All the books reviews
Tribal Treasures in Dutch Private Collections - (ENGLISH)
Published by the Society of Dutch Collectors of Tribal Art (WE) to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary, this catalogue accompanied the eponymous exhibition on view at the Afrika Museum in Berg-en-Dal from October 4, 2008, through January of 2009. It illustrates more than 120 works from Africa, Indonesia, and Melanesia, most of which have never been published before. Some of the major pieces are accompanied by historical descriptions, which explain the context in which they were used. This valuable reference work is a welcome addition to the bibliographic corpus of works on tribal art.
Tridacna Gigas. Objets de prestige en Mélanésie - (FRENCH)
This book is the fruit of an encounter between two indi-viduals with the same fascination for the fossil form of the giant clam Tridacna gigas and for works made from this exceptional material. It is reminiscent of ivory, but is ac-tually shell that has undergone structural modifications in the course of fossilization. It was considered to be rare and valuable by the Melanesians. The book examines the varieties of objects made from this "stone shell, which include bracelets and other ornaments found in Lapita ar-chaeological contexts; the well-known openwork funerary objects from the Solomon Islands known as barava; kap-kap dises, which were overlaid with tortoiseshell décorations; and circular currencies which were used throughout Melanesia. The book is richly illustrated and confers a well-deserved status upon a material that has often been overlooked by aficionados.
Tsimshian Treasures : The Remarkable Journey of the Dundas Collection - (ENGLISH)
This book is both a cultural study and a history of the funerary sculpture of the Sakalava, who inhabited the west coast of Madagascar from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century. Research by anthropologists Sophie Goedefroit and Jacques Lombard forms the foundation for this book, which discusses the evolutionary path of the art in the funerary necropolis of Andolo. Sakalava funerary art is based on wooden tombs, and this book’s detailed and well-illustrated analyses show how, beginning with a very simple tomb model, the works grew more elaborate, often coming to be decorated with erotic statuary, which served as symbols of procreation and of life. Often consisting of couples and occasionally of several figures, this statuary is well known to connoisseurs of African art but documentation on it has been scarce. The present work is thorough, fascinating, and abundantly illustrated, and goes far to remedy that situation. This is a fine new reference tool.
Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume - (ENGLISH)
Indigenous to the North American Maritime Peninsula, the Wabanaki people have a long and relatively little-known tradition of unique textile arts, which this catalog documents. Uncommon Threads not only explores Wabanaki technique and design, but also gives a detailed account of the political, historical, and cultural background of the Wabanaki people in both Canada and the United States. The textiles are presented here as the storytellers that they are, communicating the many changes the Wabanaki culture has undergone and revealing the identities of their wearers. The book's numerous illustrations illuminate the intriguing differences between Wabanaki design and that of more familiar Native American arts and crafts, which, throughout the years, have had far more exposure to a wider audience.
Under the Influence of the Songye - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
This work is the first in a series titled Annales des arts Africains produced by Bernard Dulon and Julien Volper. The aim of this atypical project is clearly articulated by Dulon is his preface: “Annales des Arts Africains intends to be a scholarly series, sometimes perhaps even tediously so, but one that is always and unalterably opposed to vulgarization. It will show that delving deeply into sometimes small and seemingly insignificant details provides more insight on art, and therefore on man and his society, than any quick overview or ‘touristic’ approach ever does.” Volper’s text (part of which deals with round kifwebe masks and was previously published in 2010) is admirably illustrated and contains a wealth of new information. The second part of the work is an in-depth study of tetela masks, objects that are much less known to the general public, which Volper states he “encountered” lying on shelves and wrapped in plastic bags in the Tervuren Museum’s storage. He nicknames them “mitred masks” for the imposing crests atop them. Although the layout does not have captions next to the photos (they are relegated to the back of the book with thumbnails of the objects they refer to) and thus the illustrations are unidentified in the context of the text around them, this work will certainly become an indispensable resource for all those interested in Central African art. The next work in the series will be devoted to the Salampasu.
Une passion pour l’art africain - (FRENCH)
The collection assembled by Marie-France and Jean Vivier over more than twenty years is a testimony to their passionate sensitivity to African art, and it displays choices that often led them far afield from the “classics” of the genre. The sculptures illustrated, often from several angles, are almost all previously unpublished. In this very personal work, Vivier writes about his collection and about the aesthetic emotion he and his spouse feel for African art. Along with the ethnographic information presented for each piece, the reader will find a discussion of the power of their forms and their ability to produce emotional reaction. The text is informative but is also humorous at times. The sculptures are not classified by ethnic groups (from Dogon to Zulu) in the usual manner, but rather are grouped together in chapters identified according to aesthetic affinities. Some odd, montage- like “fantasies about African art” by the author punctuate this elegantly produced book.
