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African Cosmos Hardcover – November 27, 2012
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In the second part of this catalogue, ten chapters, running nearly 200 pages, explain how the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa have traditionally understood astronomy and cosmology and the practices, ceremonies, and artifacts that have flowed from their belief systems. The ethnic groups touched on by these chapters are diverse, ranging from the Christians in Ethiopia to the Bamana and Dogon in Mali, Merina in Madagascar, Kongo of central Africa, and Yoruba of Nigeria, among others. A diversity of substantive focus is another strength. Several chapters focus on architecture, while others examine the human body--in both the flesh and art--and ceremonial performances to see how they too evidence local notions of cosmology. Most notable among these superbly illustrated ten chapters is that by Christine Mullen Kreamer, deputy director and chief curator of the National Museum of African Art. It might well have been the book's introduction, and it is, in fact, a good place to start working one's way through this complex volume.
It is when we look at other than these ten chapters that some weaknesses appear. A number of introductory essays resemble academic conference papers shaped by personal agendas. As such, they do not form an integrated whole. Likewise, as the book concludes, readers will be left to wonder how Islam, Christianity, and urbanization have impacted traditional practices for there is no comprehensive discussion of this topic.