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Article

Marla C. Berns and Margret Carey

One of the most essential domestic items is the knife, which may be used for such diverse tasks as skinning animals, cutting meat or fish, peeling root vegetables, splitting reeds or cutting bark tie when making baskets, shaping wood, trimming fingernails or shaving the head. Generally, knives belong to the individual rather than the task. Forks feature little in African culture, other than as tourist commodities, but spoons are significant and are made in a wide range of forms and materials. The most important are those used for serving food, which have large bowls and are sometimes elaborate. The Dan people of Liberia, for example, have special rice spoons with a large bowl, sometimes decoratively carved at the back, and with the handle often carved in human or animal form. Such spoons are used by women in lavish hospitality at times of festival and help celebrate women’s social role. They are often the work of a master carver and are inherited. Many have decoratively carved handles or bowls, as they may be used for ritual feeding of respected elders, for making offerings to the spirits or for serving food on special occasions. The ...

Article

David Binkley and Simon Ottenberg

The term ‘mask’ refers primarily to the object that is worn to hide the face of the masker. The term ‘masquerade’, however, refers to the multimedia activity of transforming a human being into a powerfully animated characterization. While much art-historical research has focused on the mask object itself, the African art form of masquerade comprises an entire ensemble of costume, dance, music and song. Indeed, masquerade is one of Africa’s major contributions to world art; it is certainly the most spectacular. Further information on African mask and masquerade will be found in the entries on the arts of individual peoples, cross-references to several of which appear in the article below.

Mask forms have often been reproduced in other media. They have sometimes been adapted as architectural ornamentation or reproduced in miniature for personal adornment, as for example among the Pende of Zaïre (see Pende, §2). There are several traditions of miniature masks, which are not worn over the face or head but simply displayed as symbols of status and achievement. Among the ...

Article

Tobacco was introduced into Africa from America by Europeans in the 15th century, while hemp, often called dagga, may have entered Africa from the east and north, via Arab contacts. In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the east and south, the preferred form of tobacco was snuff, made from dried, ground tobacco leaves, which in the late 20th century continued to be taken by both sexes. Snuff-boxes belonging to chiefs or important men might be distinguished by their size, superior workmanship or use of some exclusive material, such as elephant ivory. The great majority of snuff-boxes, however, are quite small and are portable as neck or waist pendants or, if they are made from a length of reed or wood, worn as an ear-plug. Small gourds are often used, either left plain or decorated in a variety of ways, such as pyrogravure, impressed beads or wire and beaded covers; and short lengths of cane or bamboo used to keep snuff may also be decorated by pyrogravure, shallow carving and beaded covers. In ...

Article

Pierre de Maret

The oldest known tools in the world are the African flaked cobbles and stone flakes from c. 2.5 million years bc. From this time stone artefacts gradually became more elaborate. Acheulian tools, mainly hand axes, from c. 1.5 million years bc represent a remarkable intellectual achievement: the equilibrium of the shapes, the fine workmanship and the choice of the raw materials combine a functional approach with some concern for aesthetics. Later, polished tools, such as one made of haematite from Uele in Zaïre (see Van Noten), showed outstanding craftsmanship. Such materials as wood, vegetable and animal fibres, ivory, leaves, bones, horns, leather, eggshells, snail shells, seashells, gourds, clay and metal have also all been in use for millennia. In some places specific tools were developed to work these materials, which were used in turn to create numerous other implements, mainly for cultivating, hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, cooking and drinking. The number of tools owned by any given family, however, was quite small, with basic objects such as a knife, hoe or axe serving several purposes....

Article

Joe Cribb, Patricia J. Graham, Willem van Gulik, Henryk Jurkowski, Sadako Ohki, Tal Streeter, and David Waterhouse

The subjects discussed in this section reflect modern art-historical classification systems that were not recognized in pre-modern Japan (see Japan: History and culture). The art forms are therefore not necessarily considered as such in Japan, but their inclusion conforms largely with comparable sections elsewhere in the Dictionary of Art.

See also Japan

Since prehistoric times, Bamboo has been one of the most versatile and ubiquitous of materials in Japan for the making of objects, from simple utilitarian devices to carefully crafted articles esteemed as artistic creations, and it has long occupied an important place in Japanese daily and ritual life. Bamboo is one of the three plants displayed on felicitous occasions to bring good fortune. It is commonly used for baskets, weapons, toys, musical instruments, notably flutes (see §7 below), tools, combs, tea ceremony utensils, furniture, window blinds and curtains (sudare, for dividing inner from outer rooms), architectural elements, ...

Article

Lea Baten

The Japanese word for doll, ningyō, derives from an archaic pronunciation of the Chinese characters for ‘human’ and ‘form’. Decorative and folk-art dolls trace their origin to prehistoric figurines, which were cult objects, invested with magical, protective, religious and fecundity-giving powers. These ritual overtones were present even when dolls appear to be purely decorative. The earliest doll-like forms included dogū (baked clay figurines) of the Jōmon period (c. 10,000–c. 300 bc); haniwa (‘clay cylinders’; see Japan: Sculpture from the pre- and protohistoric periods, dogū fig, and haniwa fig) placed around mounded tombs of the Kofun period (c. ad 300–710); and sutebina (‘casting off figures’) used in purification rites of the 6th and 7th centuries. A variety of doll-like figurines were enshrined in both Buddhist and Shinto shrines from the Nara period (ad 710–94) onwards; other small bronze figures excavated at Nara in ...

