HEADREST Shona, Zimbabwe Late 19th century 6” w 51/4” h Wood Provenance: Jonathan Lowen, London; Graham Beck, South Africa Masterful execution and a host of fine details distinguish this beautiful, classically composed Shona headrest. The crisp, densely bundled features at the heart of the support showcase the carver’s marvelous care and strength of design. Pairs of elegant, tessellated triangle motifs, placed point to point, adorn the top surface, echoing the abundant triangular and zigzag shapes found in the central body of the rest. Warm highlights accentuate every feature of this rest and play subtly over its dark, handsome patina. The traditional circular motifs carved into this rest have been discussed by many scholars, and their symbolism is deeply connected with images and metaphors of the female. They may allude to female scarification marks (myora) and ndoro shells, calling to mind the ancestors (mudzimu/mhondoro) and the women who guarantee fertility. Alternatively, they may suggest breasts, or perhaps the concentric ripples caused by a stone dropped into a body of water. Further references to the female are found in the form of the rest’s base, composed of two round, swelling disks joined by a triangular pubis. Ubiquitous in southern African societies, headrests were prized and revered as indispensable items, not only for their protection of carefully maintained coiffures during sleep but also in their spiritual role as conduits of communication with ancestor spirits.
HELMET MASK, HEMBA Suku, D.R. Congo Early 20th century 16” h 7 ½” w Wood, pigment Provenance: Private New York collection Exhibited and published in The Art of Zaire: 100 Masterworks from the National Collection, African-American Institute, New York City, 1975 The initiation rites of the Suku are carried out by the makunda (or n-khanda) society, who employ a variety of masks, including the type of helmet mask (hemba) presented here. Hemba represent the community of deceased matrilineal chiefs (leemba), which welcomes the initiated young men back into society following their transformation. Outside their prominent role in makunda rites, hemba are danced to ensure successful hunts, to heal the sick, and to punish the wicked. Carved from a single piece of wood, this fine hemba beautifully exemplifies traditional Suku design, with a compact face whitened with kaolin and a domeshaped coiffure surmounted by an antelope figure. The antelope is just one in a range of animal crest images common to hemba, which often include avian forms. Red ochre has been used to color the lower portion of the face, around an open mouth with sharply defined teeth.
CLUB, MACANA Guyana 18th or early 19th century 11 ¾” h 6” w Wood, stone, fiber Provenance: Private New York collection A flared quadrilateral club (macana), handsomely shaped, with a socketed stone blade. Clubs of this type, with and without blades, are associated exclusively with tribes of southern Guyana and northern Brazil. Macana were among the earliest objects to reach Europe from Guyana in the seventeenth century, entering first the Tradescant collection and then the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Quadrilateral clubs were a standard melée weapon, used to deliver crushing blows in close combat after arrows had been exhausted. Though it is now uncommon to find a club of this type still joined with its blade, the original rarity of bladed macana is disputed, and their production may have been influenced by, or a driving factor in, periods of intensified intertribal conflict. An early description of this type of war club in Dutch Guiana, based on observations made in the years 1772–1777, is given by Captain Stedman, who writes, “I must not forget that every Indian carries a club, which they call apootoo, for their defence. These clubs are made of the heaviest wood in the forest; they are about eighteen inches long, flat at both ends, and square, but heavier at one end than the other…One blow with this club, in which is frequently fixed a sharp stone, scatters the brains. These are used by the Guiana Indians like the tomahawk by the Cherokees, on which, besides other hieroglyphical figures, they often carve the number of persons slain in battle.”
FISH HOOK Mortlock Island, Micronesia 19th century Hook: 1 ¾” w 1 ½” h Fiber binding: 7” l Shell, fiber Provenance: Private New York collection The cultures of the Pacific have traditionally produced some of the most beautiful fish hooks in the world, and this marvelous example from Mortlock Island in Micronesia is no exception. Preserved in excellent condition, this hook shows a striking fusion of power and grace in its barbed silhouette. One face reveals the creamy, reflective lustre of inner shell, while the reverse offers a miniature galaxy of eroded pits and abrasions across its black surface. Warm highlights accent the hook’s sharp tips, echoing the light brown of the still-attached twisted fiber lead.
STAFF Maori, New Zealand 19th century 34” h Wood, bone Provenance: Galerie Pablo Touchaleaume Unusually designed for a Maori piece, this intriguing staff shows an almost entirely straight, rectilinear structure, varied only by a slightly projecting pair of panels in its lower half. The four faces of the staff are carved with repeating wave motifs, while ancestor figures occupy the panels. Near the bottom of the staff a small piece of ivory or bone resembling an abstract face or maskette has been embedded. An old label is still attached, reading “Aune Nouvelle Zelande.” An aune is an old French measure of length, but it is unlikely that this staff was used as a Maori measuring device. More plausibly it was a tokotoko, or ceremonial walking stick. In the precinct of a marae (village meeting ground), it would signify a speaker’s authority and status.
