- Series: Art Flexi Series
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Prestel; New edition edition (May 25, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 3791338072
- ISBN-13: 978-3791338071
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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African Masks: From the Barbier-Mueller Collection (Art Flexi Series) Paperback – May 25, 2010
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From Library Journal
These two books by the same publisher are very similar in a number of ways?they are designed to accompany major European exhibitions; contain hundreds of visually impressive photos of some of the finest works of African artistry; and cover the art of Africa while emphasizing the sculpture of West and Central Africa. These similarities aside, the books differ significantly in terms of the nature of the text and the focus of the content. Early in the 20th century a small number of European collectors acquired significant collections of African art. Han Coray (1880-1974), a modern art dealer in Zurich, was one of the earliest of those collectors, and his extensive collection eventually became the property of the Zurich University Ethnographic Museum. African Art is a catalog of that collection, with over 300 photographs of the objects. While most of the catalog entries provide useful information about the objects, some are unsatisfyingly only descriptive. More than a dozen essays are also provided, while some are scholarly and informative, many are personal reflections on and reactions to the collector and the collection, which some readers may not find especially enlightening. African Masks explores the nature of one of the most important categories of art in Africa. An excellent introductory essay by scholars Maria Kecskesi and Lazlo Vajda succinctly discusses the roles of masks in African societies and explains variations in their form and aesthetics. Almost 250 masks in the Barbier-Mueller Museum collection are cataloged with brief entries and small but fine black-and-white photos. The major portion of the book consists of large-format color plates of selected masks with extensive, scholarly notes by Hahner-Herzog. Many of the plates are accompanied by outstandingly useful field photos of the masks as worn by fully costumed performers in their indigenous context. Both books are highly recommended for any public or academic library with an interest in art, anthropology, and/or African studies.?Eugene C. Burt, Art Inst. of Seattle Lib.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
And, when a Western or European "expert" writes that African masks were made by an unknown author, the only thing it implies is that he / she ignores who has made it. Generally, they do not care, and certainly will not investigate matters. People typically take what they read and see credulously - without reasonable critical examination - thereby failing to determine facts and objectivism.
This popular book has conflicting, incorrect and even intentionally misleading data. There are wrong characterizations and distortions of African masquerades and even attributed cultures. Essentially, most alleged "superior" and "high quality" masks shown amount to little more than late 19th and 20th century *curios* collected by Europeans. Tourist "market art" is well documented, and has been a thriving business as African historical-cultural paraphernalia dating as far back as the 17th century, and in Angola since the 14th century!
There are many beautiful, full-page, digitally mastered, high quality pictorial publications in circulation, and this is just another one whereas the photos replace knowledge, understanding and reason while seducing the unsuspecting with visual concepts. So many think these masks are all vetted, *ritually used* and genuine... Think again. Consider the Igbo-Izzi 'Ogbodo Enyi' or so-called "Spirit Elephant Helmet Crest", page 55:
1... The misleading description states: "originally an embodiment of the most feared and powerful spirits, performed with aggressive and even violent moves" (and so on).
2... Yet, if one would simply research - without too much effort - one can discover the majority of the Igbo sub-groups suffered from European influenza pandemics (1917-1919), which wiped out a vast number, especially their children. It spread quickly into the neighboring southern provinces, and after flourishing about four to six weeks in each particular Nigerian village or town, influenza subsided, but would resurface each year afterwards.
3... Authorities estimated that probably 32 per 1,000 Nigerians perished during this European flu epidemic: reference Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence. This influenza pandemic is considered one of Nigeria's worst disasters brought about by European colonial military personnel and ocean-liner passengers.
The Igbo offered sacrifices in the town of Abaja-Owerri (Southern region) to ward off the spirits they thought carried this death flu. Nine out of ten villagers were stricken. This deadly pandemic promoted the creation of this early 20th century HEALING MASK - renown as 'Ogbodo Enyi' - initially danced by women in effort to show a semblance of gratitude in the midst of suffering. 'Ogbodo Enyi' masquerades were originally intended as a symbol of strength, endurance and clarity for the community.
The abstract elephant image shown on page 55 is not an early archetype, but one of a late era stylistic example... A result of a verbal description rather than an artistic license. Elephants used to also roam Nigeria, but are now extinct... Why? So, what became of the elephants which used to roam Nigeria?
... Why isn't the truth about the 'Ogbodo Enyi' mask specifically explained in African art publications?? If mentioned, it is typically quickly glazed over - the subject averted - rationalized as if some ambiguous and bizarre sickness / phenomena over-took the people (as cited within Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos, 1984, by Herbert M. Cole). And, what of European smallpox epidemics throughout sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for an unimaginable scale of deaths?? The Izzi-Igbo certainly were not the only Africans affected by European sicknesses and disease. Africans carved MANY figures, etc. evidencing this inconvenient reality, while Western publications continue an attempt to nullify these inconvenient facts as "objects" of unknown purpose. Simultaneously, the Americas was being plundered by European pandemics, as were Australia and SE Asia: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.
There are certainly other dubiously identified mask examples such as the (supposed) enigmatic iconic *Mahongwe* on the cover. Collectors aught to have a reasonable amount of curiosity to research and verify. The nebulous 5-star ratings and reviews attest to such gullibleness and ingrained ignorance.
"big, small or by omission, lies remain lies"
I just received this book, but this ridiculous statement makes me question the legitimacy of any of the information presented here. African art is many millennia old and the types referenced in this book go back centuries despite the authors clear misinformation. The author clearly seeks to dodge the reality the origins of European art, specifically that of the renaissance era, borrowed extensively from African art. Luckily I bought this book for the art; I can ignore the typical misinformed commentary.
There are 246 illustrationsof masks, from the authors collection, covering 101 etthnic groups from virtually every country of west and central Africa.
The most impressive part of the book are the 100 colour plates of outstanding quality. For each plate is given origin of mask,materials used,size and when acquired.
An excellent presentation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
done and writing was comprehensive.