31 jul 2010

Les statues meurent aussi

Title: Les statues meurent aussi
Director: Chris Marker and Alain Resnais
Writer: Chris Marker
Year: 1953, France
Running time: 30 minutes
Plot summary:
Les statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die) is a French documentary film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais released in 1953. It was sponsored by the panafrican magazine Présence africaine. Willing to answer to the question "Why African art is at the Musée de l’Homme, while Greek or Egyptian art is at the Louvre?", the two directors denounced the lack of consideration for African art in the context of colonization. The film was censored in France for eight years because of its anti-colonialist approach.
"When men are dead, they enter history. When statues are dead, they become art. This Botany of death is what we call culture". So begins the controversial documentary which raises the question of the difference between Western art and African, but particularly focuses on the reasons why occidental art tends to underconsider or destroy what it does not understand.

27 jul 2010

Parcours des Mondes

Show: Parcours des Mondes. Les salon International des Arts Premiers
Date: Wednesday 8th to Sunday 12th October 2010, 11:00 to 19:00
Place: Quartier des Beaux-arts à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris (France)
Galeries along streets Rue des Beaux-Arts, de Seine, Jacques Callot, Mazarine, Guénégaud, Visconti, Jacob and de l’Echaudé.
Admission: Free
Organizer: Tribal Art (www.tribalartmagazine.com)
Parcours des Mondes  is the most important show of art by quality and diversity of its participants. Since 2002, it collects each year in Paris sixty galleries specializing in the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. During the second week of September, German galleries, American, British, Australian, Belgian, Canadian, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Swiss join their colleagues in Paris permanently installed in the area of Fine Arts in St. Germain-des-Prés.
In this exceptional concentration of works and experts in the form of an open living room with free access, visitors can browse through the quaint streets of this historic district. Each gallery offers an intimate and personalized presentation of unknown masterpieces from Africa or Oceania, the ethnographic works more affordable and sought after by collectors.
The largest international traders will offer to fans and collectors from all over the world masterpieces of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas as well as beautiful ethnographic objects at a more affordable cost.
The success of the show is due to a combination of complementary elements: a healthy art market, the growing appetite of fans for these arts, efforts by merchants to propose thematic exhibitions of quality and vigilance of the organizers in terms of quality and expertise of exhibits.
With a dozen countries represented among the sixty galleries that participate in the event, this year Paris will be again the capital of primitive arts.

25 jul 2010

The art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs

© 2008, by A.Baghirzade
Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture & Tourism
The art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs combines poetry, storytelling, dance and vocal and instrumental music into a traditional performance art that stands as a symbol of Azerbaijani culture. Characterized by the accompaniment of the saz, a stringed musical instrument, the classical repertoire includes 200 songs, 150 literary-musical compositions known as dastans, nearly 2,000 poems in different traditional poetic forms and numerous stories. The regional variations may include other musical instruments, but all are united by a common national language and artistic history. Ashiqs take part in weddings, friendly parties and festive events throughout the Caucasus and appear on concert stages, radio and television, sometimes synthesizing classical melodies with contemporary ones as they continue to recreate their repertoire. Their art is considered an emblem of national identity and the guardian of Azerbaijani language, literature and music. Even as Ashiqs represent the consciousness of a people, they also help to promote cultural exchange and dialogue: Kurds, Lezhins, Talishes, Tats and other ethnic groups living in the country often perform the Ashiqs’ art, and their poems and songs have spread across the region.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
© Text and videos: UNESCO

23 jul 2010

Fleuve Congo, Arts d'Afrique Centrale

22nd June to 3rd October 2010, Musée du quai Branly, Paris

©Musée du quai Branly
This summer, the musée du quai Branly will showcase 170 major works and eighty documents as part of an important exhibition devoted to the artistic traditions of Central Africa, namely Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A real trip of initiation that will take the visitor from the forests in the north to the savannahs in the south, the exhibition brings out the links existing between the works produced in the areas lying on the banks of the majestic Congo River by various communities which speak the Bantu language.
Behind the variety of masks and Fang, Hemba, Kwele or Kota sculptures, the exhibition highlights the major works emanating from Central Africa, in their conception, their structures and the artistic links that bring them closer.
The three themes of the exhibition, fundamental in the life of these image-loving peoples, are complementary:
·the "heart shaped face" masks and statues ensuring the unity and identity of the respective groups;
·the importance of the founding ancestor and the eminent members of his lineage;
·the representation of women in the kingdoms of the savannah, balancing the authority of men, linked to the mystery of regeneration of the earth, agriculture and human life.
The relationships between the cultures of the forested areas andthose of the savannahs are expressed in the material culture. Beyond the institutional and cultural transformations, the cultural unity of Central Africa is undeniable. It is an entire heritage of humanity, so often cut up into cultural groups separated by colonial borders, which comes to the fore. Beyond the differences between various communities, there are in fact common styles and usages which make it possible to get a better understanding of the masterpieces that have been showcased here. (François Neyt)

