Impact of European Culture
The people of Yorubaland, the Northwest Coast, and the highlands of New Guinea come from three very different cultures and therefore produce their own distinct artistic styles in painting, sculpting, clothing and dance. However, each culture has been affected greatly by a common force: modern Western influence. The three images in this exhibit specifically address the changes in clothing and other art forms used in traditional ceremonies caused by these influences.
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Papua New Guinea, Wahgi. Woman dressed for the presentation of her bridewealth. 1980. Photograph by Michael O'Hanlon, 1980. (Picture source: O'Hanlon, pl.16)

Today, the custom of marriage among the Wahgi remains true to tradition for the most part. However, "modern" influence has changed some aspects. For example, this woman wears  rip-tops from beer cans in her ears. Rising coffee prices has led to the use of more costly black Stephanie plumes in headdresses as opposed to the traditional red Raggiana feathers. The woman also wears fewer pieces of shell than might have been used in previous times.

Northwest Coast Native America, Haida. Button Blanket. Probably wool with felt applique and plastic buttons. (Picture Source: Stewart, p.56)

Button blankets came into being after the people of the Northwest Coast came into contact with Europeans. At first, trade cloth embellished with a few dentalium pieces was favored. Later, wool and and felt came into use.  Buttons made of abalone, pearl, and plastic became popular when the use of buttons increased. Today button blankets are now the most popular form of attire for feasts, pole-raisings, and other traditional functions.

Nigeria, Yoruba. Egungun masquerade. Photo by Marilyn Houlberg, 1982.
(Picture Source: Cole, fig.20)

This parody of a European couple shows a response to Western influence. The two participants are satirizing a European couple in an Egungun masquerade. Their wooden masks are painted a sunburnt color, and the couple is swathed in clothing despite the heat. They walk arm-in-arm, which is commonly considered vulgar among the Yoruba.


Spirits Take Form

The Container
As Woman

 Art of Music
The Costume Connection

The Wealth and Status Connection

Connections through Architecture
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