Royal Arts of Africa: The Majesty of Form

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

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.Eugene C. Burt, Art Inst. of Seattle Lib.
Booknews
Illustrated with over 200 black & white and color photographs and illustrations, this book examines the arts associated with royal practices in the Benin, Yoruba, Dahomey, Asante, Kongo, and Kuba kingdoms, as well as others which flourished in the years just before and after European contact. Using a structure detailing each kingdom as a specific unity, the author compares works against the generic exemplar, emphasizes the significance of palace and architectural decoration alongside sculpture and textiles, looks at the work of particular individuals, and focuses on the broader social and political circumstances leading to the creation of the works. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780131833432
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Paradoxes of Rule 11
1 The Benin Kingdom: Politics, Religion, and Natural Order 43
2 Yoruba and Dahomey: Divine Authority and the Arts of Royal History 79
3 The Asante Kingdom: The Golden Ages of Ghana 125
4 Cameroon Grasslands: Royal Art Patronage in Contexts of Change 165
5 Kongo and Kuba: The Art of Rulership Display 201
Conclusion: The Continuing Vitality of Africa's Courtly Arts 249
Timeline 252
Glossary 260
Bibliography 261
Picture Credits 266
Index 268
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