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Himalayen art file summary

Himalayen Art : file summary

Himalayan "shamanic" art unknown treasures!

Himalayan Art "shamanic" or "popular" “stronger" than African art!

"Minimalist" means for an expressionist art!

In African art, there are aesthetic canons, specific for each category of object of each ethnic group. The sculptor express himself in an imposed framework, providing personal touches with his talent and vision of the world. An object can be declined into an infinity of objects with subtle variations.

With the Himalayan art there is no model. Each object, each mask, statue ... is an eternal starting again. The simplification of forms is often greater than the one of African art.

Bold shapes, asymmetry, powerful and impressive expressions, immediate visual impact. Masks and statues have often  an expressionist style due to distortion and exaggeration of certain traits that give them a comic or disturbing look.

Art of the Himalayas - A bipolar art.

Two types of art objects, of cultures coexist in this region:

* Those produced by the two great religions, Buddhism in northern Nepal and Hindu in the south. These objects are achieved according to aesthetic canons clearly identified.

* Those belonging to a folk, tribal, shamanic art. The inspiration and realization are left to the imagination and creativity of the sculptor. The quality of execution varies depending on the talent of the creator. There are no known school style that can help easily classify and identify objects such as  in Africa.

The creators of the "shamanic" and popular objects.

These are not professional artists but just villages craftsmen who, while referring to some traditions, do not hesitate to improvise freely according to their tastes or their dreams. They may also be shamans.

Why "shamanic" or "popular" Himalayan art is it so little known?

Few people know the shamanic and popular Himalayan art because of distance, inaccessible regions, different culture and aesthetics ...

Read more about Himalayan shamanic art, treasures unknown.


Therapies, shamans and soothsayers

No disease is considered as natural. It may have been caused by a rupture of harmony, a demonic spirit or a witch. The shaman uses prayer, dance and trance, songs for healing. he can also control the execution of a statue to heal. The shaman has a capacity to heal, predict the future, make objects of power and intervene in the demonic world.

A man becomes a shaman, due to an illness, an adolescent crisis. Dreams, hallucinations, fits of madness of the future shaman are understood by him as a sign sent by a spirit which want to become his guide.

Read more about therapies, shamans and soothsayers.

Types and roles of masks

Some masks are used to dance and can terrify and make people laugh. Others are portraits of ancestors. Others are hanging above the doorways of houses or in barns to protect livestock, keep away the goddess of lightning.

Ancestor masks, often older, participated to funeral and shamanistic rites. They are also used in celebrations related to the calendar, including agriculture moments.

The masks are used in dances and mimed parts referering to the traditions and / or myths of the tribe or the village.

The masks of clowns are the most common one. These masks have an important freedom of execution with stylized figures with exaggerated features. They are used to lighten the mood or to convey important messages in a de-dramatized way. The laughter and obscene jesters combine in a game that often mixes laughter and fear.

The yogi is a mask used extensively in villages festivals. It is both a buffoon and a character with a paradoxical wisdom. It is both a person subject of mockery and a feared character. It is a wandering religious who claim to want to teach the path to enlightenment, but who is ridiculed by his clumsiness. Knowledge suggests a magical power which can inspire fear.

Sometimes it is difficult to know the function or the origin of the masks as there is little information about them.

Read more about the types and roles of masks.


Types and roles of statues

The majority of wooden statues, figurines of bronze or iron in an archaic style are made in western Nepal, the land of the tribe named Khas.

Overall, these statues are very sketchy. The character's head is reduced to a spherical or oval volume with a flat section to represent the front of the face. The eyes and mouth are represented by a square hole. The knees are upright, folded in front of the body. The elbows are resting on their knees and hands are jointed below the face.

* Statues dedicated to the fulfillment of a wish to heal, asked by a patient, following a diagnosis of the diviner. They generally represent a person standing or sitting, hands clasped as in prayer position.

* Effigies of wood meant to provide protection when crossing the precarious bridge overlooking the abyss. These monumental statues are mostly figurative and represent guards, armed soldiers or horsemen.

* Sculpture at the confluence of rivers and roads. These are places where evil spirits or demons can reside in and the role of these effigies is to push away them to protect travelers.

* Protective spirits of fountains or sources, consisting of a character whose lower abdomen or penis are drilled for water flow and are topped by a bust and a face.

* Statues at the 4 cardinals corners of a house or planted on the roof terrace. Their role is to deter wandering spirits, sometimes evil, to aggress the inhabitants of the house or their crops. They are unsophisticated.

* Statues protecting a crop especially rice.

* Bronze sculpture of a deceased person replicating a physical characteristic or dress of the deceased person.

* The diviner may ask the blacksmith to make him small statues of bronze or iron that decorate, as an offering, the small temple which it is attached.

Read more about types and roles of the statues.


Phurba and drums

The Phurba (ceremonial and exorcism daggers) of shaman.

