A World of Head Ornaments


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A World of Head Ornaments
A World of Head Ornaments

Africa, Asia, Oceania, America

Photos by Mauro Magliani, translation by Isabel Ollivier
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Head ornaments provide the theme for the last volume in this series of books on the remarkable Ghysels collection of ethnic jewellery. The most precious part of the body, the head, attracts the gaze of all. At times deformed, scarred, tattooed, crowned, plumed or pierced, over time it became the main setting for the body-spectacle it had to protect. Most peoples accord particular care to hair, the site of a vital force. Long, plaited or raised into a chignon, hair is also adorned with various accessories.
Aiming to impose upon their subjects or impress their enemies, chiefs and warriors – whether African or from the archipelagos of the southern seas – would adorn their heads with fine feathers. One such example was the Amerindians, who were exceptional feather-dressers, and who for centuries produced a wide variety of headdresses and ornaments.
Nubiles, married, mothers or courtesans, women need to be seductive. Like men, they live in symbiosis with nature and use materials like flowers and leaves to embellish themselves. These were sometimes transposed into gold or silver, and even set with precious stones, to form hairpins, combs, diadems or other accessories to accentuate their beauty.
Chinese craftsmen acted as their accomplices and fashioned alluring ornaments that show great virtuosity, such as miniature masterpieces made of kinfisher feathers or jewellery with semi-precious stones that are highlighted with gold spider web thread. The Japanese, renowned for their great refinement, designed a prodigious variety of ornamental hairpins and combs.
Since time immemorial, in Africa and America the mouth has been decorated with labrets, and nose adornments throughout the world have protected men and women from the intrusion of malign spirits.
These head accessories, often spectacular, also borrow from nature dazzling feathers, used by the Urubu-Kaapor for their labrets, and wild pig tusks worn in New Guinea. In India, delicately worked gold nose rings pay a subtle homage to the femininity and sensuality of the married woman.
The book features over 200 illustrations and descriptions, a glossary, an index, maps and a general bibliography.
Anne van Cutsem graduated in the history of art at the Université Libre in Brussels and is the author of A World of Rings. Africa, Asia, America; A World of Earrings. Africa, Asia, America; and A World of Bracelets. Africa, Asia, Oceania, America (all published by Skira), and of the essay ‘Transformations et ornements corporels’ in Signes du corps published by Editions Dapper.
Mauro Magliani is one of Italy’s most renowned art photographers. Assisted by his wife, Barbara Piovan, he has worked with the finest publishers in Italy and abroad since 1986.
For this series by Skira, he has produced photographs for
A World of Rings. Africa, Asia, America
A World of Earrings. Africa, Asia, America
A World of Bracelets. Africa, Asia, Oceania, America
A World of Necklaces. Africa, Asia, Oceania, America
A World of Belts. Africa, Asia, Oceania, America
AuthorAnne van Cutsem
Dimensions24 x 28cm
Colour illustrations224
shipment Shipments on national territory and abroad in 4/5 working days.


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