Studio: international art — 88.1924

Page: 132
DOI issue: DOI article: DOI Page: Citation link: 
https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/studio1924a/0152
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0.5
1 cm
facsimile
(1) LIME SPATULA (EBONY)

(2) BETEL NUT MORTAR (INVERTED)

(3) LIME SPATULA (EBONY)

(Half actual sizes)

132

THE ART OF THE TROBRIAND
ISLANDERS. BY ELLIS SILAS a

PRIMITIVE art is a subject which is
invariably interesting ; particularly is
this so with the remarkable wood-carvings
of the Trobriand Islanders. But to attain
a comprehensive realisation and just appre-
ciation of the fine carvings of these
craftsmen, it is essential to grasp adequately
the conditions under which their craft-
work is produced. Imagine, then, a palm
girt island, inhabited by a primitive people
who, until but recently, were using stone
implements and living under almost pre-
historic conditions; and at the period
when some of their finest work was
produced, were entirely separated from any
communication with the civilised or even
semi-civilised world. Retain this mental
vision of the milieu of these artists, and
we shall realise the skill and amazing
designs of the Trobriand craftsmen. a
The Trobrianders, as a race, possess
a keen sense of the aesthetic and love of
the beautiful, which is exemplified in
many ways; but it is in their wood-
carving that this trait is expressed in its
most concrete form. a a 0

From whence Trobriand art found its
source is a complex problem to which
there is no immediate answer ; its origin
is lost in the mists of time, the present
exponents are ignorant as to its history,
and whatever conjecture one may make
upon this subject must of necessity be of a
very tentative nature. The differentiation
in some of their designs is possibly the
result of the Trobrianders having at some
remote period been immigrants from
several different tribes ; the varied nature
of their designs seems to substantiate this
theory. The strongest characteristic in
their art is distinctly of an Asiatic influ-
ence ; particularly is this felt in the designs
of the handles of their lime spatulas, the
treatment of which bears a strong resem-
blance to Burmese and Javanese art;
moreover, the very decorative feeling
which the Trobrianders give to their
conventional treatment of birds, fish, etc.,
the exceptionally clever manner in which
they handle these details, and the lavish
way in which they enrich their designs
with a wealth of intricate ornamentation
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