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«This packet contains very brief summaries of the major geographic areas and cultures used by art historians to classify and analyze art works in ...»

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Different island groups in Polynesia were settled from about 200 - 900 AD. They had a highly stratified society with many gods, legendary heroes, deified ancestors and spirits. In Tahiti, tattooing is an art form. The practice developed out of body painting, one of the oldest art forms in the world. Tattoos enhance the status, beauty and mana of their owners. In Hawaii feathers were signs of high rank. Sculptures of gods may have feathered headdresses in the sacred colors, red and yellow. Women adapted tifaifai, traditional Polynesian designs and colors, to quilting to create a bold new form for artistic expression.

From 1000 – 1500 AD Easter Island artists carved monumental stone gods, known as moai, and placed them on platforms near the seashore. The largest moai were as high as seven story buildings and the focus of ancestor rituals. “Te Hau-ki-Turanga” Meetinghouse shows that the Maori of New Zealand were excellent wood carvers and engineers. Its walls, ceilings, and rafters are covered with complex imagery of their spiritual world. Unfortunately Christian missionaries influenced the peoples of Oceania to destroy much of their artistic heritage in the 19th century but now they are working hard to revive their traditional art forms.

Non-Western Art: Major Cultures 8 PACE High School The Art of Native North America Native North Americans lived in what are now modern Canada and the United States. Their many diverse cultures developed because of the wide range of landforms and resources available to them – from the forests of the coasts to the plains in the center of the continent and the deserts of the southwest. Many cultures shared the religious idea that their leaders (sometimes called shamans) could travel to another world, communicate with the powers there and return with messages and assistance. Shamans used their powers to heal the sick, assist hunters or warriors, and control weather. They often wore masks and used beautiful ritual objects. Frequently artists were considered noble and held in high respect.

Two major cultures occupied the eastern woodlands of North America. The Adena (1100 – 750 BC) made objects from stone, copper and bones that they buried with their rulers. The Hopewell (100 BC – 500 AD) spread over most of the eastern U. S. They created sacred areas of complex earthen mounds. The largest earth ramparts are near Newark, Ohio and cover four square miles. A sixty-mile processional way connected it with another religious center.

After the Hopewell disappeared artistic activity moved to the south and west. The Mississipian culture had large cities across the area. Cahokia, which housed 20,000 people, was the largest city in North America about 1600. Monk’s Mound in Cahokia was a religious center with large pyramids and ceremonial plazas. Artists engraved stylized images of animals and ritual performers on pottery and copper.

The northwest coast Haida, Tlingit, and Kwakiutl cultures were expert woodcarvers. They created totem poles with stylized animals to identify their clan houses and record their history.

Artists selected characteristic forms, such as eyes, claws and fins, then created bold interlocking, broadly rounded contours and lines. Their artists were considered to have supernatural gifts and received commissions from distant villages.

Before 1300 AD the Anasazi lived in what is now the southwest U. S. and are known for their pueblos, large apartment buildings around great courtyards with kivas, round buildings for religious ceremonies. Later the Hopi and Navojo cultures developed. They were part of a great trading network that connected Mexico with the Great Plains. As part of Navojo rituals to restore harmony to the community, male artists create sand painting using many traditional symbols. Women artists create dynamic weavings to imitate the transformations of Mother Earth as she creates the ever-changing form of the world.

The original Plains Indians were the Hidatsa. Later tribes included the Sioux, Crow, Cheyenne, Apache and Arapaho. Their chiefs wore great theatrical headdresses and ceremonial garments. Women artists belonged to art guilds and passed their skills to their daughters. After contact with Europeans small glass beads replaced traditional porcupine quills for ornamental patterns on clothing and personal articles. The Plains Indians believed the colorful reflective beads came from the spirit world and used them on animal skins, baskets and boxes. Women wove baskets with designs they believed the spirits communicated to them in dreams.

Non-Western Art: Major Cultures 9 PACE High School The Art of Native Central and South America Native Central Americans lived in the areas that are now the modern nations of Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama; native South Americans lived in what is now Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Although there was very little contact between Central and North America, many of these southern cultures also shared the religious idea that their leaders (sometimes called shamans) could travel to another world, communicate with the powers there and return with messages and assistance.

Ancient peoples began farming and raising animals thousands of years ago in Central America. Then the Olmec culture (2250 – 300 BC) developed in the area of Mexico along the lower Gulf Coast. The Olmecs carved great portrait sculptures of their leaders with broadly curved features and simple forms. The portraits, some over 10 feet tall, were placed near public buildings. The Mayans (200 – 1000 AD) built great city-states in eastern Mexico and Honduras.





They developed a writing system used on monumental buildings to record the great deeds of their rulers who directed trade, politics, war, religion and the production of art for rituals and recording the rulers’ glorious achievements.

