Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
This book is by no means a scholarly treatise but rather a beautiful pictorial survey of many of the traditions of architectural decoration created by women in various regions of West Africa. Courtney-Clarke, a journalist-photographer who previously wrote the similar Ndebele: The Art of an African Tribe ( LJ 8/86), provides an introduction consisting of commentary on the problems of locating and photographing the murals and their artists, as well as a brief discussion preceding each group of photos. As a record of an ephemeral art that is being abandoned in many areas, this book is strongly recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Eugene C. Burt, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Photojournalist Courtney-Clarke, whose book Ndebele captured the painted wall art of South Africa, brings the same inquiring spirit to this depiction of her three-year trek from Nigeria to Senegal. Surviving sandstorms, locusts and malaria, she documents the bold geometric and symbolic wall paintings made by women in remote West African villages. These women transform objects from their daily world--a fish net, a cooking pot, a weaving, a calabash--into rippling patterns laden with cosmic significance. Made with natural pigments from plants or clay, these pictures often perish in the rainy season. Creeping urbanization is also taking its toll on the villages, whose mud compounds, houses, clothing, body painting and pottery Courtney-Clarke documents as well. This strong, moving photoessay is equally valuable as an investigation of a dwindling way of life and as a permanent record of a seldom-seen vernacular art form. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This book is a terrible disappointment. The individual elements of flawless reproduction, sumptuous photography, a foreword by Maya Angelou, and a noted author in Margaret Courtney-Clarke (Cape Dutch Homesteads, 1981, and Ndebele: The Art of an African Tribe, CH, Oct'86) do not save it from being little better than coffee-table decoration. If the purpose, as stated on the dust cover, was to document native African architecture and traditional painted arts--walls, pottery, and painted cloth--somewhere along the line the author lost sight of that end. There is only minimal text, which is used solely to identify photographs. The photographic selection appears to be based on the quality of pictorial composition rather than on content. The result is a photographic exercise in Africa, not a critical study or a historical documentation. There is a bibliography, shorter than the acknowledgements, containing general texts and dated material. Lost here was an opportunity to record and preserve this unique and temporal African art form before it disappeared beneath a tide of Western influences. -G. A. Anderson, Hendrix College