21 jul 2010

Hoa Hakananai'a

Name: Hoa Hakananai'a
Origin: Orongo, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Polynesia
Date: around AD 1000
Museum: British Museum, London
Dimensions: 55 centimetres from front to back, 2.42 metres high 
Weight: around 5 tons
Easter Island is famous for its stone statues of human figures, known as moai. Hoa Hakanania'a means ‘Stolen or Hidden Friend'.
The moai were probably carved to commemorate important ancestors and were made from around AD 1000 until the second half of the seventeenth century, when the birdman cult became more central to the Easter Islanders.
When Captain Cook's crew visited Easter Island in 1774, William Hodges, Cook's artist, produced an oil painting of the island showing a number of moai, some of them with hat-shaped stone 'topknots'. Hodges depicted most of the moai standing upright on stone platforms, known as ahu. With the adoption of Christianity in the 1860s, the remaining standing moai were toppled.
This example was probably first displayed outside on a stone platform, before being moved into a stone house at the ritual centre of Orongo. It was collected by the crew of the English ship HMS Topaze, under the command of Richard Ashmore Powell, on their visit to Easter Island in 1868 to carry out surveying work.
Islanders helped the crew to move the statue, which has been estimated to weigh around four tons. It was moved to the beach and then taken to the Topaze by raft.
The figure was originally painted red and white, though the pigment washed off in the sea. The crew recorded the islanders' name for the statue, which is thought to mean 'stolen or hidden friend'. They also acquired another, smaller basalt statue, known as Moai Hava, which is also in the collections of the British Museum.
Hoa Hakananai'a is similar in appearance to a number of Easter Island moai. It has a heavy eyebrow ridge, elongated ears and oval nostrils. The clavicle is emphasized, and the nipples protrude. The arms are thin and lie tightly against the body; the hands are hardly indicated.
The back of the figure is carved with designs, believed to have been added at a later date. The back of the head shows a bird flanked by ceremonial paddles. The centre of the back is carved with a 'ring and girdle' motif, as carved on many wooden figures from Easter Island.
© Photos and text: British Museum

13 jul 2010

Collecting in the field

Lecture: Collecting in the field
Speaker: Chris Boylan (www.chrisboylan.com.au)
Date: Thursday 30th September 2010 
Time: starts 7.30pm, followed by drinks.
Place: Galleries 27 and 28 Cork Street.Mayfair, London , W1S 3NG, United Kingdom
Admission: free
Chris Boylan gives a colourful and in depth lecture on the challenges of collecting tribal art in the depths of Papua New Guinea.
Chris has spent his life collecting and travelling to the furthest corners of this amazing region. His experiences of sourcing highland shields should make this lecture well worth the visit.

The Ainu of Hokkaido

Name: Ainu
Living Area: Hokkaido Island in Japan, and Sakhalin and Kuril Islands in Russia
Population: >200.000
Language: Ainu
The Ainu (アイヌ, Aynu アィヌ), also called Ezo in historical texts, are indigenous people or groups in northern Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin. Most of those who identify themselves as Ainu still live in this same region, though the exact number of living Ainu is unknown. This is due to ethnic issues in Japan resulting in those with Ainu backgrounds hiding their identities and confusion over mixed heritages. In Japan, because of intermarriage over many years with Japanese, the concept of a 'pure Ainu' ethnic group is no longer feasible. Official estimates of the population are of around 25,000, while the unofficial number is upwards of 200,000 people.
Until the twentieth century, Ainu languages were also spoken throughout the southern half of the island of Sakhalin and by small numbers of people in the Kuril Islands. All but the Hokkaidō language are extinct, with the last speaker of Sakhalin Ainu having died in 1994; and Hokkaidō Ainu is moribund, though there are ongoing attempts to revive it.
Ainu culture dates from around 1200 AD and recent research suggests that it originated in a merger of the Okhotsk and Satsumon cultures. Active contact between the Wajin (the ethnically Japanese) and the Ainu of Ezochi (now known as Hokkaido) began in the 13th century. The Ainu were a society of hunter-gatherers, who lived mainly hunting and fishing, and the people followed a religion based on phenomena of nature.
During the Tokugawa period (1600–1868) the Ainu became increasingly involved in trade with Japanese who controlled the southern portion of the island that is now called Hokkaido. The Bakufu government granted the Matsumae family exclusive rights to trade with the Ainu in the Northern part of the island. Later the Matsumae began to lease out trading rights to Japanese merchants, and contact between Japanese and Ainu became more extensive. Throughout this period Ainu became increasingly dependent on goods imported by Japanese, and suffered from epidemic diseases such as smallpox.
The turning point for Ainu culture was the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. A variety of social, political and economic reforms were introduced by the Japanese government, in hope of modernising the country in the Western style, and included the annexation of Hokkaido
Their most widely known ethnonym is derived from the word ainu, which means "human" (particularly as opposed to kamui, divine beings), basically neither ethnicity nor the name of a race, in the Hokkaidō dialects of the Ainu language; Emishi, Ezo or Yezo (蝦夷) are Japanese terms, which are believed to derive from the ancestral form of the modern Sakhalin Ainu word enciw or enju, also meaning "human". Today, many Ainu dislike the term Ainu because it had once been used with derogatory nuance, and prefer to identify themselves as Utari (comrade in the Ainu language). Official documents use both names.
The Ainu were distributed in the northern and central islands of Japan, from Sakhalin island in the north to the Kurile islands and the island of Hokkaidō and Northern Honshū, although some investigators place their former range as throughout Honshū and as far north as the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula in what is now Cape Lopatka. The island of Hokkaido was known to the Ainu as Ainu Moshir, and was formally annexed by the Japanese at the late date of 1868, partly as a means of preventing the intrusion of the Russians, and partly for imperialist reasons.

