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Does a great artist have to graduate from art school? The answer is no. There might be some great artist indeed studied an art school. But it does not mean that people have to study in an art school to become great artists. There  are a lot of great painters and calligraphers in Chinese history. But almost none of them ever studied in an art school.

Miller draws upon Darwinís theories on sexual selection (which have generally been overshadowed by his more universally recognized thoughts on natural selection), and comes up with an engaging and very readable exploration of behavioral psychology and among other things, the evolutionary implications of the artistic impulse from the Pleistocene onward.

Art have a great influence to the world. Every university will have an art college. Lots of family have art works decorate their homes. Even in office and public place, art work is a requisite.

That particular event is extremely well documented, and despite happening over 100 years ago, seems to be an occurrence that left quite an impression - and one that remains on the minds of missionaries and their ilk to some extent if the frequency of references to the incident are any indication.

However, what is probably the most well known incident of this sort in the greater Papuan region, was not directly related to missionary activities. I am referring of course to the disappearance in November, 1961 of Michael Rockefeller while on a collecting expedition for the Museum of Primitive Art (when the museum was closed in 1976 the bulk of the collection went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The sort of most dramatic of the other plausible scenarios is that he became the victim of Asmat headhunters and all that implies. If that was how it happened, the bitter irony naturally is that the young Rockefeller was passionate about the area and had a great interest and respect for a smart people and culture.

In any case, as you say, tales of headhunting and cannibalism can be quite jarring. The really astonishing part of it in my opinion however, is just how relatively common such practices were around the planet.

Boas was on to something, and Millerís ideas strike me as complimentary and mutually reinforcing. While Boas only mentions the personal creative satisfaction of the artisan him or herself, the idea that creative virtuosity could serve as an appeal to prospective mates, seems like a fairly reasonable extension of his conclusions on art motives? and one that could reinforce the artisans own pleasure in the aesthetically creative act.

A final comment or two on head hunting? for the majority of us who will read this discussion, I think it is safe to say that if this phenomenon is of interest at all, then at most we may possibly gain an intellectual understanding of why various societies might indulge in headhunting, but our own deeply ingrained cultural praxis will prevent us from ever looking at headhunting the way someone who is an autochthonous member of a headhunting society might.

The cultural context is fascinating as well, and some of you will be aware that the Goaribari Islanders were notorious warriors. It is reported that Authorities were still confiscating skull trophies in the late 1950. Other infamous incidents have become very well known indeed. For instance the events of April, 1901 are legendary.


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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.