Tribal art, long relegated to curiosity cabinets and then ethnographic museums, is ubiquitous today. Works of tribal art are increasingly present in the collections of contemporary art foundations and museums, and continue to stimulate the imagination of the world’s greatest artists. And yet our understanding of these objects – whose ritualistic aspects cannot be overlooked – is still marred by cliches.
Examining tribal artworks from the dual perspectives of ethnology and art history, this comprehensive introduction invites readers to decode the symbolism and discover the various functions and meanings of works that range from mourner’s masks to mother and child figures, or from bark clothes to anthropomorphic sculptures. It also pays homage to the artists who created these works of art and dispels common myths and outdated preconceptions, demonstrations that tribal art comprises far more than just erotic figures and sacred totems.