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The Secret Signs in South New Guinea Art (Hardback)

A comprehensive guide to understanding Asmat and Papuan Gulf Art

Imprint: Sidestone Press
Pages: 450
Illustrations: 191fc / 224bw
ISBN: 9789464262674
Published: 25th September 2024
Casemate UK Academic

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The chain of linked cultures of the southern coast of New Guinea, from the Asmat in the west to the Papuan Gulf in the east all share remarkably similar mythology and rituals, inspired by a common ancient worldview.

In this book art historian and anthropologist Dr. Holger Braun takes us on a step by step journey to discover the underlying principles of this ancient worldview which is visible as a secret sign language inscribed into the art objects of this area and intended to be legible exclusively to the initiated.

While the eyes of the non-initiated only perceive an aesthetic impression of a specific artwork, the reader of this book will be able to understand the messages conveyed by key details of the design and thus begins to hear the objects telling their centuries old story – a story about a secret fertility cult in which life must be constantly renewed in order to persist, about initiation into this cult and about its core and sacred culmination, the headhunt.

Dr. Braun’s research opens a completely new perspective in the art history of this region. His finding that the visual signs of South New Guinea are as readable as a script to the initiated greatly enlarges our understanding of this important artistic tradition in human history.

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