WORLD OF ART: BODY ARTNICHOLAS THOMAS Book Number: 88275 Product format: Paperback
A timely and intelligent celebration of this quintessentially human and intimate artform, body art is practiced across all world cultures and throughout history. Among the native peoples of Amazonia, body art signified a social being and when dances took place on ceremonial occasions, men wore feather-based decorations closely associated with spirits and ancestors. Representational designs are featured among pre-contact tattoo motifs notable particularly in Tahitian and Hawaiian tattoos. Here are examples and engravings from the Samoans and the Ga'anda people of North Eastern Nigeria. There, a prospective bride was, until was outlawed in 1978, subjected to extensive scarification. Undertaken in stages, it focussed first on the stomach and forehead and was inflicted by older, expert women who linked the identity of the woman with her role as wife, as an agent of social solidarity, and a life of conformity and order. Body arts do more than reflect the realities of a political regime - they may also play a vital role in constituting it. They are not just signs but also tools of society and are more than the careful violence and controlled harm of cutting, binding or inking. It is the production of pain, and the business of undergoing necessary suffering, under dramatic and extraordinary ritual circumstances, that is powerful and cathartic. This is not always true, but it is often the case that the marks and tattoos speak of the experience of the body and the transformation of the person. Inking has borrowed motifs and practices from many different traditions, but what is it that these new and borrowed arts do and what do they tell us about the global culture that we now inhabit? Anthropologist and art historian Nicholas Thomas explores these questions and many more in his illuminating history of the longstanding associations with ritual, theatricality, criminality and beauty. It features the work of contemporary artists such as Marc Quinn and Rebecca Belmore. More than 180 illustrations, mostly in colour, chronicle the extraordinary diversity of body arts from Australian and African traditions of painting and scarification to Chinese foot binding, Russian prison tattoos, Harlem drag balls and the designs worn by celebrities today like David Beckham. 208pp, quality Thames & Hudson softback.
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