HEADREST Shilluk, Sudan Late 19th century 18â&#x20AC;? l 7â&#x20AC;? h Wood Provenance: Robert Hales, London; Jonathan Lowen, London; Graham Beck, South Africa Exhibited in Africa: The Art of a Continent, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1995 Published in Africa: The Art of a Continent, Tom Phillips, London, Royal Academy of Arts; Munich; New York: Prestel, 1995, fig. 2.17b Headrests are found across the African continent and are the subject of an array of artistic treatments and regional perspectives. The headrest presented here represents a Sudanese tradition of three- or four-legged designs, crafted opportunistically from sections of trees with forking branches. These asymmetrical headrests are highly organic in form and are often carved with distinct suggestions of abstract zoomorphism, as found in this refined example. With the warm, glossy patina typical to its type, this rest is the work of a sophisticated sculptural eye, deploying a deft mixture of mass and balance to produce a harmonious whole. Among the Shilluk, grades of manhood and social status were reflected in hairstyles. As men used headrests to preserve their coiffures, so headrests themselves were regarded as symbols of status. Further reflecting the esteem in which these objects were held, the Shilluk believed that this headrest form was conceived by Nyakang, their founding ancestor and mythic culture hero.
SHIELD, WUNDA Western Australia Late 19th century 27” h 5 ½” w Wood, pigment Provenance: Taylor Dale, Santa Fe Adorned with classic zigzag grooves down its full face, this handsome shield (wunda) reflects the canonical approach to shield design across Western Australia. The pandal pattern featured on this shield, characterized by its diagonal center section, is often enhanced with ochre, faint traces of which can be found here. The reverse side bears a subtle echo of the pandal design, with gentle, looser ridging and a small diagonal section on the handle. Wunda are wider shields than some Australian types and most commonly offered protection against projectile weapons, such as spears and boomerangs. They also appeared in ritual contexts, carried by performers reenacting episodes from the mythical Dreaming in which ancestors were said to be armed with shields.
HELMET MASK, NDOLI JOWEI Mende, Sierra Leone First half of 20th century 14” h Wood, metal Provenance: Private U.S. collection Mende society is governed by a number of esoteric associations, foremost among which are the Sande women’s society and Poro men’s society. Both prepare young initiates for adulthood and make extensive use of masking. The helmet mask presented here is known as ndoli jowei and would be owned by a senior Sande official (sowei). Ndoli jowei embody Ngafa, the guardian spirit of the Sande society. This fine example presents a dense composition of closely packed forms, alternately sharp and softly undulating. The comely smoothness of the high forehead, broad face and bunched neck rings (a feature the Mende view as a sign of prosperity, fertility and beauty) contrasts wonderfully with the tightly ridged texture of the elaborate coiffure. The apex of the brow is embellished with a small, embossed metal disk. A sumptuous black patina provides ample highlights which delineate and emphasize the complex interplay of shapes at work in this magnificently carved helmet mask.
JANUS POWER FIGURE Yaka, D.R. Congo Early 20th century 17â&#x20AC;? h Wood, fabric, organic materials, fiber Provenance: Private New York collection Exhibited and published in The Art of Zaire: 100 Masterworks from the National Collection, African-American Institute, New York City, 1975 The janiform composition of this large Yaka power figure presents two mask-like faces topped with a large flared hat and a pair of abstract, wedged legs supporting the body. Textiles wrap the body, concealing a fetish bundle of organic material. Use and age have endowed this figure with a significant patina, and the fabrics shrouding the midsection bear a degree of encrustation. Power figures among the Yaka, like those of many central African cultures, are created as tools of potent magic that can either benefit their users or bring harm to others. A ritual expert (nganga) endows the figure with magical charges, held in place by wrappings or hung around the neck or body, without which the figure has no function. This figure still retains its torso bundle and bears numerous suspension holes from which additional materials would at one time have been suspended.
PASSPORT MASK Toma, Liberia First half of 20th century 3â&#x20AC;? h 1 Âžâ&#x20AC;? w Wood, fabric Provenance: Private collection Settled in the dense rainforests of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the Toma organize their political and religious life around the poro society, one of the responsibilities of which is the initiation of young boys. The primary mask that called youths to their period of initiation was the landai, a representation of a primordial ancestor and an embodiment of poro itself, which would symbolically devour boys to bring them rebirth as men. Landai were worn only by men and could be quite large, reaching several feet in length. However, the Toma, like many cultures in western Africa, also produced a class of smaller masks, referred to by collectors as passport masks. These were miniature replicas or surrogates of primary masks that could be readily concealed and carried on travels by their users. The diminutive landai presented here shows a classic design with abstract human features in an elongated, half-oval face. A crown-like brow, crested with three horn appendages, dramatically overhangs the eyes. A small fabric panel is attached on the reverse. The whole mask is heavily encrusted with a rich, textural patina that evinces a significant history of ritual use.
