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African Faces, African Figures



African Faces, African Figures The Arman


Articles by Alain Nicolas, Jean-Hubert Martin, and Jacques Kerchache Interviews by Alain Nicolas and Monique Barbier-Mueller Notes on Objects by Anne-Marie Boutiaux-Ndiaye, Luc De Heusch, Els De Palmenaer, Helene Joubert, Jacques Lombard, Alain Nicolas, Louis Perrois, Christopher Roy, Gustaaf Versvvijver. History and bibliography of objects by Marianne Sourrieu.


African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection is published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same title presented at the Museum for African Art, New York, as an English version of the exhibition catalogue originally published as Arman & l'Art Africain for the exhibition of the same name, conceived by the Musee d'Arts Africains, Oceaniens, Amerindiens, Marseille. The exhibition opened there on June 23 and was on view until October 30, 1996. It subsequently traveled to the Musee National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris, December 3, 1996 to February 17, 1997 and to the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Museum far Volkerkunde, Cologne, March to August 1997 before coming to New York. The New York exhibition has been funded by The Arman Foundation for Traditional Art.

Text editor Frank Herreman with the assistance of the Education and Curatorial Department staff Translator from French by Pia Nkoduga Copyright 1997 0 Museum for African Art. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the Museum for African Art, 593 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. Library of Congress catalogue card no. 97-069790 Clothbound ISBN 0-945802-21-8 Paperbound ISBN 0-945802-20-X Cover: Face mask; Punu, Gabon; wood, polychrome; h. 30.5 cm. Back cover: Five Figures: kafigeledio. Senufo, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali. Wood, fabric, feathers, fiber. H.: various.

Designed, printed and bound in Belgium by Snoeck, Ducaju & Zoon.


4- 5

Executive Director's Statement An exceptional collection of art can be defined by two qualities: the mastery of the artist who produced the objects and by the honed eye, aesthetic vision and perspective of the collector. The Arman collection of African art is such a collection. Armand Arman, has married in his process of collecting an educated, even scholarly, appreciation for the aesthetics of the objects and the unique sensibility of a world renowned artist. In the mid-1950s when the collection began, Arman described himself artistically as an assemblagist. As such he appreciated in African masks and figures the rich overlay and multiplicity of forms and meanings. He also recognized that in the process of acquiring several objects of the same type he essentially followed his sensibility as an assemblagist. In the end, this way of collecting provides the public an opportunity to make cultural and regional comparisons of style and form which a single object on display does not permit. With such a superlative collection of objects from West, East, and Central Africa, over one hundred and eighty of which were selected for presentation in this exhibition African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection, the artist publicly acknowledges the mastery of African artists and defines the unique nature of his vision and taste as an artist and collector. We acknowledge and thank Alain Nicolas, Director, Musee d'Arts Africains, Oceaniens, Amerindiens, Marseille, for taking on the most enjoyable and challenging task of selecting a representative group of objects from such an incredible body of masterpieces. In addition, his fine interview with Arman and the fascinating CD-ROM are complements to the exhibition that deepens the texture and context of the show. Originally organized for the Musee d'Arts Africains, Ocianiens, Amerindiens, Marseille and titled, Arman &I'Art Africain, the exhibition was presented at the Musee National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris, and the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Museum fur Volkerktmde, Cologne, before coming to the Museum for African Art. At this Museum, it was re-titled, the catalogue was reprinted in English for the American public and exhibition layout was re-organized under the direction of Frank Heffernan, Director of Exhibitions. Frank has assumed the project with great scholarly and aesthetic appreciation for the significance and quality of the collection. We acknowledge Maria Reilly, Registrar, Mark D'Amato, Assistant Curator, Katherine Mesirow, Intern, and Carol Braide, Curatorial Assistant/Publications Coordinator who, with the usual attention to detail, worked closely with Frank to ensure that the catalogue re-printing and re-organization went smoothly. Leon Waller, Director of Education, and the Education Department staff deserves thanks for organizing an interesting and broadbased schedule of education and public programs to accompany the exhibition and for training an engaged group of volunteer educators who make the exhibition more comprehensible to our audiences. Thanks to Danielle Amato Milligan, Director of Development, for her unflagging effort to bring the necessary financial resources to the project. To the Board of Trustees of the Museum, we extend our grateful acknowledgment for their passionate work on behalf of the Museum, its exhibitions and programs. Finally, we warmly acknowledge and thank Armand Arman and Corice Canton Arman for their commitment and passion as collectors and for their support of the exhibition through The Arman Foundation for Traditional Art. Grace C. Stanislaus


