Portraits from a Jungle Paradise – Karolin Klüppel

Karolin Klüppel is a German artist, who to date has produced four albums of work. One of these series is called ‘Mädchenland’ and is set within the village of Mawlynnong, part of the Indian state of Meghalaya. The people of this area are known as the Khasi and are a matrilineal society, whereby the line of succession passes through the youngest daughter and results in women being the main landholders. If the daughter marries then her husband moves into her family’s house and any children that are born take their mother’s name; there is no stigma or disapproval if a woman chooses to stay single. As only daughters can assure the continuity of a clan, women are respected and protected within the Khasi community. However the society is only matrilineal, not matriarchal, as the men still lead Mawlynnong’s village council and are the main employees within the security services.

Karolin Klüppel – Wanda on the Stairs to the Treehouse (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Prosperity (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Phida With Balloon (2013)

The photographer spent nine months living with various families in the village. During this time the villagers became comfortable with her presence, which allowed for the creation of some intimate and natural looking photographs. She chose to take portrait photographs of the young girls, rather than making a photo-documentation of the society, as

I did not want to do a classical documentary on their culture, … I decided to make a portrait series of the girls because I was so impressed by their self-assured appearance and thought that this must be how matrilineality becomes visible.

The images show the children as they interact, play or simply stand within their environment and homes, thereby displaying Mawlynnong’s physical beauty just as much as the girl’s individual beauty. These girls do get schooling, first in the village school until their teens, then they travel to the state capital for higher education, after which they can choose to go to college or return to Mawlynnong.

Karolin Klüppel – Ibapyntngen in the Cottage (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Yasmin Taking Bath at the River (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Yasmin With Mug (2013)

After its inaugural exhibition ‘Mädchenland’ has gone on to become a multi-awarded and exhibited series and was also published as a book entitled Kingdom of Girls. ‘Mädchenland’ is Karolin’s second series that is focused on a matrilineal society with her previous work, entitled ‘Dabu’, documenting the elderly Mosuo, who live around Lugu Lake, part of China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. A more detailed article about Mädchenland, with fourteen high resolution images, can be found on The New Heroes and Pioneers website.

Captain Barton’s Motu Girl

Captain Francis Rickman Barton (1865–1947) was an officer in the British Army and an amateur photographer who was stationed in New Guinea from 1899 to 1908. In 1904 he began assisting anthopologist Charles Seligman, who was preparing the book Melanesians of British New Guinea (1910). The book features some of Captain Barton’s photos. Sixteen photographs taken there by Barton are now in the British Museum and more than 1,500 of his photos are in the collection at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. According to the British Museum, nearly all of the photos are of females. The photo below, from the Royal Anthropological Institute, is his most famous.

Motu

F. R. Barton – Motu Girl, Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby (c1907)

According to Photographing Papua: Representation, Colonial Encounters and Imaging in the Public Domain (2007) by Max Quanchi, the girl in the photo was a regular model for Barton. There is another nude photo of this model that was probably taken the same day. The tatoos on the girl’s abdomen were retouched with lampblack, and she was taken to a secluded area of mangroves away from the port to provide a suitable background.

The book South Sea maidens : Western fantasy and sexual politics in the South Pacific (2002) by Michael Sturma, and Supple Bodies: The Papua New Guinea Photographs of Captain Francis R. Barton (2003) by Christopher Wright, also note that the anthropological photographs of Barton are usually young females carefully posed to produce a photo of artistic as well as anthropological merit.

The photo has inspired other works of art. A drawing by Megaera Lorenz of the girl as an ancient Egyptian is here. Chuck Bowden’s version, drawn in pencil, pen, and colored markers is here. A realistic sculpture by Lisa Lichtenfels is below.  The tattoos on the girl and the mangroves have been deleted, and a few other changes were made.

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Lisa Lichtenfels – Motu Girl (date unknown)

Some Barton photos from the British Museum collection are available on the internet, but they lack the degree of artistry shown in the Motu Girl, Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby photo. These photos, examples of which are here and here, are more stiffly posed and appear to be produced only for an anthropological study of tatoo patterns. I was not able to find any Of Barton’s photographs from the Royal Anthropological Institute collection. I wonder what artistic treasures may be there.

Native American Beauties

In the year 1500, Pedro Cabral became the first European in recorded history to visit Brazil. He seemed particularly impressed by the beauty of the Indian girls he encountered, and he wrote,

Aly amdavam antr’eles tres ou quatro moças bem moças e bem jentijs, com cabelos mujto pretos comprjdos pelas espadoas, e suas vergonhas tão altas e tam çaradinhas, e tam limpas das cabeleiras, que de as nos mujto bem olharmos nom tijnhamos nenhuūa vergonha.

The translation, according to Alessandro Zir is,

In that place, three or four young women walked among them, very young and very heathen, with very black hair, long to the shoulder blades, and their shames so high, so shut, and so cleaned from hair that, so well we look at them, we felt no kind of shame.  -Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the Sixteenth Century, a styles of Thinking Approach by Alessandro Zir, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011

The word vergonhas, which he translates as shame, was a euphemism for genitals. Four hundred years later, the Indian girls of tropical South America became a favorite subject for photography. The first photo is of two girls of the Canela tribe in Brazil. The photograph, taken between 1908 and 1946, is from the Coleção Etnográfica Carlos Estevão de Oliveira of the Museu do Estado de. Pernambuco.

(Uncredited) - Canela Tribe Girls

(Uncredited) – Canela Tribe Girls

These Okaina girls were photographed by Thomas Whiffen in 1914 in either Peru or Colombia.

Thomas Whiffen - Okaina girls (1914)

Thomas Whiffen – Okaina girls (1914)

This photo is of a South American dance. It was published in The Secret Museum of Mankind in 1935.

