rectangular panel; very light brown with grey overall freeform dots

Barkcloth panel, c. 1930

Not on Viewexpand_more

Mbuti men collect pieces of the inner layer of tree bark, soak them in water, and pound them until they are thin and pliable. Mbuti women then use twigs or their fingers to decorate these canvases with intricate designs that show repetitions of a single element or various groups of motifs. The Mbuti people live in the Ituri rainforest in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the abstract imagery in their art expresses the shapes and motions of their natural environment. The barkcloth paintings can be seen as maps of the forest, invoking trails and webs, insects and animals, leaves and shelters. Yet these visual compositions also refer to the language of Mbuti music, characterized by syncope, free improvisation, and polyrhythm. As such, the painted barkcloths become graphic soundscapes, rendering a multitude of sonic events in conjunction with silence, captured by the paintings’ negative space.

Barkcloth panel
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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rectangular panel; very light brown with grey overall freeform dots