Based on an exhibition of 85 exceptional works from American private collections and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art inWashington, this book joins the few publications devoted to the artistic traditions of Southern Africa. Astoundingly diverse and limitless in their inventiveness, materials, forms, and styles, works from this part of the continent defy specific ethnic attribution. Small and portable in nature-snuff containers,pipes, headrests, staffs, sticks, beer vessels, beaded garments-they were created by seminomadic cattle-herding peoples and primarily intended for daily use.Their softened edges and lustrous patinas are obvious signs of wear and tear. Whether figurative or abstract, carved out of wood, ivory, or horn, or made of cloth, glass beads, or clay, most of the works presented in this publication were much more than exquisitely designed functional objects.
Constantine Petridis is a member of the Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, Curator of African Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Adjunct Professor of Art History at CaseWestern Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His Art and Power in the Central African Savanna won the 2008 Midwest Art History Society Award for Outstanding Exhibition Catalogue. Karel Nel, Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, has published widely on the arts of Southern Africa.