Monday, September 22, 2014

Nkisi nkondi (hunter figure). Democratic Republic of Congo, Kongo. Collected 1905

Initial reaction
When I first saw this image in Art Beyond The West, I wasn't sure exactly what it was. It seems it is an African ritual sculpture of some sort. What really disturbed me was the fact that it had all these nails hammered into it as if they were torturing someone. It seems that there is a lot of expression in the statues face as it is raising its arm to attack who ever it was that had the curse on him. The wrists and ankles are bounded with rope as if someone had him restrained.

After Research 
The priests of the Kongo use a type of carved wooden statue (pictured above) called a nkisi nkondi to find solutions for the villages problems. The name, which means something like "hunter," is used because the priests use such works to, "hunt" for solutions to village problems and search for wrongdoers, including those who do not keep sworn oaths. It is really interesting that priests use these statues to solve problems in the village. If a villager wants to become a "hunter" he has to swear an oath to the priest and drive a nail into the statues body to blind himself of spiritual forces. When the "hunter" has found a solution to the village problem, the nail that he drove into the statue is removed to signify that the problem is no longer an issue. Although colonial administrators attempted to repress their use after 1920, some priests "hunters" remain at work today.

O'Riley, Michael Kampen. "The Pacific." In Art Beyond the West, 246-247. 2nd ed.

       Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

Figure 7.9 Nkisi nkondi (hunter figure). Democratic Republic of Congo, Kongo. Collected 1905. Wood, metal, glass, and mixed media; height 38" (97 cm). Barbier-Muller Collection, Geneva.

Photo Credit

“Beaded Dress” by Mrs. Minnie Sky Arrow


Initial Reaction:
When looking through the text, I am skimming the photographs looking for something to catch my eye but most everything seems very unappealing. Then I finally came upon a piece that strikes my interest a lot. It has a lot of color -- the color is not dull but it is very vibrant and appealing to the eye. Also, there seems to be a lot of geometrical shapes are rearranged to make other shapes and designs. I find it very beautiful the way the designs are worked into the piece. there are also very elegant “C” and “S” curves used within the piece. Also I believe the piece I have chosen is some kind of native american outfit, which strikes my interest even more.
After research:
After looking the piece up, I learned that it is titled “Beaded Dress” and made by Mrs. Minnie Sky Arrow in 1890. The beaded dress is made of buck skin and is completely beaded on both sides, which makes all of the color of the dress and weighs around seven pounds. The beads being worked into the dresses/clothing wasn’t really known of until europe started importing glass beads into America in 1869. Once the Native Americans found use for these beads the women started working them into the clothing, especially the clothing used in ceremonies. Mrs. Sky Arrow had wore this particular beaded dress when she gave piano concerts around the country. With her amazing beadwork, it struck the attention of many Native American tribes/cults. One group in particular that was emotionally inspired by Wovoka decided to make a new kind of clothing, Ghost Dance shirts. They had believed that the shirts were bullet proof which led to the massacre at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29, 1890. Beadwork in clothing is still being produced in present day by Native Americans.

Works Cited:
Kampen-O'Riley, Michael. "The Americas." Art beyond the West: The Arts of Western and Central Asia, India and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, the Pacific, Africa, and the Americas. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. 324. Print.

Nam June Paik, TV Buddha (1974)

Initial Reaction: The picture depicts the religious figure known as Buddha, on a white table facing a tiny futuristic looking TV. There is a camera behind the TV and its recording that same Buddha and displaying it on the TV. The form of this art piece is what drew me in, it is hands on instead of it being just another painting or drawing, its 3D nature provides a sense of realism. I am drawn to the color contrasts of the ancient brassy looking Buddha against the sleek white TV and table it is placed on. Maybe it’s meant to say that an old religion such as Buddhism is out of place in this modernized future. There is also a question on why Buddha is being recorded, and that could signify how people want proof that a religion works.
After Research: Buddha watching himself from the TV connects to the historical “Gautama Buddha”, one that found enlightenment through contemplation and withdrawal from the culture surrounding him. The TV symbolizes timelessness and because it shows Buddha on the screen it further represents the infamous teachings of Buddha. My realizations from the research of this piece shows that I’m not very open to religion, I figured in my first reaction that Buddhism is out of place when this piece is representing the opposite. Even though this piece is displaying that the Buddha is modern and still very live, in today’s culture and society it is rarely considered. 

