Indigenous Art: Africa, Oceania and the Americas (no scheduled dates at this time)

Night Fire Dance of the Baining People, New Britain, Papua New Guinea

The art that inspired Picasso, Gauguin and Matisse comes alive as we look at awe-inspiring objects from Africa, the Pacific Islands and the Americas. Once referred to as “primitive”, the art of indigenous cultures is now recognized as the product of complex societies who express their deepest values in visual terms.

Nok Figure from Nigeria, ca. 500 BCE; Dogon dancers in Mali wearing Kanaga masks; Nkisi Nkondi, DRC, late 19th c.

Our journey will take us through Sub-Saharan Africa, where we’ll learn about masks and their meanings. We’ll examine fascinating sculptures such as the Nkisi, whose power was activated by driving nails through its body.

Nazca Lines, Peru, ca. 400-650 CE; Chac-Mool, Toltec/Mayan, ca. 1100 CE;
Mosquito Mask, Tlingit/Alaska, pre 1843

The art of the Americas begins in ancient Peru and Colombia, home of the legendary El Dorado. We’ll see the famous Nazca lines, land art that can only be appreciated from a plane. In Mesoamerica we’ll look at the Mayan sculpture that inspired Henry Moore. In North America west coast dance masks represent a vibrant tradition that goes back hundreds of years.

Aboriginal Rock Painting, ca. 6000 BCE; Torres Strait Mask from collection of Picasso; Moai Figures, ca. 1000, Rapa Nui/Easter Island

Oceanic art encompasses a vast terrain ranging from Australia to Tahiti. We’ll examine paintings of Aboriginal mythology, intricate sculptures from New Ireland, a mask that once belonged to Picasso, and the amazing Moai heads of Easter Island (Rapa Nui), which it turn out had bodies too!

This course will be offered in 2017-2018.