At the same time in the valley that is now Mexico City, the Teotihuacan culture (1 – 650 AD) erected the great Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Through those temples, priests entered the other world and returned with messages from the gods. Their capital city in the 5th century had over 500 workshops where painters, potters and sculptors created trade goods found throughout Central America. The Mixtecs (1200-1400 AD) were greatly influenced by the Mayans and Teotihuacans. They were very skilled metalworkers, stone carvers and painters.

They created books illustrating their mythology and historical events. When the Spanish discovered America, the Aztecs (1325 – 1520) ruled central Mexico. Their capital was a wellplanned city with public art, plazas, gardens and temples. In 1519 the Spanish destroyed the city and all its artworks.

The west coast of South America saw the first cultures develop about 3000 BC. The Chavin culture (900 – 200 BC) used many animals in their artworks – jaguars, eagles and serpents surrounded by abstract patterns and complex stories. The Nazca (200 BC – 600 AD) inhabited the deserts of southern Peru. They carved fantastic images of birds and animals into the earth, sometimes the length of four football fields. Nearby the Paracas (700 BC – 1 AD) had elaborate rituals for funerals. Great artworks, including headdresses and clothing, were buried with highranking persons. The Tiahuanaco and Huari (600 – 1200 AD) created a great religious and cultural center that controlled what is now southern Peru and northern Bolivia. Their artists created animal images of great variety using varied colors, placement and repetition.

The Moche (200 – 600 AD) of Northern Peru are best known for their naturalistic portrait ceramics that showed a wide range of face types, figures and figure groups. The Chimu Empire (1150 – 1460 AD) took over the coastal desert area after the Moche. They built roads, canals, and many public buildings. Their capital, Chanchan, had ten large palace compounds. The Incan Empire (1300 – 1530 AD) extended from the coasts to the mountains of Peru, Chile and Ecuador. Major roadways radiated out from their capital, Cuzco, and connected all the sacred places of their culture. The Incans believed that stones had spiritual powers and they became great stoneworkers. Machu Picchu, their royal retreat in the mountains, is testament to their great skills. Its isolation saved the Incan temples from destruction by the Spanish in 1530.

Non-Western Art: Major Cultures 10 PACE High School Contemporary Non-Western Art The visual arts have always changed, sometimes slowly over centuries and sometimes swiftly in just a few years. The arts change because there are changes within the culture, as we saw in Edo Japan in the 1600’s when a growing middle class became enthusiastic patrons of the woodblock print and Kabuki Theater. The arts also change because of influences from outside the culture. When the Mongols conquered India and then converted to Islam, paintings of historical events and court life became more important than the religious sculptures of Buddhism and Hinduism.

From 1492 until the 1960’s the Non-Western cultures changed tremendously because of outside influences. The major nations of Europe conquered many areas of Africa, India, China, Oceania, Southeast Asia, and North, Central and South America. The Europeans carved up the continents into colonies. They exploited each area’s natural resources and used the colonies as markets for their manufactured goods. During the colonial period, traditional Non-Western arts were judged to be primitive oddities and Christian missionaries convinced many people to destroy their own artistic heritage. Frequently artworks of precious metals and jewels were confiscated then melted down for the Treasuries of the colonial powers.

Most Non-Western countries have regained their freedom through non-violent and violent means. Many post-colonial countries use their arts to unite the diverse ethnic groups within a country. They are reviving traditional forms of art, dance, music and literature; establishing art

schools, museums and libraries. Non-Western artists are going three ways in the modern world:

1) traditional artists – reviving and preserving earlier forms; 2) cross cultural artists – new forms of expression that combine the arts of the ancestors with Western forms of art to create a new synthesis; 3) contemporary artists – following the major trends in art from Europe and America, such as cubism, expressionism, graphic design, abstract art or realism and bringing a fresh interpretation to these styles.

A new international art is developing. Artists can draw strength and inspiration from every and any source of ideas they find around the world. There are multiple and rich sources of media, styles and materials. Artists have flexibility of thought and imagination, an ability to move between cultures and ideas in order to appreciate and understand new images as they emerge. Ideas move between local, regional, national, international, continental and global artists. It is easier to transmit images among cultures and communicate instantly across the world, so contemporary art is not limited by geography or one visual tradition. As the standard of living rises around the world, the market for traditional and contemporary art expands. More people enjoy the arts of their own culture and of cultures around the world.

The artists of the Non-Western world have challenged and broadened the Western world’s ideas of what art is, why it is created and how it is used by each culture. We are all the richer because of them. Each of the nine geographic areas that you’ve studied has exciting artists who express their ideas, values and beliefs in traditional, blended and new forms. Enjoy your research.

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