(Uncredited) - Snake Dance of Amazonian Girls

(Uncredited) – Snake Dance of Amazonian Girls

Indian girls impressed early European visitors to North America as well. William Strachey, secretary for the Jamestown colony in Virginia wrote, in 1612, an account of Pocahontas coming to Jamestown naked and turning cartwheels with the boys of the colony:

Pocahontas a well-featured but wanton young girle . . . sometymes resorting to our Fort, of the age then of 11, or 12 yeares…would gett the boyes forth with her into the markett place and make them wheele, falling on their hands, turning their heeles upwardes, whom she would follow, and wheel so herself naked as she was all the Fort over . . . .

Although Pocahontas has been a subject of several artists, she is usually depicted as older and fully clothed.

A statue of a young Pocahontas stands in Gloucester County, Virginia. The sculpture by Adolf Sehring was completed in 1994. This photo is from a postcard by Michelle Harbour.

Adolf Sehringwas - Pocahontas (1994)

Adolf Sehring – Pocahontas (1994)

David McFall made a nude statue of Pocahontas Pocohontas La Belle Sauvage in 1955. However, Pocahontas appears to be about 20 years old in this statue.

In Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians
by George Catlin, first published in London in 1844, Catlin writes of his visit to the Minataree Indian village on the Upper Missouri River. He wrote:

In this manner we were conveyed to the middle of the stream, where we were soon surrounded by a dozen or more beautiful girls, from twelve to fifteen and eighteen years of age, who were at that time bathing on the opposite shore.

They all swam in a bold and graceful manner, and as confidently as so many otters or beavers; and gathering around us, with their long black hair floating about on the water, whilst their faces were glowing with jokes and fun, which they were cracking about us, and which we could not, understand.

In the midst of this delightful little aquatic group, we three sat in our little skin-bound tub (like the “three wise men of Gotham, who went to sea in a bowl,” &c.), floating along down the current, losing sight, and all thoughts, of the shore, which was equi-distant from us on either side; whilst we were amusing ourselves with the playfulness of these dear little creatures who were floating about under the clear blue water, catching their hands on to the sides of our boat; occasionally raising one-half of their bodies out of the water, and sinking again, like so many mermaids.

Catlin was a pianter, but unfortunately did not paint a picture of this incident.

The anthropologist Frederick Starr photographed this girl in Silao, Mexico, while doing research among the Indians in 1896. The image is scanned from the book Partial Recall, edited by Lucy R. Lippard (1992).

Frederick Starr - La Pinta, Silao, Mexico (1896)

Frederick Starr – La Pinta, Silao, Mexico (1896)

Frederick Monsen was born in Norway in 1865. He immigrated to America, and became a photographer. He accompanied the Army on the expedition that captured Geronimo in 1886. He is best known for his early 20th century photographs of Indian life in the southwestern United States. The first two images were photographed in about 1907.

Frederick I. Monsen - Nude pueblo Indian girl holding small child at swimming pool (c1907)

Frederick I. Monsen – Nude pueblo Indian girl holding small child at swimming pool (c1907)

Frederick I. Monsen - A Study in Bronze (c1907)

Frederick I. Monsen – A Study in Bronze (c1907)

The third image by Monsen was taken in 1921, and was published in National Geographic.

Frederick I Monsen - Three naked, Hopi girls sit together on a rock ledge (1921)

Frederick I Monsen – Three naked, Hopi girls sit together on a rock ledge (1921)

The photo of this Hopi girl is by Edward Curtis.  Curtis (1868–1952) is one of the most famous photographers to specialize in American Indians.  He began photographing Indians in 1895.  In 1906, J.P. Morgan financed a project to photograph and document as much of the remaining traditional Indian culture as possible.

Edward Curtis - Hopi Angel (c1905)

Edward Curtis – Hopi Angel (c1905)

The next two photos are of Kiowa girls, both from the early 20th century or late 19th century.

(Photographer Unknown) - Kiowa Girl (c1900)

(Photographer Unknown) – Kiowa Girl (c1900)

(Photographer Unknown) - O-o-be-aka Oyebi Kiowa girl (c1894)

(Photographer Unknown) – Oyebi Kiowa girl (c1894)

A photo of an Apache girl.

(Photographer Unknown) - Apache girl (c1880)

(Photographer Unknown) – Apache girl (c1880)

The next photo is from the cover of a book about Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman captured by the Comanche Indians.  I could not identify the photo or the photographer, but it is not a photo of Cynthia Ann Parker herself.  It is possible that it is her half-Indian, half-White daughter, but that would only be speculation.

(Photographer Unknown) - Comanche Girl (c1870)

(Photographer Unknown) – Comanche Girl (c1870)

Although documenting the photographers and dates of these photos on the internet is difficult, it is our hope that a reader who is expert on South and/or North American Indians might come forward with more definitive information.  -Ron

 

Soviet Postcards. Part 2: V. Klimashin

I made a point of mentioning the composer Gliere in my last post. The reason was that in addition to supporting the arts, the Soviet state also made an effort to respect and include all the various indigenous peoples in its domain. One of Gliere’s projects was to collect samples of music from the various regions and then compose music using their themes and styles.

This image painted by Viktor Semenovich Klimashin was part of a series of postcards celebrating the children of the world. I do not know when this painting was completed but it was probably in the mid 1950s as he did other Indian work at this time. The postcard was issued in 1958 and the caption translates as “Girl from India”.

V. Klimashin – ДЕВОЧКА ИЗ ИНДИИ (Girl from India) (c.1955)

There is little online about Klimashin (1912-1960) except his date and place of birth and date and place of death. Perhaps there is better information on a Russian website. If so, I would be pleased to post the link here.