Research Source: Kampen-O'Riley, Michael. Art beyond the West: The Arts of Africa, India and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, the Pacific, and the Americas. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2002. Print.

Picture credited to Anna Fuster

Throne of King Nsa'ngu

Initial Reaction

The cobalt blue and dirty orange colors are very intriguing and visually appealing. The use of pattern in this piece make the viewers eye travel throughout. For instance, the snake is made of hash marks that are white and draw your attention, then the curving lines allow the viewers eyes to follow the shape moving throughout the entire piece. Upon first viewing the piece, I notice that there are four figures; two characters at the top seem to be more important and of some sort of value based on there position in this piece. 

After Research

Throne of King Nsa'ngu. Cameroon, Bamum. Late 19th century.
After reading about this artwork in the book I realize that it is a piece is done by an artist from the Cameroon grasslands, which is Directly East of Nigeria. This piece is a throne of King Nsa'ngu. He would sit in front of the two larger figures in back and his feet would rest on the foot stool in between the bottom two figures. The two figures in the back are fertility symbols that symbolize the king's role as father to his people. The two figures on the bottom of the throne are said to symbolize "Njoya's use of traditional wisdom in his rule." The double-headed serpent symbolizes his strength in battle, these are on the seat. Thrones such as this were kept inside the palace and only moved to the front of the palace when the king held audiences there. It had to be moved by specially appointed throne bearers. 

O'Riley, Michael Kampen. "The Pacific." In Art Beyond the West, 260-261. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

Figure 1:

Moai. Easter Island Pre-15th Century CE

Initial Reaction

When I first saw this picture in Art Beyond the West I noticed that these figures seemed very old. In the photo these figures looked stoic and their facial features look detailed compared to their bodies. Their facial features look like they have been enlarged.  These figures look like they are made of some sort of stone. These structures look weathered from many years of being out in the wind and rain. When I looked a little closer at their faces they seemed to be frowning and the eyes were very profound. I also noticed that some of these figures had similar faces and features.

After Research 

Around 1000 CE, the Easter Island natives began constructing these half figures on stone platforms on the hillside of the island. These structures represent the ancestors/ chiefs that guarded the villages and ceremonial places on the island. They were used for rituals, and scriptures were set in the platforms. When construction stopped a lot of these structures collapsed. These Moai were carved from a yellowish brown coarse tufa that was found in the extinct volcano Rano Raraku. Only 1000 of these have survived including many that were never finished. Over time their features became more elongated. The newest ones have small foreheads, massive brows, long faces and strong pointed chins. They cut these figures out of the volcano after they were carved and were dragged on rollers from the crater of the volcano. The pathways are still visible today.

Riley, Michael."The Pacific." In Art Beyond the West: The Arts of Western and Central Asia, India and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, The Pacific, Africa, and The Americas, 223-224. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.:Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006

Photo Credit: Mary Madigan 

French Polynesia: The Tuhuka and his Tatau

Initial Reaction:
       At first glance of the piece "Tattooed Marquesan Warrior," several stylistic elements come forward in its description. When describing, it is evident that the use of geometric shapes and lines were important in not depicting the contour of the human anatomy, but rather its inner form, the anatomy the skin, an idea important in early Chinese art. Looking further, Negative space and heavy contrast between the contour of the body and the background suggest a heightened focus on the central character. Minimal horizontal lines at the base hint at a background space, and a simple one color foreground place the subject on a plane directly in front of the viewer. Certain elements of the form and shape, i.e. the shading of the body according to underlying muscle structure demonstrates a firm understanding of the human anatomy and the play of light vs. shadows on it. Also, the muted blues, rusty reds, faded yellows and greens would suggest a focus on the geometric designs within the contour of the body. In retrospect, first glance would lead me to believe it a mesoamerican or southwestern asian(polynesian) islands piece, but the depiction of the facial structure and hair would lead me to believe it was a representation of one of the aforementioned cultures by a European, possibly Spanish artist. 
Fig. 1 "Tattooed Marquesan Warrior." Engraving of Noukahiwa
in N. Dally's Customs and Costumes of the Peoples of the World,
                Turin, 1845. Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

