Dans le Blanc Des Yeux (Primitive Art Du Nepal)

By Manandhar, Sushila "Fischer" | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Dans le Blanc Des Yeux (Primitive Art Du Nepal)


Manandhar, Sushila "Fischer", Contributions to Nepalese Studies


Literal Translation of the title: In the White of eyes (Primitive art of Nepal)

Significance of the title: In the eyes' expression (Primitive art of Nepal)

Publisher: Musee du Quai Branly, Paris VII, 2003

Price: 8.90 Euros

Pages: 41 pages,

Along with Temporary exhibition of the masks contained in the book: 9 November 2010-January 9, 2011

Location: Musee du Quai Branly, Paris VII

For revealing to the public, these unprecedented art in Nepal, the book along with the video is presented by the author who is also the collector and donor of these masks, Mr. Marc Petit. The author as well as the exhibitor and publisher, the Musee du Quai Branly deserve the thanks of the anonymous Nepali artists who made these masks.

There was a great clamor about the publication of the book and the exhibition which contains a set of Twenty-five wooden carved masks referring to the Primitive Art of Nepal. The masks are exhibited in the manner that visitors can observe the artistic quality of the object on both sides. They are accompanied by explanatory plaques indicating the materials used, period of manufacture and the name of various ethnic groups inhabiting the plains (Tarai), the highlands (Pahad) and the Himalayas of Nepal, the source of this art.

In a lengthy video interview about the book and the exhibition, the author Mr. Petit expresses his extreme attraction to the masks which are very subtle aesthetically but posses great expressive value. The art, according to the author, has more charm in their eyes than any wood carvings of the African art. In addition he explained that to bring all those masks together and identify clearly was an extremely difficult exercise. A patient research was required to complete such a task. As the publisher of the book, President of the Museum Quai Branly, Mr. Stephane Martin's interview is also included at the beginning of the book.

The book contains two narrative articles on the exposed masks written by Mr. Petit. The book explains that exposure of these masks is only the first approach towards presenting the wealth of art collected in Nepal. These masks are artistic production inherited by the artisans from their ancestors. Tests on the materials of the masks reveled that these arts were created during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some of them are even pre-nineteenth century (Petit, 2003: 14).

A question may arise how is it possible to be date the same object with such a long periodic differences (centuries)? It seems to me that the author left a vague space in the minds of the readers for their individual interpretations. Here, I trust, the author tries to indicate if the same masks are manufactured centuries apart (nineteenth or earlier and twentieth century) or whether they are carved only in the twentieth century as a reproduction of the ancestral or ancient masks. Hence the book and the exhibition present either a clear identification of masks, or the exact dating of the objects.

Eric Jacollit expresses his ideas or assumptions about the collection as follows: ... the mask is open: it is by no means stuck in a system of representation in a codification or consolidation that would attribute to such a register, such a family permanently. Certainly it refers to the ritual practices of shamanism which has a vague idea ... They are ... frequently damaged, amputees, and are become the object of repairs, additions or replacements and they are cobbled together. Over time, they molt and it is probable that some of them are barely recognized by their genitors--(who are) often simple artisans, non-professional, that means "non-artists"--to whom, they are fully escaped. As the historical contingencies, slow changes in the uses of these masks are added, probably battered by waves of acculturation as a Buddhist that--above all--Hindus, who make the first use for certains was being "covered" by the new religious cultures of dominant. …

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