IN PREHISTORIC AND TRIBAL ART
Dear friends and colleagues,
Each assemblage of prehistoric and tribal art has a dominant theme.
Can you identify the dominant theme of a tribal or prehistoric art
group? Some ethnic groups focus their visual art on anthropomorphic
figures, others on animals, and others again on signs, symbols or
ideograms. Understanding the function of the dominant theme may
provide information on the cultural identity of their makers. The
dominant theme turns out to be a diagnostic element to define the
conceptual, economic and social structure of the artist’s society. It
also awakens new reflections on the issue of the “dominant concern”,
which is a recurring social pattern in every culture and every period.
Some well-known sites of prehistoric art display millenary sequences
of different phases showing changes in the dominant theme from one
period to another. In regions like Gobustan (Azerbaijan), Arnhem Land
(Australia) or the Kondoa Province (Tanzania), stratigraphic
successions of rock art show flat changes in the dominant theme, from
one phase to the other. What is the meaning and function of the
Visual art reflects the mind and soul of its artist, or of his/her
ethnic group, or both; it is the expression of his/her concerns.
Visual art follows certain common grammatical and syntactic rules, as
elaborated in a recent monographic study (World Rock Art, 2015,
A forthcoming issue of EXPRESSION quarterly journal will focus on the
dominant theme. What makes different cultures have different dominant
themes in their visual art: what is the function of the dominant
theme? Colleagues and friend are invited to elaborate this topic, on
specific cases and/or on general or comparative issues.
A practical example, regarding the rock art of Tanzania, is presented
in issue 18 of EXPRESSION quarterly journal.
Dominant themes are present also in urban societies. The dominant
theme will not be the same in the frescoes of a Christian church and
in those of a Buddhist temple, though in both cases the dominant theme
will be that of anthropomorphic images. The ideograms associated to
the pictograms will clarify the different identities.
In prehistoric and tribal art each kind of economy is producing its
dominant theme. The study of cases may help clarifying the cognitive
system behind the choice of the dominant themes. A step further will
be made in understanding the mind of the art-makers in different
Colleagues and friends having something to say are welcome to share
their knowledge and ideas in this joint effort to go one step further.
They…you are invited to contribute to the growing debate on the
meaning of dominant themes in prehistoric and tribal art. If you wish
to share your ideas, please let us have a short abstract of your
proposed paper during the month of February 2018
(<[log in to unmask]>).
We look forward to hearing from you.
Prof. Emmanuel Anati
President, Atelier Research Center for Conceptual Anthropology
Director, CISPE, Centro Internazionale di Studi Preistorici ed Etnologici
President, UISPP-CISENP, International Commission
Professor of Paleo-ethnology, (Ret) University of Lecce
Honorary President, Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici
email <[log in to unmask]>