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Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection

Desert Jewels presents a superb collection of jewelry from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt, and late 19th- and early 20th-century photographs of North African landscapes, urban scenes, and portraits. This catalogue blends a careful analysis of traditional North African jewelry design and Amazigh (also known as Berber) culture with dazzling images of ornate necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and fibulae. From simple ornaments that would be worn by a child, to elaborate necklaces for women of wealth, the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection is a treasure that reflects the richness of cultures of North Africa.

Kristyne Loughran's essay, Jewels in the Dust, shows North African jewelry - "ornate, colorful, and heavy" - as an expression of the cultural diversity of North Africa and the mingling of its many peoples. At the same time, its singular and recognizable style, reflecting processes of cultural adaptation and fusion over centuries, has made it a contemporary symbol of the identity of the Amazigh people who live in many countries in the region. Jewelers shared and adapted techniques as they experimented with new materials, such as coins or synthetics, and discovered original ways to incorporate precious and rare older materials into traditional designs.

In Photographic Encounters on the North African Stage, art historian Cynthia Becker discusses how at the end of the nineteenth century, when archaeological monuments in North Africa were being explored, several prominent European photographers captured the landscapes and people of this region. Many of the images were used in postcards, while others remained hidden in little known collections. Photographs by George Washington Wilson, Etienne and Louis Neurdein, and Pascal Sabah, among others, complement and contextualize the jewelry in Desert Jewels, providing a comprehensive look into the distinct regional characteristics of North African society, art, and design.

Contributors: Cynthia Becker is an assistant professor at Boston University and a scholar of African arts, specializing in the arts of the Imazighen in northwestern Africa. Professor Becker has served as a consultant for numerous museum exhibitions and published articles on the visual and performing arts of the Imazighen, as well as the trans-Saharan slave trade. She is the author of Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity.

Kristyne Loughran is an independent scholar in Florence, Italy, specializing in the arts of the Tuareg. She has published and presented extensively on the subject of Tuareg jewelry and fashion and is the co-editor of Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World (with Thomas K. Seligman) and author of Art from the Forge.

Published by the Museum for African Art, New York, 2009. 84 pp.

ISBN: 978-0945802-52-5. LCCN: 200893880

Softcover: $19.95 add to cart button