Infinity of Nations
Edited by Cecile R. Ganteaume
Smithsonian | 320 pp | $22.79
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Join the Discussion of this Book »
The wonder and splendor of American Indian art and culture is captured in "Infinity of Nations" which is a book for a museum exhibition with the same name at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian - Heye Center in Lower Manhattan in New York.
The origin for the name of the exhibition comes from French missionaries who in the early 1600s described the peoples of the new world as "an infinity of nations."
The exhibition features 700 objects from North, Central and South America from ancient times to contemporary times. The "Infinity of Nations" exhibit, which opened last October, is a 10-ten year exhibit.
Some sixty Native historians and leaders worked with the museum to assist in the selection of the objects that were selected because of aesthetics, cultural and historic significance.
The "Infinity of Nations" exhibition consists of ten geographic areas: the Arctic/Subarctic, five North American regions, Mesoamerica/Caribbean and three South American regions.
Most of the objects were collected by George Gustav Heye, a former Wall Street investment banker, who quit his job to work with his passion of American Indian artifacts. He began his collection in 1897 and later funded anthropological expeditions and purchased collections. In total, he collected over 800,000 objects from North, Central and South American.
The book "Infinity of Nations" is broken down into chapters by regions. Each chapter is written by a Native expert and scholar of that region who understands the history of the people of the region.
"Infinity of Nations" was edited by Cecile R. Ganteaume, associate curator of the National Museum of the American Indian. She has been with the museum since when it was established as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Previously she served on the curatorial staff of the Museum of the American Indian-Heye Foundation.
The book "Infinity of Nations" is filled with over 200 crisp, beautiful and colorful photographs of the museum objects. From headdresses, masks, drums, shirts, shields to cooking utensils, the objects are impressive. Looking at the pictures and reading the stories that accompany them, it is important to the remember the people who wore or used the objects as they lived their lives in times gone by.
The photographs of the bead work is magnificent. The bead work is art that goes beyond craft. The bead work goes beyond mere art. One photograph that helps define the purpose of bead work is an embroidered garment with 160,000 beads in floral patterns that was designed to protect a newborn baby from the Arctic frigid air inside a back pouch.
"Infinity of Nations" is a complement to those who have seen the exhibition. And can be a useful tool for teachers who want to teach their students about American Indian culture and art, but cannot travel to New York to see the exhibition.
"Infinity of Nations" is a treasure that allows for a reminder of the rich vast culture of Native peoples. It is reminder of things past and the strength of Native peoples who still remain.
posted September 3, 2011 11:10 am edt
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