Unknown Masterpieces of Indian Folk & Tribal Art - (ENGLISH)
All of the pieces presented in this book are from the personal collection of K.C. Aryan, who has been a tireless collector of the art of India's neglected tribal patrimony since the 1940s. Aryan, a painter, sculptor, collector, art historian, and publisher of sixteen titles devoted entirely to Indian art, also founded the Museum of Folk, Tribal and Neglected Art in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon in 1984. The fifty-two pages of this book devoted to the tribal bronzes of Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, will rivet the attention of enthusiasts, here given a first opportunity to see many previously unknown masterpieces. Equally noteworthy are the chapters on the remarkable Pataka Tantric paintings of Rajasthan, on metal utilitarian objects, and on textiles, especially the sublime shawls of the Swat Valley in what is now Pakistan. Despite these strengths, it is regrettable that the portion of the book devoted to the masks and wooden sculptures of Himachal Pradesh and Nepal is illustrated with objects of only average quality. But one must in the end salute the worthwhile result of the passionately assembled Aryan collection, which will better our understanding of the huge and little-known patrimony of tribal India. This book will undoubtedly become an important reference work for the bronzes, paintings, and textiles of rural India.
Unwrapping the Textile Traditions of Madagascar - (ENGLISH)
Illustré de manière très agréable, ce livre est le résultat de dix ans de recherches communes, entre le Fowler Museum of Cultural History de Los Angeles et le Field Museum de Chicago, sur les textiles traditionnels de Madagascar. Le Field Museum possède la plus grande collection de ce type de textiles et, pour certains d’entre eux, il s’agit ici de la première publication. Madagascar a une tradition textile riche et ancienne, utilisant la soie, le coton, le chanvre, le raphia et les écorces d’arbre tissés selon plusieurs techniques allant du tissage à plat à l’ikat en passant par les trames brocardées. Cette diversité est significative des très nombreuses influences culturelles qui ont modelé l’histoire de cette île. Ce livre présente les articles de treize spécialistes traitant différents sujets comme des études sur la tradition elle-même, sur les premières collectes de ces textiles, sur l’aspect culturel de certains textiles particuliers, leurs usages ou les méthodes de réalisation. Ces articles offrent un contenu à haute valeur informative et les photographies permettent de voir clairement ces textiles rares et visuellement très puissants.
Uzuri wa Dunia - catalog - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
From Mexico to Oceania, the colors, forms and patina of these works of art and the emotion they convey call out and speak to us. They are the distant echoes of long lost and ancient civilizations that continue to move us. Uzuri wa Dunia is a tribute to Belgian collectors who reveal to the public, some for the first time, extraordinary objects such as the ivory Lega mask. It is a pleasure to present an object of this caliber with the marvelous patina attesting to its great age. Authors / auteurs : Didier Claes, Lin Deletaille, Bernard Dulon, Marc Leo Felix, Agnès Lacaille, Patrick Mestdagh
Vaudou/Voodoo/Vudu - (ENGLISH)
Burton went to Benin to learn about this ancestral belief system, and lived among the Voodoo priests. The result is 113 monumental photographs, 57 of which are of high Voodoo priests, and 56 of revered Voodoo objects. The portraits of the high priests are in black and white, printed on silver paper, and were made with a 1952 Rolleiflex. The work gives its subjects a timeless quality. The voodoo objects on the other hand were photographed in color with a state-of-the-art digital camera. The photographer aims to transmit the esthetic quality of the Benin voodoo cult through his images. Each dignitary is illustrated with his sacred altar. The result is an astonishing and varied gallery of multifaceted personalities, all the more interesting when one discovers their personal altars. But let there be no mistake about it: these photographs do not divulge any of the cult’s secrets. They show only the forms, the places and the objects associated with it, and the high priests reveal only their faces, and their facial expressions, imbued with powerful spirituality. These expressive photographs tell a story which it remains up to us to discover. They aim to demystify Voodoo, and to enable those who fear and mistrust it to gain a better understanding of it: “My approach was to try to correct the cliché, and to invite Africans, as well as foreigners, to reconsider Voodoo, and to give it a place worthy of its rank.”