Global roving

2nd July 2004 at 01:00

AFRICAN. By Jane Bingham; Japanese By Kamini Khanduri. Raintree pound;12.99 each

TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD SERIES. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. By Louise Tythacott; Body Decoration by Jillian Powell; Costumes by Danielle Sensier. Wayland pound;6.99 each

John Reeve looks at two series on world art

Learning about other cultures has never been easier or more enjoyable and can be done in museums, the school library, online or via the travel agent's brochure. These two series aimed at key stage 3 are attractive additions to the field. They are a judicious mix of the expected (great waves and Benin bronzes) and the fresh (contemporary objects such as Tutsi baskets and Ghanaian fantasy coffins). The World Art and Cultures series focuses on specific objects, even reproducing a raku bowl actual size, rather than general art history with the usual picture library favourites. It's good to see an artist such as Sharaku, the brilliant chronicler of kabuki, given his due here, and exquisite screens such as "Irises" by Ogata Korin. The notes are helpful and the text well-paced.

Historical links are made: Van Gogh and Bernard Leach inspired by Japan; Picasso and Brancusi liberated by African art. Other titles in the series deal with India and Mexico. Europeans don't compare too well with other cultures in Traditions Around the World: we are represented self-consciously in a kilt, as a punk, or, more successfully, by a flamenco dancer and Greek soldiers. The rest of the world offers a storm of invention. It's easy to make comparisons because these books are organised by continents, which makes them useful for geography projects, but requires more effort to extract thematic points for art and design. Although a reissue of a series from the 1990s, they have aged well, with large and arresting images. Each section has ideas for practical activities. Having threaded your hair, henna-ed your hands and put your carnival face paint on, you can choose whether to put on a Paisley bandana or a native American headband from the identity buffet.

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