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Series of Lectures: PRIMAL ART: PAINTINGS ON ROCKS, PAINTINGS ON BODIES

Nataša Njegovanovic-Ristic, art historian, senior curator

SKC Gallery (Students’ Cultural Center), Bulevar Zorana Ðindica 152a, Novi Beograd

Explorers and Research of the Saharan Neolithic Painting Complex

Monday 28th Septembar at 7 p.m.

Timeline of Painting and Painting Techniques

Wednesday 28th October at 7 p.m.

Body Art in Africa

Friday 27th November at 7 p.m.

For a long time, Africans have satisfied their need to express feelings and visions through drawings and colour, creating art on different surfaces: whether on rocks or the human body.

The Saharan region, which holds several hundreds of thousands of engraved drawings and rock images, represented the largest Neolithic painted complex that was produced over a long period of time, dating from 7000 BC to the beginning of the current era. Because of the artistic ability and the clever use of painting materials and surfaces, the artists of Neolithic Sahara, apart from producing sophisticated and expressive pictorial effects, managed, through their works, to achieve a specific chronicle of the prehistoric times of the African continent.

The study of the vast Saharan painting opus is achieved through several thematic units that constituted this art from its early beginnings to historical times. These units are: the history of the study of Saharan painting, Saharan Neolithic, painting techniques (engravings and paintings on rocks) and the timeline of painting. Sahara’s “largest open-air museum in the world“ allows us to take a glimpse into the spiritual life of the peoples of those times, their racial heritage and objects of material culture. The images are an important testimony on geological and cilmatic changes that transformed this region, which once harboured rivers, lakes and savannas, and which over a course of several millennia, turned into the largest desert in the world.

Parallel to rock and cave art, the graphic adornment of the body was also practised and reached its perfection on the African continent. Regardless of the aestetics of the decoration, jewellery or clothing that people wore, the body itself was approached as an art form – body as sculpture, or body as picture, filled with an inexhaustible imagination and creativity. A classification of practices in the realisation of body art that was typical in certain parts of the continent shows two types of interventions made on the human body: temporary (pictures in colour) which are short-lived, and permanent (scarifications, or incisions and tattoos) that mark the body until it cesses to exist. In the majority of cases body art was subjected to generalised criteria that did not refer solely to the field of individual creativity, but, primarily, to the expression of a group set in a specific social context.

Until recently rejected and despised by the „civilised world“, body art seems to correspond with modern fashion trends as an ideal in the search for the root identity of modern people.

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