To know the pygmies V: through their art

The more sources I find, the more the series “To know the pygmies” becomes a story about the impossibility to  get any information not colored or filtered, or even invented, by Western authors. I have one more for you, a wonderful book about the textile art by pygmie women, a book that I marvel at but that is very incomplete at the same time.I first encountered the book “Mbuti design” at the library of Quay Branly and after this I bought it. The book is filled with plates, good photos of paintings on bark cloth. The technique goes like this: a piece of  bark is beaten until really soft. Then it is painted upon with natural dye, black or red. Or it is dyed as a whole and the color gets taken away. The paintings use abstract motifs. The motifs must mean lots of things. The texts in the book try to explain the use of the cloths as garments throughout history. There is an attempt at categorizing the motifs: the dot, the dash, the broken line, the sun, constellation, the spiral… Also the authors compare the Mbuti design with design by other African peoples and, at the conclusion, with Paul Klee. The approach is, as a whole, quite Western. Leafing through the pages and marveling at the pictures, I turn to the back of the book looking for “the list”. I want information about who made these works, when and where, and what they say about it. I don’t find the list so I go to the front of the book. Then I look in the table and index. The list I want is not there. Reading the texts I understand that the authors did not have this information themselves. They do not exactly know who made the works, when or where. I guess that this info got lost over time, because nobody (the Western owners and collectors of the cloth) really found it important. That is what disappoints me most, over and over again.