It's a kind of wooden dagger, wich point consists in a triangular blade and that has most often on the top of the handle 3 faces which shapes are close to the masks of medium hill country to which he belongs. Sometimes the three faces are replaced by another sculpture : feline, bird, knight, a character with hands folded. They are used by shamans healers as therapeutic tools. The phurba is applied to different parts of the patient's body to absorb the evil spirits.

Shaman drums.

There are two types of shaman drums, one single-sided drum which looks like the Siberian one, the other with two sides. The two-sided drum consists of two components: the wooden sounding tight skin and a handle resembling to a phurba.

Read more about Phurba and drums.


Regions, peoples.

The large settlements of Nepal.

We can define three zones from north to south with ethnicities which have different languages, backgrounds and religions, that are living together harmoniously with shamanism as a common denominator that has its roots in prehistory:

* The Terai plain under the direct influence of Hinduism with the valley of the Ganges.

* The area of hills and low mountain (Middle Hills) with two poles, one in the western basin of the Kanali inhabited by the Khas, the other is east with the tribes related to Kirant.

- The Kirant to the east, are a people of Mongolian origin and thibeto-Burman language. This population has managed to preserve until the 20th century beliefs and lifestyles with a very pure traditional practice of shamans.

- To the west, in the Karnali basin, the Khas from Indo-European origin, which have also retained traditional beliefs and practices, under a veneer of Hinduism.

- At the center of this area is the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal's historic heart. Here live the Néwars which are more Hindus or Buddhists but have still characteristics of the old Kirant culture.

* The high mountains inhabited by tribes highly impregnated with Tibetan culture.

The mixing of populations have been such over the centuries that there is no region of Nepal which is inhabited by a particular ethnic group. The original culture of the tribal groups is difficult to define as it has been the subject of successive mixtures.

It is, therefore, often difficult to assign a mask, a statue or object to a specific ethnic group.

Read more about regions and peoples.


Artistic features of the main parts of Nepal

The plain of the Terai and the band of low hills south of Nepal

The art of this region is full of  Hindu culture. There exist a tribal dimension in the artistic production of northern and southern Nepal, but the latter is often superficial compared to the dominant styles of two great cultures of the north and south. Tribal culture produced only inflections or changes compared to the two dominant styles.

Even when they are old, the masks of the southern and tropical areas do not have a thick, glossy black patina as the hills and mountains and highlands. Indeed, these masks are not kept inside close houses and smoky by the heat to fight against the cool climate. The masks are used to gain the favor of the gods, and celebrate the ancestors and the legends.

The area of ??hills and highlands.

This is in this region that one can find the most original and surprising Himalayan art with a strong tribal borrowing. Taking its inspiration from the earliest times we are in the presence of art influenced by shamanism. The masks were worn during healing sessions, to put a spell on enemies and suppress them, to favour the hunting of animals. The shamans of Nepal were talented sculptors given the drums and ceremonial daggers and exorcism (Phurba) they could achieve. They could also sculpt some masks. The shaman is a central person in the village. He knows how to cast out demons, heal, encourage the departure of the dead in the afterlife, when to wear masks and why.

Kathmandu Valley

Located in the center of the middle hills, the Kathmandu Valley is a focal point of many ethnicities and cultures. It is inhabited by the Newars, talented artists and majority ethnic group in the region. Buddhist, Hindu or shamanistic influences mix in this valley. Hindu festivities and dancing are the majority.

The masks of the deities are small either in metal such as copper and delicately executed, or in papier mache with bright colors that allow to identify the deity represented and crowns made of skulls or flowers.

High mountains

Buddhist ethnic groups of the high mountains have been influenced by Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhism, but the distance, accentuated by the mountains, enabled the emergence of different styles in different regions of Nepal and Arunachal Pradesh which is eastern Bhutan.

* The Botia.

This name is given to various tribal groups, mostly Buddhists, of Tibetan origin who settled on a strip of territory north of Nepal. The Sherpa are included. These Botia practice, in addition to the Lamaism, a form of shamanic tribal religion.

* The Sherpa is close to Mount Everest.

The ceremonies take place in early winter and are an opportunity to grandiose and hilarious performances in which the Buddhist doctrine is celebrated. The rival sects and religions are derided by clowns dressed in masks of clowns.

* The Nyingba west of Nepal.

During the spring festival great feasts are held in the villages. This is an opportunity for emotional release during which popular religion and institutions are not spared by the critics. It is possible to see performances recounting the struggle between good and evil that end with the victory of Buddhist deities. The masks are of variable quality and may differ from one village to another.

* The Arunachal Pradesh.

This territory was dependent on Lassa until the invasion of Tibet by China, when it was annexed to India. It is populated by ethnic Buddhists, Monpa and Sherdukpen. These tribes have mainly made in the past beautiful masks, perfectly crafted, with fine finish. These masks are made of wood. During the shows appear sophisticated masks of gods, princesses, kings, ministers, women, priests, clowns, monsters, various animals ... which narrate local legends.

Masks can be exposed as paintings, participate to dances monastic and be used during village festivals. Finally they can be used in a domestic context.

Read more about artistic features of the main parts of Nepal