[First paragraph]Caribbean Art. VEERLE POUPEYE. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998. 224 pp. (Paper US$ 14.95)Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain, 1966-1996. MORA J. BEAUCHAMP-BYRD & M. FRANKLIN SIRMANS (eds.). New York: Caribbean Cultural Center, 1998. 177 pp. (Paper US$ 39.95,£31.95)"Caribbean" (like "Black British") culture is (as a Dutch colleague once said of postmodernism) a bit of a slippery fish. One of the books under review here presents the eclectic artistic productions of professional artists with Caribbean identities of varying sorts - some of them lifelong residents of the region (defined broadly to stretch from Belize and the Bahamas to Curacao and Cayenne), some born in the Caribbean but living elsewhere, and others from far-away parts of the world who have lingered or settled in the Caribbean. The other focuses on artists who trace their cultural heritage variously to Lebanon, France, Malaysia, Spain, China, England, Guyana, India, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the whole range of societies in West, East, and Central Africa, all of whom meet under a single ethnic label in galleries in New York and London. Clearly, the principles that vertebrate Caribbean Art and Transforming the Crown are built on the backs of ambiguities, misperceptions, ironies, and ethnocentric logics (not to mention their stronger variants, such as racism). Yet far from invalidating the enterprise, they offer an enlightening inroad to the social, cultural, economic, and political workings of artworlds that reflect globally orchestrated pasts of enormous complexity.
Fashion has long been a dynamic aspect of Maroon culture in Suriname and French Guiana (Guyane). The textile arts that carry it through from one generation to the next were totally ignored by early writers, who lavished praise on the men’s art of woodcarving but said virtually nothing about the artistic gifts of women—most importantly in calabash carving (referred to by one of them as “doodling”) and clothing. This article, based on more than fifty years of ethnographic work with Maroons, focuses on textile arts and clothing fashions, running briefly through styles of the past before focusing on current directions. Today, with Maroons participating increasingly in life beyond the traditional villages of the rain forest, the women—like their mothers and grandmothers—have continued to enjoy adopting newly available materials and inventing novel techniques. In the process, they have been producing clothing that reflects both their cultural heritage of innovative artistry and their new place in the multicultural, commoditized society of the coast. The illustrations give an opening hint of the remarkable vibrancy of this aspect of Maroon life in the twenty-first century.
Essay on interpretations of visual art in societies of the African diaspora. Author relates this to recent shifts in anthropology and art history/criticism toward an increasing combining of art and anthropology and integration of art with social and cultural developments, and the impact of these shifts on Afro-American studies. To exemplify this, she focuses on clothing (among Maroons in the Guianas), quilts, and gallery art. She emphasizes the role of developments in America in these fabrics, apart from just the African origins.
Western commentary on Maroon tembe (woodcarving) has traditionally insisted, despite Maroon denials, that it constitutes a system of symbolic motifs that can be read like a language, transmitting messages from the artist (a man) to the recipient of the art (a woman). Some of the Maroon artists in Guyane, working mainly with paint rather than carving, have adopted and promoted the stereotype in the context of rapid integration into the tourist market. This paper, which includes Maroon women’s views on the subject, underscores the delicacy of questioning the artists’ new discourse.
[First paragraph in part]It is our pleasure to announce that in this millennial issue, the annual Caribbeanist Hall of Shame has shrunken dramatically and includes but eleven scholars and fourteen books. As always, we list those works that, as of press time (January 2000), have not been discussed because the scholars who agreed to review them have - despite reminder letters - neither provided a text nor relinquished the books so that they could be assigned to someone else. (As has become our custom, we indicate slack reviewers' names with both initial and final letters, in an attempt to forestall false accusations and protect the reputations of the innocent.) And as in past years, we hope this may serve as a kind of backlist "books received":
[First paragraph]Another year, another monumental stack of new books with Caribbeanist interest of one sort or another. NWIG reviewers have been contributing full essays on more than seventy such books each year, but that still leaves well over one hundred others deserving of mention in this residual wrap-up of the 2000 season. We are deeply grateful to those scholars who have taken the time to provide reviews. And we are pleased to announce that the 2000 edition of the Caribbeanist Hall of Shame (created for scholars who commit themselves to reviews but then neither provide them nor relinquish the book so someone else can take on the task) has shrunk from a membership of 15 (in 1993, its inaugural year) to just two (identified, as has become our custom, by first and last initials). Despite our gentle reminders, J—e F—s failed to review The Dominican Republic and the United States: From Imperialism to Transnationalism, edited by G. Pope Atkins & Larman C. Wilson (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998, paper, US$ 20.00) and B—a S—i never came through with a review of Constructing a Colonial People: Puerto Rico and the United States, 1898-1932, by Pedro A. Caban (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1999, cloth US$ 60.00).