Well-known by:  men's beards.
Never shaving after a certain age, the men had full beards and moustaches. Men and women alike cut their hair level with the shoulders at the sides of the head, trimmed semicircularly behind. The women tattooed their mouths, and sometimes the forearms. The mouth tattoos were started at a young age with a small spot on the upper lip, gradually increasing with size. The soot deposited on a pot hung over a fire of birch bark was used for color. Their traditional dress was a robe spun from the inner bark of the elm tree, called attusi or attush. Various styles of clothing were made, and consisted generally of a simple short robe with straight sleeves, which was folded around the body, and tied with a band about the waist. The sleeves ended at the wrist or forearm and the length generally was to the calves. Women also wore an undergarment of Japanese cloth.
In winter the skins of animals were worn, with leggings of deerskin and in Sakhalin, boots were made from the skin of dogs or salmon. Both sexes are fond of earrings, which are said to have been made of grapevine in former times, as also are bead necklaces called tamasay, which the women prized highly.
Their traditional cuisine consists of the flesh of bear, fox, wolf, badger, ox or horse, as well as fish, fowl, millet, vegetables, herbs, and roots. They never ate raw fish or flesh; it was always boiled or roasted.
Their traditional habitations were reed-thatched huts, the largest 20 ft (6 m) square, without partitions and having a fireplace in the center. There was no chimney, only a hole at the angle of the roof; there was one window on the eastern side and there were two doors. The house of the village head was used as a public meeting place when one was needed.
Instead of using furniture, they sat on the floor, which was covered with two layers of mats, one of rush, the other of flag; and for beds they spread planks, hanging mats around them on poles, and employing skins for coverlets. The men used chopsticks when eating; the women had wooden spoons.

Some words in Ainu language:   
hello: Irankaratte
thank you: Iyayraykere
my name is ___: Kurehe anakne ___ ne
how are you?: Eiwanke ya?

© Text and images: Wikipedia

11 jul 2010

The Novruz

© Iran Museum of Anthropology (Tehran), 
The Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts
 and Tourism Organization
Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz or Nevruz marks the New Year and the beginning of spring across a vast geographical area covering, inter alia, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations. Novruz is associated with various local traditions, such as the evocation of Jamshid, a mythological king of Iran, and numerous tales and legends. The rites that accompany the festivity vary from place to place, ranging from leaping over fires and streams in Iran to tightrope walking, leaving lit candles at house doors, traditional games such as horse racing or the traditional wrestling practised in Kyrgyzstan. Songs and dances are common to almost all the regions, as are semi-sacred family or public meals. Children are the primary beneficiaries of the festivities and take part in a number of activities, such as decorating hard-boiled eggs. Women play a key role in organizing Novruz and passing on its traditions. Novruz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
© Text and videos: UNESCO

9 jul 2010

Wilfred Thesiger in Africa - A Centenary Exhibition

Wilfred Thesiger in Africa: A Centenary Exhibition
4 June 2010 – 5 June 2011, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (United Kingdom)

