Book Review

Ubangi

Art and Cultures from the African Heartland

by Jan-Lodew Grootaers

This is probably my favourite African Art reference book. This is a detailed reference guide to the art of the Ubangi region of the Northern Congo and Central African Republic. Before this book was published the fantastic art from this area was neglected and information was very hard to obtain.

Consisting of over 350 illustrations and photographs, and detailed essays, notes and references, as well as historical and ethnographic maps, this book by Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers is a love letter to the material culture of the peoples of the Ubangi region such as the Nzakara, the Ngbaka and the Banda. Of particular note are the various carved figures associated with the healing and fertility cults of this region, some of which are truly masterpieces of African art. The style of the art veers towards the abstract, resulting in some iconic sculptures.

This book really does set the standard for books about the art of regions or specific cultures. The essays are extensive, informative, and impeccably researched, and the addition of numerous field photos adds greatly to one’s understanding of the material culture of this great region of central Africa. I can recommend it without hesitation to any tribal art lover.