The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa

The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa

The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa

The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa

Synopsis

"The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa illustrates for the first time a collection of African Sculpture at the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. The masks and figurative carvings from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century are from two sources: Ambassador and Mrs. Julius Walker's gift to ICASALS (International Center for Arid and Semiarid Land Studies), now on permanent loan to the Museum, and the Elliot Howard Collection. Howard, an artist and authority on antiques, chose examples of sculpture for their "variety and aesthetic appeal." His hope was that the pieces he assembled would provide new discoveries for those unacquainted with the art of Africa and an art experience that would 'enhance mutual respect among people'."

"Fittingly, then, a context for understanding is the focus of Elizabeth Skidmore Sasser's book. As the title suggests, The World of Spirits and Ancestors introduces carefully chosen examples of masks and figures as social and spiritual communications imbued with the living history and culture of the various peoples of western sub-Saharan Africa. Sasser emphasizes that geography and climate - ranging from semiarid deserts to tropical rain forests - influence not only the art but also the habitations and ceremonial life of the region. More than 180 drawings and illustrations reflect the creative genius that continues to meet environmental challenges and to express the distinctive contributions of the cultures and the people of western sub-Saharan Africa." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The acceptance of private collections, or bequests, has been a significant factor in the enlargement and enrichment of some museums and in the very emergence of others. Although some museum directors have been troubled by what has been called [the private lives of public museums,] a number of others have been inspired by the philosophies and convictions of the benefactors, even though the bequests of the latter may reflect very personal and individual tastes. Thus, while the late Elliot Howard, whose collection forms the basis of The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa, selected his sculptures for their variety and aesthetic appeal, his hope was that his collection would one day provide an opportunity for instruction and discovery for students and university museum patrons young and old.

By accepting and exhibiting such collections from other cultures, museums face a critical choice. They may elect to represent said cultures from a western perspective—by classifying and presenting their art as [primitive] or [tribal]—or they may accept the responsibility of deepening understanding and enhancing mutual respect among peoples. The latter they can accomplish by treating such art on its own merits and terms, by showing how it exemplifies basic, universal responses to environmental and other challenges.

As a student of history and a museologist who is fairly familiar with some of the cultures from which the sculptures in this work derive, I applaud The World of Spirits and Ancestors in the Art of Western Sub-Saharan Africa as an introduction to sub-Saharan art for both a student and popular audience interested in developing an appreciation of the art and cultures from which it derives, this work facilitates a rich educational opportunity.

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