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THE SOUND OF THE DRUM: THE SACRED ART OF THE ANISHNABEC.

Southcott. Mary E.

Erin (Ont.), Boston Mills Press. c1984. 222pp. cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-919822-64-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Lillian M. Turner

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July


Southcott, an artist and anthropologist, has built upon the historical perspective of Elizabeth McLuhan and Tom Hill's Norval Morrisseau and the Emergence of the Image Makers* to concentrate "on the relationships between the mythic system of thought and the artistsí work, in terms of both style and iconography." She has divided Anishnabec (Ojibwe and Cree) art and artists into four categories: "The Pioneers," e.g., Morrisseau; the northwestern "Ontario Painters," e.g. Saul Williams, Roy Thomas: "Manitoulin Island Painters," e.g., Blake Debassige, Randy Trudeau; and "The Variationist Painters," e.g., Daphne Odjig, Carl Beam. In all, the works of twenty-seven painters are discussed. Included are biographical data, the artist's photograph, and a brief analysis of his/her style. As Benjamin Chee Chee said of his own work "You will know it is a Chee Chee even if it is not signed."

The chapter on iconography is essential to an understanding of this work. Symbolism is all important, with each spirit and animal having its own special meaning. The four rituals or sacraments of the Anishnabec also play a role, such as the peace pipe ceremony at important meetings and weddings on Manitoulin Island.

Thirty-seven colour prints illuminate the text, but unfortunately some suffer from the quality of reproduction. Debassage's Tree of Life" has lost much of its vibrant impact with its primary colours appearing as faded images of the original. Happily, the browns, yellows, and oranges did not suffer the same fate. There are numerous other full page and smaller black-and-white good quality reproductions.

Footnotes, a glossary, index, and selected bibliography of books, periodicals, and films will aid both the teacher and librarian. The innovative art teacher will use the information on iconography to set creative painting assignments in the Indian style based on the students' own personal experiences. The book is recommended for secondary school libraries.


Lillian M. Turner, York Memorial C.I., Toronto, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. XII/5 September 1984 p. 188.

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