Research Items


    Art of the Bush Negroes of Dutch Guiana.—For some years, Dr. Morton H. Kahn has conducted expeditions to Dutch Guiana on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History, with the object of investigating the culture of the descendants of the West African Negro slaves who revolted from the Dutch in the seventeenth century, and have remained practically untouched by white or Indian influence ever since. He has now contributed to the Journal of the Museum an advance account of their art in anticipation of a book on these people which he is about to publish. Their art is a well-developed highly conventionalised form with considerable social significance. Common objects of every-day life are developed by carving into highly elaborated forms. Combs, paddles, stools, and other objects show great beauty of form and design with a sense of line and balance. The carving is done by men, and the objects have a ceremonial significance, for these wooden pieces are tokens of love. Though the people are largely promiscuous, there is a certain amount of wooing necessary, which is done by means of the presentation of a carved object. A woman is, therefore, proud of her collection of carved objects and does not part with them readily, for each piece is the token of the affection of a male. As a skilful carver is held in considerable repute, and those who are not skilful must obtain their services by trading game or fish, wood-carving is practised assiduously from boyhood. The carved objects are made of hard jungle wood, some of lignum vit¦, those of light wood not being popular. The carving is done with a jack knife and a pair of compasses and finished with matted grass and river sand. The objects are not used for trade purposes. Colour other than that natural to the wood is not usually shown, though occasionally inlay of other woods is employed. The objects are sometimes so highly carved as to be useless. The symbolism of the designs is individual. Prominent motives are the snake, the vulva, and the human scapula.

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    Research Items. Nature 127, 720–722 (1931).

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