After Research
       After researching the "Tattooed Marquesan Warrior," the work's motives, history, and symbology provided much more clarity to my initial reaction. This engraving is found in N. Dally's Customs and Costumes of the Peoples of the World, and represents Noukahiwa, a warrior from the Marquesas in what was French Polynesia (O'Riley). But what was more important than the figure himself was the art that resided in his skin. With a highly spiritual emphasis on art, tattooing was considered one of the most important art forms in their culture. Tattooing was a way of preserving one's mana, or sacred powers passed on by their ancestors. For the Marquesa, Tatau(tattoo), was an art form highly revered by the people and the Tatau artists, often called Tuhuka or Tuhuna, meaning master, were often held in high regard with other artists and priests(O'Riley). Moreover, these tattoos carried significant importance to one's mana. These marking were etched in one's body, and were direct links to one's ancestors, past, and mana. They empowered the wearer, beautified the body, and made the wearer a living work of art, and a direct link to their ancestors(O'Riley). In addition, the Tuhuka worked with the form of the body itself, etching straight lines, geometric patterns, and curves that followed the body. In essence, the tataus of the Marquesan peoples weren't purely superficial designs; they were lines, intricate patterns, and master plans, creating paths that could be traveled, connecting these people with their past. Often taking years to complete, it used the human body to create a spirit or energy that lifted the wearer into a heightened sense of spirituality, a living work of art. For the Marquesa, the human body was merely a conduit for art, one of the highest spiritual elements they worked with. This piece not only serves its purpose as a window into  what was an alien culture to the French, but as a window into their spirituality and beliefs, a window to their ancestors. 


O'Riley, Michael Kampen. "The Pacific." In Art Beyond the West, 217-219. 2nd ed. 
       Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. 

Fig. 1. N. Dally, Tattooed Marquesan Warrior. 1845, Engraving. Musée des Arts 
       Décoratifs, Paris. From Customs and Costumes of the Peoples of the World
       Turin. 1845. In Art Beyond the West, 218.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Great Mosque, Dejenne Mali. 14th Century

Initial Reaction

While skimming through Art Beyond the West, I encountered something that captured my attention. When initially observing this structure, it first appeared to be a structure similar to a sand castle, but in a real-life size. After further observations, I started to notice some interesting details. Because it looks as if it is made of dirt and clay, the structure seems to have a very dated appearance. Based upon the general designs of the walls and the towers associated within, the entire structure seems to look like a church or religious center, The structure has interesting protrusions that make it have a prickly appearance. These protruding pieces look similar to wood or clay. Interestingly enough, this structure's lining, including the towers, walls, mounds, protrusions,  and spacing is very precise. The fact that it is very precise shows that it must have taken time and skilled builders to build this, due to the fact that in older times building tools were not very common.

After Research

After initially observing and appreciating this structure with no previous knowledge regarding to what it was, I decided to further my knowledge in this interesting structure and discover new information about it. This sand castle-looking structure is actually called The Great Mosque at Djenne, Mali. According to Art Beyond the West, the first version of the Islamic Mosque was built in the 14th century. The second version of the Great Mosque was built in 1835, and the current Great Mosque that is still standing was built in 1907. All of these reconstructions were done to improve the Great Mosque both structurally and decoratively. The Mosque is made of puddle clay, adobe bricks, clay and straw mixtures, and other binders set in molds that dried in the sun. The protrusions on the walls give the Mosque a interesting prickly appearance, but they also have a function. According to Art Beyond the West, the wooden protrusions have the function of supporting the workers who re-plaster the walls annually at spring time because of the erosion caused by rain and wind. The current function of the Great Mosque is to hold religious gatherings, ceremonies, and celebrations.


Riley, Michael. "Africa." In Art beyond the West: The Arts of Western and Central Asia, India and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, the Pacific, Africa, and the Americas, 262-263. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

Photo Credit: Jurgen