Native Arts of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific: An Introduction

Native Arts of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific: An Introduction

Native Arts of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific: An Introduction

Native Arts of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific: An Introduction

Synopsis

This introduction to the art of tribal peoples of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific does not briefly cover the hundreds of artistic traditions in these three vast areas but rather studies in depth thirty-six art styles within all three areas using the methods of art history, including stylistic analysis and iconographic interpretation. Emphasis is on the art in cultural context and as a system of visual communication within each tribal area. Where appropriate for a more complete understanding of the art, data from archaeology, ethnology, linguistics, religion, and other humanistic disciplines are included. Among the peoples and cultures whose art is studied are the Haida, Kwakiutl, and Tlingit; the Hohokam and Mongollon, the Anasazi and Hopi; the Dogon and Bamana of Mali; the Asante of Ghana; the Benin, Yoruba, and Ibo of Nigeria; the Fan, the Bamum, and the Kuba of Central Africa; Australian aboriginal and Island New Guinea art; Island Melanesia art; central and eastern Polynesia; Hawaii and the Maori in Marginal Polynesia. The format of the text and selected illustrations is based on seventeen years of teaching African, North American Indian, and South Pacific art to undergraduate and graduate students at Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY), New York University, and Columbia University. The book is intended for art history and anthropology students and the interested lay reader or collector. The detailed notes at the end of the book are for further study, research, and understanding of the tribal art style under discussion.

Excerpt

In the twenty-five years since Paul Wingert wrote his pioneering textbook entitled Primitive Art: Its Traditions and Styles (1962), the study of Native American, African, and South Pacific art has grown at an unprecedented rate, in four major areas--research, exhibitions, collecting, and publications. Dozens of journals dedicated to the art and anthropology of these three areas have evolved to serve the specialized interests of art historians, archaeologists, linguists, ethnologists, museum curators, and collectors. In addition, most major cities in the United States, Canada, and Europe and in many areas of Africa and the South Pacific now have museums dedicated, at least in part, to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting art from one or more of the three regions covered in this text.

During this same period the art market for the traditional art of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific has enjoyed phenomenal growth in the number of collectors as well as the prices paid for masterworks. And, university art history and anthropology departments throughout the United States have responded to the increased demand for courses dealing with the visual arts of these three areas. The increase in scholarship and research has led to much specialization. Many contemporary scholars of Native American, African, and South Pacific art tend to be experts on a small region or a specific art-making group, rather than generalists. These specialists have produced many excellent papers, exhibition catalogues, and books of great value to the scholar. However, teachers and students alike will agree that there has long been a need for a general introduction to the art of all three regions that incorporates some of the vast research done in the past quarter century.

The purpose of this book is to provide one such introduction to the art of the indigenous peoples of North America, West and Central Africa, and the South Pacific. It is written from the point of view of an art historian using traditional art historical techniques and points of view. This text is not intended to be a comprehensive survey briefly covering each of the hundreds of artistic traditions found in these three regions of the world. Instead, a study of forty-five selected art styles within the three areas is undertaken using the methods and vocabulary of art history, including formal stylistic analysis and iconographic interpretation. Emphasis is on an analysis of the formal qualities of the art and its place within a specific cultural context, where it serves as part of a system of visual communication. Whenever appropriate, data from archaeology, ethnology, linguistics, religion, and other humanistic disciplines is used to help bring about a more complete understanding of the art form(s) under examination.

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