines have produced art that both reflects the forces of creation of the Dream Time and acts as their primary means of expression of identity. The first chapter of this work discusses the history of the colonization of the island-continent and the Western discovery of Aboriginal art. The author then goes on to analyze the artistic output with a thematic approach. From rock art to contemporary aboriginal art, the author thoroughly examines the relations of art to religion and the Dream Time, the mythical epic of the ancestors. He also discusses the aesthetics and the rituals associated with art and the role it plays as a means of survival in contemporary aboriginal society. The goal of the Art&Idées series is to present and place the world’s art, from prehistory through present times, within its cultural and ideological context. Howard Morphy, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University College of London and Dean of the Council for Australian Research at the University of Canberra, is among the world’s leading experts in Aboriginal art and is the author of numerous reference works on tribal Australian art.
L’Art Africain - (FRENCH)
First published in 1988, this monumental work today appears slightly dated but is still of considerable interest. Twenty years ago, authors Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stéphan, and Françoise Stoullig-Martin sought to provide the first truly comprehensive work on African art in Art et Grandes Civilisations (Art and Great Civilizations), published by Citadelles & Mazenod. The volume has now reappeared, reworked and enhanced with around a hundred pieces, predominantly from the collection of the Musée du Quai Branly, many of which are well known and have already been repeatedly published. African objects are presented here in contrast with one another, highlighting both their similarities and differences. Straddling the border between a weighty piece of research and a beautiful photo album, this book remains an important reference work in the field of African art.
L’Art Colon - (FRENCH)
An African art form that has long been neglected because it has been considered anecdotal or even decadent is what is commonly called “colonial art.” This is an art style that is marked by influences from the European world, both from an iconographic point of view and in terms of materials and manufacturing techniques. The art owes its existence to the demand generated by expatriates in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1970s for keepsakes and mementos of their African experience. While certainly syncretic, this art can be interpreted as an adaptation of traditional art made to ensure its survival. Denise and Michel Meynet have put together the playful and intriguing collection of the colonial art that this book is about. Between its covers, they examine the objects from various perspectives, without prejudice and in such a way that the originality of these sculptures might at last be recognized and celebrated.