V
PRIMITIVE ART AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

The sexual life of primitive peoples is more closely tied up with the social life of the community than in civilised countries. Many of the activities of age-classes and secret societies are connected with the initiation ceremonies by which youths and girls on reaching puberty are admitted to adult life. These initiation ceremonies sometimes reveal a remarkable interpretation of biological facts, and provide an outlet for instincts which in civilised communities are kept down by inhibitions anchored in our moral principles and sanctioned by tradition, custom, law and education. This does not mean that there are no rules of moral conduct in primitive society. It is simply that they are different.

Where initiation ceremonies are celebrated with dramatic performances such as mask dances, there arises a form of art, particularly sculpture, closely related to certain phases of sexual life. Similarly, where sexual motifs from myths or legends are illustrated in works of art, these may also display realistic or symbolic representation of sexual features (e.g. Pl. 24).

Some years ago Doctor E. von Sydow attempted to show "a sexual background to the arts of primitive peoples," as a parallel to Freud's theory of sexual complexes underlying primitive institutions and customs. 24 But he goes too far and reads sexual ideas into objects which have obviously nothing to do with sex. He admits that he does not agree with all the theories of the psycho-analytical school, but he has not managed to avoid its characteristic mistake of exaggerating the part played by sexual elements in the subconscious mind. It is after all absurd to see a phallic symbol in every long-shaped object,or an emblem of

-49-

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Primitive Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Pelican Books 1
  • Title Page 5
  • Foreword 7
  • Contents 9
  • Illustrations 10
  • II- Characteristics of Primitive Art 21
  • III- Utilitarian Art and "L''Art Pour'' L''Art" 33
  • IV- Primitive Religion 37
  • V- Primitive Art and Psychoanalysis 49
  • VI- Social Implications 53
  • VIII- Children''s Art 65
  • X- Northern Africa 79
  • XI- Bushman Art 85
  • XVII- Primitive Art and the European Artist 141
  • XVIII- European Art and the Primitive Artist 147
  • Notes 151
  • Index 158
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