In West and Central Africa in the centuries just before and after European contact, powerful kingdoms flourished, each with its own distinct art practices. The royal arts of Benin, Yoruba, Dahomey, Asante, Kongo, Kuba, and others are the subject of this book. What are the court-art traditions of the African royal states? How do art and architecture define individual, dynastic, royal, and national identity? What is the impact on them of centuries of trade, colonization, and religious exchange? How is this art to be understood within its cultural context? Blier draws on a vast range of individual objects - crowns and masks, thrones and regalia, palace architecture, painting, textiles, body decoration, and jewelry - as well as archival photographs of art works in use in ceremonies and performances. Using detailed descriptions she offers a subtle cultural reading of these complex arts. Blier's thoughtful and expert examination goes beyond particular visual analysis to explore vital questions of royalty and power, divine kingship, state cosmology, the place of women at court, and the use of art in dynastic history, diplomacy, and war.
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Suzanne Preston Blier is Professor of African Art in the Departments of Fine Arts and Afro-American Studies at Harvard University. She has written extensively on African arts and culture, and is the recipient of numerous academic awards, among them the Charles Rufus Morey Award for her book African Vodun Art: Art Psychology and Power.From Library Journal:
Many traditional African cultures, especially in west and central Africa, were ruled by complex hierarchical kingdoms. As Blier (African Vodun, LJ 4/1/95) documents so clearly, those royal systems were major patrons of art largely because the visual messages imbedded in their regalia and palace objects supported their power, position, and prestige. An introductory chapter analyzes the diverse roles that African kings played, thus providing the iconographical framework that explains the richness of Africa's royal arts. That is followed by five chapters focusing on those cultures (Benin, Yoruba, Dahomey, Asante, Cameroon, Grasslands, Kongo, and Kuba) whose kingship systems and associated objects represent some of Africa's greatest artistic achievements. Richly illustrated with over 200 photographs, most in color, Blier's text is so readable and well organized that it can be enjoyed by a wide audience. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.AEugene C. Burt, Art Inst. of Seattle Lib.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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