Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Body Art of the Omo Valley’

      

As we researched the culture of the Omo People and how they viewed their bodies as art, we looked at the many patterns that were able to create. Immediately, it reminded us of Mark Bradford. In fact, our organization is a big fan of Mr. Bradford but as you look at his work and some of the photographs we are sharing below, you can see why we feel he offers an abstract take as well to these women. He is very in tune with using found objects just like these women who also use the raw materials around them.

 


I was so moved by the women of the Omo Valley that I wanted to get models to photograph. I went to the MAC Cosmetics store in Harlem and they suggested
that I go to their Chelsea location. I shared images from Hans Silvester and the staff was blown away. But immediately they shared how I should model.
So, with their help along with the Body Shop in Harlem, I experimented. I want to thank MAC and the Body Shop for letting me enjoy this moment.

Jewellery is made and worn in all African tribes. It is often made from available materials such as plant and animal materials like seeds, feathers, horn, shell, bone and leather. These materials themselves may be symbolic, such as ivory, which is highly prized as a sign of strength and hunting skill, or lion’s manes worn by the most powerful Masaai warriors. Other desirable materials have long been traded, bartered and imported into Africa, such as glass beads. Precious metals are used for jewellery in numerous tribes.
Most common are brass, copper and bronze, while much gold was mined and used in West Africa, for example by the Akan-speaking people like the Ashanti of Ghana. This wealthy society has based its economy and artistic heritage on gold since the early eighteenth century, and highly skilled goldsmiths and jewellers have produced superb jewellery and artefacts. The royal court of Ashanti still possesses and uses vast amounts of gold jewellery. The jewelry that we are spotlighting is from Brooklyn based artist Jimmy Shack. In remaking the Omo several oieces from collections were loan to show how one can use contemporary jewelry to create this African inspired look.

 
Jimmy Shack is a contemporary artist working in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto in 1986 with a primary course of study in painting and printmaking. 

After moving to New York City in 1987, he continued his artistic development by exploring the field of ceramics through coursework at the Parsons School of Design, Greenwich House Pottery and Chelsea Ceramic Guild, all in New York City and in New Jersey at Peter’s Valley Craft Education Centre. 

In reflecting on his journey with clay, Shack finds symmetry with life and pottery.  “Clay becomes the vehicle for expressing your vision.  Through the process and rhythms of creating a pioece you find beauty in the clay which only becomes richer with the layering of color and glazes.  It is also the provocative way that a pot holds ad bound you in rapture of it’s emotional content and function.”

Shack has participated in group shows in his native Canada and in New York, including the Nexus Gallery, New York City; The Art Collaborative, New York City; The Brooklyn Artist Open Studio Show, Greenpoint; The Roots Underground Gallery, Toronto; Gallery 76, Toronto; and mdh fine arts, New York City. Special thanks to Wanda at Barking Lizards Gallery in Williamsburg who represents Mr. Shack and arrange for the inclusion of his collection.
 

                         

   

 
 

Tribal Societies, who stil follow the ancient custom of face painting, choose the colors according to the available raw materials. In ancient times, only primary and locally available colors like red, blue, yellow or white were used. Sometimes by sprinkling dust or soft bird feathers, special effects were achieved. Nowadays, most tribesmen choose to use branded paints. Painting a face is an art, perhaps the very first art, going back to the origins of human culture. Artists paint bold, mask-like designs inspired by imagery from nature, imagination or traditional masks. Unlike dance and music where the most charming modes and sweetest strains disappear before they are understood, painting captures the emotions and expressions and retains the impact for a long period. Painting is essentially a spoken and unspoken expression with the strokes of a brush.

Animation was done by filmmaker Guillaume Renberg

Born in 1966 Paris, France. Guillaume Renberg’s lifelong love of film brought him to California to study and work in the film industry. Since 1999 Guillaume has been living and working in New York City, participating in the production of major motion pictures, commercials, television, and numerous  independent film projects. One of his personal passions is filming, editing and producing documentaries about the life and work of his artist friends.


The Omo River is an important river of southern Ethiopia. Its course is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia, and empties into Lake Turkana on the border with Kenya. It is the principal stream of an endorheic drainage basin ; the part that the Omo drains includes part of the western Oromia Region and the middle of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region.

This river rises in the  highlands and is a perennial river. Its course is generally to the south, however with a major bend to the west at about 7° N 37° 30′ E to about 36° E where it turns south until 5° 30′ N where it makes a large S- bend then resumes its southerly course to Lake Turkana. According to materials published by the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency , the Omo River is 760 kilometer long.

In its course the Omo has a total fall of about 6000 ft (2,000 m), from an elevation of 7600 ft at its source to 1600 ft at lake-level, and is consequently a very rapid stream, being broken by the Kokobi and other falls, and navigable only for a short distance above where it empties into Lake Turkana, one of the lakes of the East African Rift. The Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia describes it as a popular site for white water rafting in September and October, when the river is still high from the rainy season. Its most important tributary is the Gibe River; smaller tributaries include the Wabi, Denchya, Gojeb, Muiand Usno rivers.

The Omo River formed the eastern boundaries for the former kingdoms of Janjero, and Garo. The Omo also flows past the Mago and Omo National Parks, which are known for their wildlife. Many animals live near and on the river, including hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and Bitis.

The lower valley of the Omo is currently believed by some to have been a crossroads for thousands of years as various cultures and ethnic groups migrated around the region. To this day, the people of the Lower Valley of the Omo, including the Mursi, Suri, Nyangatom, Dizi and Me’en, are studied for their diversity.

The entire Omo river basin is also important geologically and archaeologically. Several hominid fossils and archaeological localities, dating to the  Pliocene and Pleistocene, have been excavated by French and American teams. Fossils belonging to the genera Australopithecine and Homo  have been found at several archaeological sites, as well as tools made from quartzite, the oldest of which date back to about 2.4 million years ago. Because of this, the site was designated a  UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

When they were discovered it was thought that the tools may have been part of a so-called pre-Oldowan industry, even more primitive than what was found in the  Olduvai Gorge. Later research has shown that the crude looks of the tools were in fact caused by very poor raw materials, and that the techniques used and the shapes permit their inclusion in the Olodwan.

Photo credit: Hans Silvester

The Sacred Body Art of the Omo Valley

The Omo Valley people have lived in southwestern Ethiopia and neighboring Kenya and the Sudan for centuries. The landscape of the Omo Valley is very diverse: vast savannah with mountains on the horizon, beautiful views, the arid semi-desert, acacia bushes, hills and forests on the banks of the Omo River with its deep canyons and rapids.

The Omo Valley people still practice body painting and tattooing. A garland of flowers, a veil of seed-pods, buffalo horn, a crown of melons, feathers, stems and storks all could be used to express joy or celebrate a rite of passage. The wearer can sometimes takes on the characteristic of a supernatural state.

The West Harlem Art Fund in an attempt to preserve this tradition will re-create this body art work with Scherezade Garcia, sculptor and installation artist, that will be displayed at the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, along with a dedicated blog site that features other artists for Armory Week 2012.

An evening of wine tasting will be held on Friday, March 9th at Lot 125 at 7p.m. Tour and artist talk at the African Burial Ground in TriBeCa, March 10th at 2 p.m.

Lot 125 is located at 566 W. 125th Street, New York, N.Y. 10027 (212) 663-9015.

African Burial Ground, 290 Broadway (btwn Duane & Reade Sts), New York, N.Y. 10007 (212) 637-2019