Dear friends and colleagues,
As you may be aware of, each assemblage of prehistoric and tribal art
has a dominant theme. A forthcoming issue of EXPRESSION quarterly
journal will consider this stimulating issue: what makes different
cultures have different dominant themes in their visual art?
Colleagues and friend are invited to elaborate this topic, on specific
cases and/or on general or comparative issues. Can you identify the
dominant theme of a tribal or prehistoric art group of your concern?
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
provides information on the cultural identity of their makers. Recent
research shows that the dominant theme turns out to be a diagnostic
element to define the conceptual, economic and social structure of the
artist. It also awakens new reflections on the issue of the “dominant
issue”, which is a recurring social pattern in every culture and every
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 the rock art of Gobustan (Azerbaijan), of the
Kimberley and Arnhem Land (Australia) or of the Kondoa Province
(Tanzania), stratigraphic successions show flat changes in the
dominant theme, from one phase to the other. What is the meaning and
function of the dominant theme?
Visual art reflects the mind and soul of its artist, and trends of his/her
ethnic group. The dominant theme varies but a dominant theme is always
present, in every period, geographical area and category of visual
art. A practical example, regarding the rock art of Tanzania, is
presented in issue 18 of EXPRESSION quarterly journal.
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 themes. 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 contribute
their knowledge and ideas in this joint effort to go one step further.
Should you be interested in sharing this experience please let us have
a short abstract of your proposed paper before May 10, The deadline
for submitting the full article is July 20, 2018
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
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