Synopses & Reviews
The Bamana (or Bambara) are members of the Mande culture, a large and powerful group of peoples in western Africa. The artistic tradition of the Bamana is rich, encompassing pottery, sculpture, beautiful bokolanfini cloth, and wrought-iron figures crafted by blacksmiths. They also have an extensive tradition of masks, which are used as a form of social control and community education.
This volume focuses on the aesthetic qualities of the masterpieces of Bamana religious art in Mali and resituates them in their social, aesthetic, and cultural context. The emphasis is on pieces used in rites of passage (Ntomo, funerals), or by agricultural cooperatives, and initiation societies (Jo, Komo, Kono, Tyiwara, Namakoro). The pieces are sublime precisely because they stand at the crossroads of religion, art, and politics.
Works included in the book are from the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Indiana University Art Museum, Museum for African Art NY, National Museum of African Art (Smithsonian Institution).
The Kota people, who live in Gabon in the coastal area of western equatorial Africa, have developed an astonishing creativity in representations of their ancestors. Dreamlike figures combine a sharp sense of stylized reality tending toward abstraction with an extraordinary and imaginative use of copper, tin, and iron for purposes of decoration. But what seems at first to have been a matter of aesthetic taste has in fact a symbolic function, as most of the decorative motifs and the choice of the technique are linked to the kinship system or religious beliefs. The reliquary figures and initiation masks of the Kota and Mbete served both as aide-mand#233;moires and as instruments useful in arousing the forces of the netherworld among the Gabonese and Congolese in times past. Together with the Fang byeri and other nkisi punu, they have gradually become the time-honored emblems of a culture paying tribute to ancestral values of the peoples of the African equatorial forest.
The latest volume in the Visions of Africa series explores the intriguing sculpture and decorative art of the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Best known for their king figures (ndop
), considered among the greatest sculptural achievements of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Kuba actually produced little freestanding sculpture. Instead, they focused on a variety of decorative works that indicated success and achievement, and initiation-related pieces such as masks. The first book on this subject, Kuba
examines the tribe's artistic development, from the 17th century through the turbulent colonial and post-colonial periods. The authors also explore the impact of Kuba beliefs on their art and discuss the pervasive concerns that inform the tribe's art-making. With fifty beautifully reproduced examples and an engaging, informative text, Kuba
is a fascinating introduction to African art.
The Yaka, a tribe in the southwestern corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have for over a century produced figurative statuettes, masks, and other objects that have fascinated Western scholars, collectors, and explorers. This impressive book brings together some of the earliest examples, as well as some of the most visually striking, and explores their uses in installation and initiation ceremonies and curative rituals, examining their relationship to leadership, divination, and sorcery. Colonial influences as well as and#147;anti-fetishand#8221; religious movements are studied for their impact on Yaka traditional art. The book includes 21 black-and-white illustrations and drawings accompanying the text, 62 color plates with commentary, and an annotated bibliography.
About the Author
David A. Binkley
is former Chief Curator and Senior Curator for Research and Interpretation at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, where he developed numerous exhibitions and publications. Previously, he was Curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.Patricia Darish
taught African art history in The Kress Foundation Department of Art History, University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas and the Kansas City Art Institute. Both authors received their doctoral degrees from Indiana University, conducted extensive research in the Kuba region, and have published widely on Kuba arts and culture.