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Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa Paperback – April 27, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this stunning collection of photographs, Silvester (Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley) celebrates the unique art of the Surma and Mursi tribes of the Omo Valley, on the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. These nomadic people have no architecture or crafts with which to express their innate artistic sense. Instead, they use their bodies as canvases, painting their skin with pigments made from powdered volcanic rock and adorning themselves with materials obtained from the world around them—such as flowers, leaves, grasses, shells and animal horns. The adolescents of the tribes are especially adept at this art, and Silvester's superb photographs show many youths who, imbued with an exquisite sense of color and form, have painted their beautiful bodies with colorful dots, stripes and circles, and encased themselves in elaborate arrangements of vegetation and found objects. This art is endlessly inventive, magical and, above all, fun. In his brief text, Sylvester worries that as civilization encroaches on this largely unexplored region, these people will lose their delightful tradition. 160 color photographs. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“The images are a magical portal to childhood fantasy and play, to a lost world of unfettered, unfiltered imagination and creativity.” (Huffington Post Arts)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500288054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500288054
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 0.7 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I do not (yet) own this book, but I spent half an hour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop recently in an absolute trance paging through it. The sole review here trashing this beautiful book struck me as so unfair that I feel compelled to write a rebuttal.

The reviewer is concerned that this collection of photographs does not represent the daily lives and cultural practices of the people it represents. That in fact the attention these people are getting from tourists and photographers is encouraging them to show off and thus changing their cultural practices from what they were in isolation. All that may be true. But none of it obscures or in any way detracts from the undeniable truth that these are some of the most beautiful, creative, and uniquely adorned people in the world. To page through this book is to be transported momentarily into a world of sensual beauty that few of us even dare to imagine exists. The viewer who is open minded enough to appreciate it is gifted with an insight into the beauty of a people he/she might not have known even existed. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so.

Does photographing these people and the attention that ensues change them? Probably. Is that a bad thing? I don't know. But I do know it is up to the people being photographed to decide that. It is up to them to decide whether or not, and in what manner, they want to be photographed, not some outsider who believes their culture should be left intact. In a globalizing world, I can think of many types of attention from the outside world that would not be quite so benign. If it was done without compulsion, which appears to be the case, then I think that broadcasting the beauty of a people for the world to see is a good thing. Change is inevitable. Hopefully this sort of attention will help ensure that the change is positive.
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Format: Hardcover
As a visual artist I can tell you that when I first picked this book up in my local library, the fantastic and surprising images nearly took my breath away!! I took it over to another artist's house and we looked through it together. Deciding right then to get our own copies. The wild painting on the beautiful black skin is very similar to the free and easy strokes in my own paintings. I am considering getting the other African related book my the same author.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautiful imagery. It will have you near tears... One of my most precious finds in recent months...the faces, the creativity, raw natural talent. Unbelievable. A wonderful book to draw inspiration from.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing book. I am a painter and it made me want to get in my studio and start paintings, the textures, the patterns and then now and then the sad contrast of weapons and Natures beauty, brings you right back to "real" world.I can't stop looking at the pictures, they draw you in. It is truly a beautiful people. The first time I saw it ,was at a friends house and I just had to go get it for myself. My friend offered to loan it to me, but that just wasn't enough. Thank you Hans Silvester for creating this book. Lone Hansen, Bainbridge Island , WA
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not your typical coffee table book full of big bright exotic photographs. It is big, it is bright, and it is exotic but the images of the young people of the Omo Valley are incredibly unique visions of mankind and nature. These young people paint their faces and bodies with natural pigments derived from the soils and clay of the area. Thus you see reds, yellows, white, brown, and grey. The children devise creative head adornment from fruit, seeds, leaves, branches, seedpods, and even animal skins and horns. The people are beautiful in their innocent nakedness. The use of flowers and leaves and twigs as bodily decoration occurs primarily around the head and as a head covering or decoration, much like a crown of leaves. Many cultures do this including the ancient Greeks or Hawaiian islanders. The reddish black skin of the people acts as a contrast to the off-white, grey, and yellow ochre body paints. The application of the pigments is often roughly drawn with a natural relaxed flair. There is rarely a painted face with the precision of a circus clown. Of course these young people don't go around looking like this every day since they have lives to live tending gardens and livestock. But neither do the images feel false. If someone came to the USA and took pictures of people going to midnight mass on Christmas eve, would we say the pictures were atypical of daily life in America, probably we would. But would we say the images were not part of the American experience and reality, probably not. These images give the same impression. These are young people dressing up with leaves and flowers and body paint, something they don't do every day but something that is indeed part of their culture. This makes the book fascinating and one of the strongest books of photography of Africans that I have ever seen. It is highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love the natural beauty of this book, Africans using nature to embellish their bodies=artful beauty. Would love to see them in person. The photography will bring out your creativity.
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Format: Paperback
The sophistication is as great as you would see in Vogue Magazine!

The photography is riveting.

The story is amazing.

It is a book that you can not put down.

You will always see something new each time you view it.

Bravo!!!
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