Spirits Speak presents a selection of the most important African masks found in major museums and renowned private collections around the globe: an overview such as has never been compiled in this way before. Artistic mastery, charisma, age and authenticity were paramount selection criteria with only the very best examples representing each well-known mask type. An introductory essay elucidates the conceptual intricacies and varying functions of the masks and sweeps away deep-rooted misunderstandings. Enlightening commentaries offer background information about the function and origins of each mask's use within the ethnic groups from which they originate, and a foldout map places them in their original geographical context.
The photographs of the African masks and carvers in this book represent the Bwa (or Bwaba), Winiama and Mossi peoples of Burkina Faso, and the Bamana and Dogon peoples of Mali. Gaasch acquired many of these masks in the villages where they were carved. When possible, he interviewed the village carvers, the creators, of these dancing masks. Gaasch's interviews with the carvers underscore the cultural context where traditional African world views persist. And, to the extent possible, they give voice to the masks to reveal their own significance.The masks are, in our times, signifiers of cultures increasingly under siege, hostage to religious fanaticism, or to impoverishing globalization. This small book reaffirms the rights of these masks to continue to dance.
African Masks surveys 248 of the finest examples of masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection, of which 100 are reproduced in stunning color illustrations. Leading scholars on African art describe the masks' historical and religious functions, and their symbolic significance.
This book counteracts the commonly accepted belief that the expressionless stereotypical human faces in prehistoric and ancient art are the result of a consciously chosen style. Brener introduces evidence from psychology, evolutionary biology and other disciplines that suggest that something more significant may be involved. Scientists have emphasized the innate, genetically based nature of our fascination with the human face and its almost limitless expressive capacity, all of which is represented in the art of the last six centuries. But little attention has been paid to the anomaly of the vacuous expressions of earlier facial representations. Brener attributes this change to a change in t...