Σάββατο, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Shrunken heads

A shrunken head is a severed and specially prepared human head that is used for trophy, ritual, or trade purposes. Headhunting has occurred in many regions of the world. But the practice of headshrinking has only been documented in the northwestern region of the Amazon rain forest, and the only tribes known to have shrunken human heads are of the Jivaroan tribes, found in Ecuador and Peru.

 The process of creating a shrunken head begins with removing the skull from the head. An incision is made on the back of the neck and all the skin and flesh is removed from the cranium. Red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids and the eyelids are sewn shut. The mouth is held together with three palm pins. Fat from the flesh of the head is removed. It is here that a wooden ball is placed in order to keep the form. The flesh is then boiled in water that has been saturated with a number of herbs containing tannins. The head is then dried with hot rocks and sand, while molding it to retain its human features. The skin is then rubbed down with charcoal ash. Decorative beads are added to the head.

In the head shrinking tradition, it is believed that coating the skin in ash keeps the muisak, or avenging soul, from seeping out. Shrunken heads are known for their mandibular prognathism, facial distortion and shrinkage of the lateral sides of the forehead; these are artifacts of the shrinking process.

 The practice of preparing shrunken heads originally had religious significance; shrinking the head of an enemy was believed to harness the spirit of that enemy and compel him to serve the shrinker. It was said to prevent the soul from avenging his death.

When westerners created an economic demand for shrunken heads there was a sharp increase in the rate of killings in an effort to supply collectors and tourists. The terms headhunting and headhunting parties come from this practice. Guns were usually what the tribes acquired in exchange for their shrunken heads, the rate being one gun per head. But weapons were not the only items exchanged; during the 1930s, when heads were freely exchanged, a person could buy a shrunken head for about twenty-five dollars. A stop was put to this when the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments worked together to outlaw the traffic in heads.

Also encouraged by this trade, as early as the 1870s people in Colombia made fake heads using corpses from morgues, or the heads of monkeys or sloths. Some even used goat-skin. Kate Duncan wrote in 2001 that “It has been estimated that about 80 percent of the shrunken heads in private and museum hands are fraudulent,” including almost all that are female or which include an entire torso rather than just a head. Local people would not guide teams into the jungle for fear of being killed and their heads shrunk.

Since the 1940s, it has been illegal to import shrunken heads into the United States. In 1999, the National Museum of the American Indian repatriated the authentic shrunken heads in its collection to Ecuador.Most other countries have also banned the trade. Currently, replica shrunken heads are manufactured as curios for the tourist trade. These are made from leather and animal hides formed to resemble the originals.

After World War II, shrunken heads were found at the Buchenwald concentration camp that were alleged to have been of prisoners. One of them was subsequently presented as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials by U.S. Executive Trial Counsel Thomas J. Dodd even though none of the accused was specifically charged with shrinking these heads.

Σάββατο, 19 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Julio Ruelas (Mexican Symbolist)

Julio Ruelas (1870 - 1907) was a Mexican graphic artist, painter, draughtsman and printmaker. Ruelas was the principal illustrator of the Revista Moderna magazine and is most associated with Mexican symbolism. A number of his works are on display at the Museum of the City of Mexico and in the Zacatecas museum. Artistically, he was noted for creating etched images depicting his own face, incorporating black, twisted lines to give an impression of being tormented.

Σάββατο, 12 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi - "Bloody Prints"

Sakuma Daigaku drinking blood from a severed head (1868)

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839 – 1892) was a Japanese artist. He is widely recognized as the last great master of Ukiyo-e, a type of Japanese woodblock printing.

 Many of Yoshitoshi's prints of the 1860s are depictions of graphic violence and death. These themes were partly inspired by the death of Yoshitoshi's father in 1863 and by the lawlessness and violence of the Japan surrounding him. In late 1863, Yoshitoshi began making violent sketches, eventually incorporated into battle prints designed in a bloody and extravagant style.

The public enjoyed these prints and Yoshitoshi began to move up in the ranks of ukiyo-e artists in Edo. With the country at war, Yoshitoshi’s images allowed those who were not directly involved in the fighting to experience it vicariously through his designs. The public was attracted to Yoshitoshi’s work not only for his superior composition and draftsmanship, but also his passion and intense involvement with his subject matter. Besides the demands of woodblock print publishers and consumers, Yoshitoshi was also trying to exorcise the demons of horror that he and his fellow countrymen were experiencing.

As he gained notoriety, Yoshitoshi was able to have ninety-five more of his designs published in 1865, mostly on military and historical subjects.

"Seiriki Tamigorō committing suicide" from Kinsei kyōgiden series (1865)

Between 1866 and 1868 Yoshitoshi created some extremely disturbing images, notably in the series “Twenty-eight famous murders with verse”. These prints show killings in very graphic detail, such as decapitations of women with bloody handprints on their robes.It is said that Yoshitoshi's work of the "bloody" period has had an impact on writers such as Jun'ichirō Tanizaki (1886–1965) as well as artists including Tadanori Yokoo and Masami Teraoka.

Although Yoshitoshi made a name for himself in this manner, the "bloody" prints represent only a small portion of his work. They tend to be over-emphasized by critics, which has led to an inaccurate perception that overlooks the true variety, subtlety and insight of Yoshitoshi’s art. That is completely true, his vast work is an hymn to beauty of women, nature and Japanese landscapes with vivid colors and emotions.
The lonely house on Adachi Moor  (1885)
In the folktale The hag of Adachigahara, a cannibalistic old woman preys upon travellers, particularly pregnant women and children, on the Adachi Moor in northern Japan. In this scene, the hag is sharpening the knife she will use to kill her heavily pregnant captive and the unborn child. Created in 1885, The lonely house on Adachi Moor is macabre but, by not showing the actual moment of violence, it is less bloody than some of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s earlier prints, such as those for the 1867 series Twenty-eight famous murders.

All the rest is from “Twenty-eight famous murders with verse” (Muzan-e), which is a collection of Japanese ukiyo-e, which depicted several gruesome acts of murder or torture based on historical events or scenes in Kabuki plays. Although most of the works are solely violent by nature, it is perhaps the first known example of ero guro or the erotic grotesque in Japanese culture, an art sub-genre which depicts either erotic or extreme images of violence and mutilation. The Muzan-e has influenced many modern day art formats and ero guro can be found in manga with the works of Suehiro Maruo, Shintaro Kago, Kazuichi Hanawa or Toshio Maeda; in many live action films such as the pink film movement and most of the works of director Takashi Miike and even non-Japanese artists such as Trevor Brown. The works were said to spread a general panic amongst the populace at the time of publishing, with the extreme violence depicted in the paintings taken as a sign of social and moral decline.

Photos were taken from HERE and the complete collection of the 28 prints is found HERE.

Κυριακή, 6 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Frank C. Papé (1878 - 1972)

Frank Cheyne Papé, who generally signed himself Frank C. Papé (1878 - 1972) was a prolific English artist and book illustrator.