When I first met the Masai People on a trip to East Africa in 1970, I was captivated by their spectacular images, and the fact that they actually survived in “our world.” The realization that other picturesque indigenous people existed elsewhere, motivated me to travel the world in search of their special images. The Home Page cover portrait, “Chimbu Warrior,” from remote Kundiawa in Papua, New Guinea, is a result of that quest. After further investigation, I determined that indigenous people worldwide were a neglected endangered species on the verge of extinction. Historically, they were often referred to as uncivilized or savages and given little respect. Although most were small remnants of rich and diverse cultures, they were not as popular as the endangered species of birds, fish, animals or plants. Furthermore, they were not included in most conservation efforts. I also noted, with the exception of Native Americans of the southwest, portraits of these colorful tribal people were poorly represented in our country’s art museums. The museums concentrated chiefly on North Americans and Europeans. Formal oil portraits were usually reserved to honor important people of our society, monarchs, professors, socialites, philanthropists, presidents, etc. I realized that picturesque tribal people of the world were overlooked, or given little importance, by the art community and the public. An entire world of worthy subjects was available for me to discover and paint. I was inspired. The adventure began in 1970 and continues through today. I hope you enjoy their images as I have. I also hope you can appreciate the plight of the people portrayed.
VANISHING CULTURES • IMAGES LOST
I thank my many friends of the vanishing cultures for their generous hospitality. Without actually knowing me, they welcomed me into their villages and homes. I thank them for allowing me the privilege of documenting their precious images in oil portraits before they are lost forever. Stanley L. Spielman