Article

Takako Hauge and Victor Hauge

The term ‘folk art’ is generally applied to the art of the ‘common people’ in pre-industrial Japan, from about the 12th century to the 19th, though with some survivals into the modern period (after 1868). It embraces religious paintings, prints and sculpture and broad areas of such crafts as ceramics, textiles and woodwork.

See also Japan

The concept of ‘the people’s art’ of Japan was first enunciated in 1926 by Muneyoshi Yanagi, who was struck by the beauty in everyday utilitarian wares—objects dismissed as getemono or zakki (low-class or commonplace things)—and invented for them the term mingei (‘folk crafts’ or ‘the people’s art’, commonly rendered as ‘folk art’; see also Mingei). Yanagi’s writings and organizing initiatives inspired a movement aimed at preserving the legacy of old folk crafts and encouraging continued local mingei production in the face of sweeping industrialization. As a result, many collections of folk art were formed, such as the outstanding collection of the ...

Article

Monica Bethe

Masks have played an important role since prehistoric times in Japanese rituals, festivals and theatrical arts. The finest examples are connected with three performing arts: gigaku, bugaku and the allied forms of and kyōgen (see also Japan: Theatre and performing arts and Japan).

Nearly all Japanese masks are carved from wood, Japanese cypress (hinoki) being the most prevalent, particularly after the 11th century. Other woods include paulownia (kiri) and camphor (kusu), used for many 7th- and 8th-century masks, as well as various hard and soft woods for provincial masks. Almost all the masks are carved out of a single block, starting with the general features. The back is then hollowed out, and, working on front and back simultaneously, the carver opens holes for the eyes, nose and mouth, and finally refines and smooths the face of the mask. In some cases, particularly for the larger masks (...

Article

John T. Carpenter and Nobuo Ito

The etiquette of tea drinking and its associated arts occupy a unique place in Japanese social history and artistic development. From the late 15th century onwards the tea ceremony has served as a focus for artistic production, architectural development and the cultivation of art appreciation and connoisseurship.

Tea was probably known in Japan by the 8th century ad. The practice of tea drinking began in China in ancient times, and methods of preparing tea evolved under three different dynasties. In the Tang period (ad 618–907) tea was boiled with salt, butter and other milk products; whipping powdered tea in water was practised in the Song period (960–1279); and extracting tea by steeping it in hot water was developed in the Ming period (1368–1644), a tradition known as sencha (infused green tea). The Japanese tea ceremony (chadō; also pronounced sadō; the Way of tea; or chanoyu...

Article

Warfare played a significant role in Mesoamerican culture. Apart from fighting for political and territorial reasons, the cult of the warrior became increasingly important during the Late Classic (c. 600–c. 900 CE) and Postclassic (c. 900–1521 CE) periods, when societies of “knights” were formed, with their own rituals and meeting-places. Warfare was more ritualized in concept than in Western Europe. There were no standing armies. Warriors were led by the elite and were drawn from all able-bodied men. Weapons and armor were kept by individuals, or in central storehouses in the case of the Aztecs. “Foreign” mercenaries were sometimes used for particular campaigns—for example, the Cocom Itza used Mexican warriors in the conquest of Mayapán in the Late Postclassic period (c. 1200–1521). Fighting was hand-to-hand after initial bombardment with arrows, darts, and spears. Most “wars” were decided by a single battle, although continual warfare was the rule, especially in the Late Postclassic empire-building of the Aztecs....

Article

Christian F. Feest, José Alcina Franch, Roberto Rivera y Rivera, and Anthony Alan Shelton

See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

The earliest use of bone for tools and as a medium of plastic expression in Mesoamerica dates from c. 12,000–c. 8000 BCE. Bone tools were used to perforate hide, work obsidian, and stitch basketry, while notched shoulder-blades, usually from deer, were used as a rasping device and provided one of the earliest forms of musical instrument. A sacrum of an extinct species of camelid, dated to c. 12,000–10,000 BCE, was carved to resemble the head of a coyote and probably used as a mask (Mexico City, Mus. N. Antropol.); this constitutes the first evidence for the ritual use of bone in this area. Bone was undoubtedly used for ornament, needles, handtools, and musical instruments throughout Mesoamerican prehistory, but distinct traditions are not usually identified before the 1st–2nd centuries CE in the Maya region and considerably later in areas further north.

Bone-carving had a long history in the ...

Article

See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

In the context of Mesoamerica, the term mosaic is used for decoration made up of small pieces of hardstones and other materials applied not only to architectural surfaces (as in the Greco-Roman mosaic tradition of Europe) but also to a variety of prized objects, including vessels, shields, masks, human skulls, and knife handles.

The earliest supposed Mesoamerican mosaic ornament is a group of turquoise chips found in an Early Preclassic (c. 2000–c. 1000 BCE) grave at El Arbolillo, Basin of Mexico. Three large-scale mosaic pavements (each c. 4.5 × 6.0 m) composed of square and rectangular serpentine blocks (c. 485 blocks each) depicted stylized jaguar faces at the Olmec site of La Venta. Each was an offering, deliberately buried under c. 1 m of clay and adobe. A wooden Olmec mask encrusted with jade was found at Cañón de la Mano, Guerrero, dated to ...