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A passionate interest and much of a lifetime spent seeking out the world’s finest ethnic jewellery have produced an outstanding collection. The Ghysels have indulged their passion indiscriminately, according as much attention to the weirdest ornaments as to extraordinary pieces of ethnic jewellery. They were guided by a single criterion: the quality that gives rise to beauty, a strict standard indeed, but one made possible by their longstanding familiarity with ethnic objects.
After rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, we are concerned with belts and cache-sexe, which are in contact with the most intimate parts of the body. Admittedly, belts seem less involved with questions of modesty and sexuality than cache-sexe are. But tying and untying a belt is not always a banal gesture! Belts and cache-sexe have been used at all times and in all latitudes. Africa and Oceania offer the finest examples of cache-sexe because of their great originality in both form and material. Belts are more numerous, and a special place has been given to those from Asia.
In Africa, Oceania and South America, most of the materials selected to make belts are found in the immediate vicinity, whereas ethnic groups in North Africa prefer brightly coloured woven belts, often combined with leather. Apart from their everyday function, belts and cache-sexe have a symbolic value that reinforces their usefulness. And in this field, as in all others, some of them manage to transcend matter and meaning, and are quite simply beautiful objects. The author reminds us that no publications have ever focused specifically on this subject.
The book contains over two hundred illustrations and descriptions, a glossary, an index, maps and a general bibliography.
Anne Leurquin, an art historian who graduated from the Université Libre in Brussels, is now a professor of art history and ethnology. Her various publications and her contribution to exhibition catalogues are mainly concerned with Africa. She is the author of the book A World of Necklaces. Africa, Asia, Oceania, America, published by Skira