CHURINGA Australia First half of 20th century 19” h 2 ½” w Wood Provenance: Kilton Riggs Stewart Traditionally veiled in intense secrecy and revealed only to initiated men, churinga (or tjurunga) are representations or manifestations of living, ancestral or mythic beings and are connected in Australian Aboriginal cosmology to the eternal Dreamtime. Possessors of churinga had a powerfully personal bond with the objects and were sometimes buried with them. Both sides of this beautiful churinga present similar compositions, featuring a single spiral motif and serpentine bands flowing vertically through fields of tripled horizontal lines. One side shows a pair of undulating bands while the reverse bears a trio. The uncarved portions of the terra cotta-colored wood are treated with light scoring, and some areas appear to have been blackened either before or after the designs were applied. This churinga was acquired in the mid-1930s by Kilton Riggs Stewart (1902– 1965), an anthropologist active from the 1920s to the 1960s. Stewart spent the majority of his career focused on the psychology of dreams, for which he traveled around the world on a number of field studies.
PIG TRAP STICK, TUN TUN Dayak, Borneo Late 19th century 21 ½” h Wood Provenance: John B. Elliot Collection Part practical, part magical, pig trap sticks (tun tun) were used by Dayak hunters in the forests of Borneo to set and enchant tripwire traps. Critical measurements and placements of trap elements were determined with the help of the stick, and the figure at its top, which sometimes held a charm of charged substances, served to call the pig to the trap. This tun tun shows refined elegance in its carving, particularly in the treatment of the seated figure, which is a miniature master stroke of graceful curvature and poise. Small triangular motifs are picked out on the figure’s back and on the shaft of the stick. The deep, dark patina emphasizes the tun tun’s strong silhouette and offers lovely reflections that trace and beautify the figure’s taut contours.
HEADREST Eastern Africa Early 20th century 18 ¾” l 7” h Wood Provenance: Merton Simpson, New York; Noble Endicott, New York Carvers in eastern Africa created headrests like this one by foraging and creatively adapting tree limbs with features suggestive of animal forms. Placed horizontally, this fine example resembles an abstract, three-legged creature, vigorous and aware. Such headrests would be kept for many years by their owners as highly valued personal items, and the smooth, rounded surfaces of this rest reflect significant age and use. Two small holes are found at the “head” and “tail,” which would have been used to attach a strap or cord so the rest could be slung over the owner’s shoulder while he roamed with his cattle.
SHIELD Kandrian or Arawe, New Britain Late 19th or early 20th century 50â&#x20AC;? h 12â&#x20AC;? w Wood, cane fiber, pigment Provenance: Private New York collection This tall, vertical shield from West New Britain exemplifies classic Kadrian/Arawe design, with panels of concentric circles in pairs and quartets separated by horizontal bands. It is constructed of three planks lashed together with cane, with a recessed grip carved into the back of the central plank, as is typical in New Britain shields. Vivid earthen pigments highlight the vibratory qualities of the design, which is carved in light relief across the entire face of the shield. This type of shield would be used to defend against projectiles and club blows, as well as in dances during inter-clan marriage ceremonies.
PRESTIGE AXE D.R. Congo 19th century 19” h 11 ¾” w Wood, metal Provenance: Private US collection Elaborate axes were created in the Congo region as royal scepters, potent symbols of civilization and cultural achievement. They were produced by highly skilled smiths and represented the body of esoteric skills and knowledge associated with ironworking, an activity rich in practical as well as supernatural and mythic significance. Like a wide variety of ceremonial weapons across Africa, Congolese axes present an array of imaginative and sometimes abstract forms, as found here. Sourced in the Irebu area near the confluence of the Congo and Ubangi Rivers, this axe features a pointed, bilaterally symmetrical blade, roughly arrowheadshaped, with extended, backward-angled wings. A horizontal bar, beveled and notched with chisel work, extends from the back of the blade and passes through the finial of the haft, which is carved with a stylized head. There it was hammered flat to hold the blade fast. The short, dark haft curves backward as it descends, ending in a hemispherical terminal. A small collection number label is found on the side of the haft near the finial.
