Who invents masks, and why? Such questions have rarely been asked, due to stereotypes of anonymous African artists locked into the reproduction of "traditional" models of representation. Rather than accept this view of African art as timeless and unchanging, Z. S. Strother spent nearly three years in Zaire studying Pende sculpture. Her research reveals the rich history and lively contemporary practice of Central Pende masquerade. She describes the intensive collaboration among sculptors and dancers that is crucial to inventing masks. Sculptors revealed that a central theme in their work is the representation of perceived differences between men and women. Far from being unchanging, Pende masquerades promote unceasing innovation within genres and invention of new genres. Inventing Masks demonstrates, through first hand accounts and lavish illustrations, how Central Pende masquerading is a contemporary art form fully responsive to twentieth-century experience. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (1)
A modern art form
In the country then known as Zaire, and now as the Congo, Strother spent some time studying the Central Pende ethnic group. Specifically, she analysed the role that masks played in their society. The book has many photos of intricately designed masks. Pretty!
But the book is more than just nice pictures. Strother has conducted a serious anthropological study of what the masks represent and their history. Essentially, she shows that the construction and symbology are not some age old ritual. Rather, a virtue of her study is that she places the Pende masquerade as an active, modern art form. As legitimate as any contemporary art movement in a developed country. Too often, African art is only studied in retrospective mode. Strother shows otherwise.
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