©Pitt-Rivers Museum
Probably the greatest traveller of the twentieth century, and one of its greatest explorers, Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910–2003) is most famous for his journeys in Arabia and his sojourns among the Marsh Arabs in Iraq. Yet fifty of Thesiger’s seventy years travelling, exploring and living in remote places were spent in East and North Africa. Born in Addis Ababa, where his father served as British Minister in charge of the Legation, he lived there until 1919, when his family returned to England. Longing to return to Ethiopia, in 1930 Thesiger received a personal invitation to Ras Tafari’s coronation as Emperor Haile Selassie, and his life of travel and adventure had begun.
©Pitt-Rivers Museum
This exhibition is the first to explore Thesiger’s lifelong relationship with Africa. He undertook river explorations, wartime service and travels in Ethiopia, political service in the Sudan, travels in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and numerous journeys on foot in Kenya and Tanzania. From 1978 Thesiger lived for nine months of each year in Maralal, Kenya, before retiring permanently to England in 1994. Wilfred Thesiger took over 17,000 photographs in Africa, around two-fifths of his entire photographic output, all of which he donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Spanning fifty years, the photographs exhibited here document his development as a photographer, in particular as a portraitist. ‘Ever since my time in Northern Darfur,’ Thesiger wrote, ‘it has been people, not places, not hunting, not even exploration, that have mattered to me most.’ Although also known for his romantic landscape images, Thesiger saw these as secondary, ‘a setting for my portraits of the inhabitants’.
This exhibition is also a celebration of the people Thesiger photographed and the diverse cultures they represent. From the Afar (Danakil), Konso and Boran of Ethiopia, the Nuer and Dinka of Sudan, the Berbers of Morocco, and the Samburu and Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, this exhibition offers historical glimpses of some of the most fascinating cultures and places on the African continent.

7 jul 2010

Zapotec pottery ancestor figure

Name: Zapotec ancestor figure
Origin: Oaxaca Valley, Mexico
Date: 200 BC - AD 800
Museum: British Museum
Dimensions: 25 cm height, 27 cm width
Offering vessels like this one have been found in the tombs of high-ranking Zapotec lords and noblewomen in the Oaxaca Valley in Mexico.
Zapotec nobles were buried in tombs set around the central plaza of their capital at Monte Albán, which was founded in the 6th century BC and flourished between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD. This imposing site was located on the top of a hill with views of the Oaxaca Valley and surrounding mountains. The supporting population, which at its height numbered around 25,000, lived on the terraced slopes in the valley below.
Royal ancestor worship was the focus of Zapotec belief and ceremonial practice and the powerful figures depicted on offering vessels - or funerary urns as they are also known - are thought to represent these ancestors rather than deities. The importance of ancestry lies in the Zapotec use of genealogy and ancestral lines to pass on power and wealth.
Figures like this have been found inside tombs, positioned alongside bodies, as well as in niches in the walls. They've also been found buried in the floors of ceremonial centres, seemingly as offerings.
The figure on this example wears a mask and headdress representing the depicted ancestors' potent supernatural force. The chest ornament features a glyph or sculpted symbol of a day in the 260-day Zapotec ritual calendar.
The exact use and purpose of these vessels is unknown. The container, or urn, itself - usually a cylindrical vessel hidden behind the sculpted figure - may simply have been used to hold perishable offerings, as remains have been found inside.
© Photos and text: British Museum

3 jul 2010

The enemy god - A yanomamö film

Yai Wanonabälewä: The Enemy God is a feature-length dramatic motion picture set in the Amazon rainforest. The film gives voice to a group of indigenous rainforest people to relate their own dramatic story. The film is made in partnership with Yanomamö communities in Amazonas province in the rainforest of Venezuela and proceeds from the film will go to benefit those communities as directed by Yanomamö leaders.
Yai Wanonabälewä: The Enemy God began with a request from a group of indigenous Yanomamö (or Yanomami), in order to find somebody that would allow them to tell their version of the history of their communities in the Amazon rainforest. After years of violence and fear, they want to tell the world about the new ways of peace and hope that they have discovered for their people. It is the story of a significant group, led by a respected headman whose Spanish name is Bautista. It is a true story.
Bautista Cajicuwa and his K'ekchi' fellow villagers acted as themselves in the film.
The Enemy God project is a multi-faceted initiative to raise awareness and involvement on behalf of indigenous people groups. Through The Enemy God project audiences will:
•See the self-determined transformation of an indigenous culture while preserving and honoring their uniqueness in their Creator’s eyes.
•Hear from and meet leaders from indigenous groups in the Amazon and other regions.
•Discover opportunities to partner with indigenous groups through short & long-term service, training, and advocacy.
•Partner with individuals an organizations dedicated to the empowering of indigenous groups all over the world.
See the film's webpage.

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