PARRYING SHIELD La Grange region, Western Australia First half of 20th century 29 ¼” h 3 ¾” w Wood Provenance: Private Australian collection A beautifully worked parrying shield from the La Grange region on the northern coast of Western Australia. Refined carving work graces the full face of this dark shield, with two panels of rhomboid motifs divided by a central zigzag band. Diagonal scoring enriches the surface with a feathered texture, softening and unifying the overall design. The reverse side of the shield is treated with similar carving. Parrying shields, which are uniformly narrow and relatively light, were used by Australian tribesmen to counter the club strikes of adversaries. In contrast to this flat-faced example from La Grange, many parrying shields feature a projecting central ridge for stouter reinforcement.
PASSPORT MASK Dan, Liberia or Côte d’Ivoire Early 20th century 5 ½” h 2” w Wood Provenance: Bruce Frank Gallery, New York Masks were perhaps the most important art tradition in Dan culture, embodying conduits of communication with the spirit world that guided and influenced the affairs of the physical realm. While masks were largely worn and danced, many cultures in western Africa produced what are now referred to as “passport masks,” miniature replicas or surrogates of a primary mask that could be easily carried in a pouch. A passport mask held the primary mask’s spirit and could be fully employed by its user when traveling outside their immediate community. This passport mask is carved with relatively naturalistic features, with a prominent forehead and cheeks, full lips and a steady gaze. A tapered handle projects below the chin. While some passport masks offered protection or other benefits to their carriers, this example likely represents the Kedie, a judgment piece used in ceremonial contexts by an important community member or elder.
CLUB Southeast Australia Late 19th century 23 ½” h Wood Provenance: Private US collection Australian clubs represent a wide spectrum of forms, from lighter throwing sticks to dramatically curved, beaked blades and undulating silhouettes. Southeast Australia, from which this example comes, is itself a zone of significant variety in club designs. This conical club is distinguished by its graceful arc, embellished “tail” and incised clan markings in the grip area. In battle it would have been paired with a parrying shield.
NURSING NECKLACE Zulu, South Africa Late 19th century 18â&#x20AC;? l Glass beads, wood, fiber, brass button Provenance: Adam Prout, U.K. This beautiful Zulu necklace, with its subtly dramatic palette of white, black and brown, would have been worn by a nursing mother. Narrow bundles of poisonous tamboti (Spirostachys africana) wood, a material prized for its pleasing aroma and used in similar nursing necklaces by the Mfengu of the Eastern Cape, are interposed between sections of beads. Some South African peoples believed sexual relations between a wife and husband during this early period of motherhood would negatively affect the child, and nursing necklaces symbolized the motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s status, communicating it clearly to others in the community. In eras when polygamy was common, a husband would sleep with a second or third wife during this time.
CHURINGA Australia Late 19th century 15â&#x20AC;? h 2â&#x20AC;? w Wood Provenance: Kilton Riggs Stewart Traditionally veiled in intense secrecy and revealed only to initiated men, churinga (or tjurunga) are representations or manifestations of living, ancestral or mythic beings and are connected in Australian Aboriginal cosmology to the eternal Dreamtime. Possessors of churinga had a powerfully personal bond with the objects and were sometimes buried with them. One face of this smaller churinga is worked with carving across its entire surface, with rectilinear shapes and meanders visually knitted by alternating diagonal scoring. The other side, with boomerang-shaped curves of four lines facing in both directions, bears a residue that may be a mixture of ochre and feathers. It is uncommon to encounter churinga with such applications, but not unheard of. Remnants of ceremonial substances would normally be cleaned away before the object was given to its owner, and the presence of such material on a churinga certainly increases its rarity. This churinga was acquired in the mid-1930s by Kilton Riggs Stewart (1902â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 1965), an anthropologist active from the 1920s to the 1960s. Stewart spent the majority of his career focused on the psychology of dreams, for which he traveled around the world on a number of field studies.
PASSPORT MASK Dan, Liberia or Côte d’Ivoire Late 19th century 3 ½” h 2 ¼” w Wood Provenance: Galerie Lemaire, Amsterdam Masks were perhaps the most important art tradition in Dan culture, embodying conduits of communication with the spirit world that guided and influenced the affairs of the physical realm. While masks were largely worn and danced, many cultures in western Africa produced what are now referred to as “passport masks,” miniature replicas or surrogates of a primary mask that could be easily carried in a pouch. A passport mask held the primary mask’s spirit and could be fully employed by its user when traveling outside their immediate community. This example represents the kaogle, or chimpanzee mask. Its classic features are reproduced here in miniature, including a low, forcefully projecting brow, wedgelike cheekbones, prominent nose and open mouth. Soft, rounded edges and a dark patina are evidence of extensive use. An old label is found on the reverse.