CURRENT DONORS (Individual Donors) Corice Canton Arman Mr. and Mrs. Charles Benenson Dr. and Mrs. Sidney Clyman Mr. and Mrs. Richard Faletti Jane and Gerald Katcher Marian and Daniel Malcolm Kathryn McAuliffe and Jay Kriegel Robert and Lock Neimeth Don Nelson Lynne and Robert Rubin Cecilia and Irwin Smiley Jason H. Wright Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro Lawrence Gussman Peg Alston Jerry Blickman Sherry B. Bronfman Patti Birch James Cash Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Ms. Irene Diamond Gail and George Feher Denyse and Marc Ginzberg Irwin Ginsburg Llura and Gordon Gund Lesley and Evan Heller Mr. Lofton B Holder, Jr. Marilyn HoMeld and Marvin Holloway A. Eugene Kohn Steven Kossak Alice and Arthur Kramer Nancy Lane Dorothy and Roy Lichtenstein Loretta S. Lifton William Lynch, Jr. John A. Mayer, Jr. Rodney M.Miller David Rockefeller Michael Smiley Jeff Soref Ann and Paul Sperry Francesca and Peter Tufo Mr. Jerry Vogel Regina and Stephen Humanitzki Elsa and Marvin Ross-Greifinger Ronnie Livia S. Thomas Alexander, III Roland and Lois P Betts Samuel Berkowitz Lisa Bradley and David Solomon Paula and Michael Gold Mr. Robert Nooter Peter Norton Mrs. Harry Rubin Marsha and Saul Stanoff Ellen and Jerome Stern Andrea Taylor Henry Van Ameringen Patricia and Bernard Wagner Maureen and Harold Zarember Ann and William Ziff

Joan Barist Dr. Michael Berger William Berkman Alan Brandt Damon Brandt Sherry and Roy deCarava Joseph Curry Mary Cronson Kent and Charles Davis Nicole and John Dintenfas Bernard de Grunne Drs. Jean and Noble Endicott Viana Finch Rods and Gilbert Graham Essie Green Rita and John Grunwald David Holbrook Michael M. Kaiser Mr. and Mrs. Martin Kimmel Kathy Lacey Luciano Lanfranchi Roxanne and Guy Languetot Cars] and Joe Lebworth Diane and Brian Leyden Carolyn McClair Jason McCoy John Morning Florence and Donald Morris George R. NiNamdi Michael Oliver Patricia Pepper Rita and Fred Richman Eric Robertson Louis F. Rosenthal Barbara Sahhnan Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Silver Merton D. Simpson Patricia Sweeney Jean and Mark Tansey Dr. Martin Trepel Ms. Kathy van der Pas and Mr. Steven van de Raadt Lucien Van de Velde Joyce and George Wein Tom Wheelock

(Institutional Donors) National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts New York State Council on the Arts City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs New York Council for the Humanities Office of the Manhattan Borough President The Council of the City of New York Institute of Museum and Library Services Frances & Benjamin Benenson Foundation Booth Ferris Foundation Dade Community Foundation Puget Sound Fund of the Tides Foundation Gulton Foundation, Inc. The Rockefeller Foundation Noah-Sadie K. Watchel Foundation, Inc. The Irene Diamond Fund, Inc.


LEF Foundation Silverman Charitable Trust The Robert 8c Phyllis Tishman Speyer Family Foundation, Inc The Xerox Foundation The Bernhill Fund Buhl Family Foundation The Charles E. Culpeper Foundation DeCoizart Perpetual Charitable Trust The Max & Victoria Dreyfus Foundation Peter B. Lewis Philanthropic Foundation Robert E. & Judith 0. Rubin Foundation The Laura S. 8c Jonathan M.Tisch Foundation, Inc. H. van Ameringen Foundation Steven Rattner & B Maureen White Foundation, Inc.

(Corporate Donors) The Chase Manhattan Corporation Cravath, Swain & Moore Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corporation Goldman Sachs & Co. PepsiCo, Inc. Revlon Group, Inc. RJR Nabisco Simpson,Thacher 8c Bartlett Time Warner, Inc. American Express Company C. S. First Boston Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. Davis, Polk & Wardwell Davis, Scott, Weber 8c Edwards, PC. Dime Savings Bank European American Bank Kohn Pederson Fox Associates PC Merrill Lynch 8c Co., Inc. National Broadcasting Company IBM Corporation Johnson & Johnson NYNEX J.B Morgan & Co., Inc. Pfizer Inc Philip Morris Companies, Inc. Salomon Brothers Inc. Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons, Inc. Sotheby's Well, Gotshal & Manges LLP Abernathy; MacGregor and Scanlon Jerry Blickman, Inc. Bloomberg Financial Markets Bozell, Sawyer, Miller Boston Properties Duracell International Inc. Capital Cities, Inc./ABC CBS Inc. Cerussi & Spring Chelsea Piers Management Christieis Duracell Inc. Edelman Public Relations Worldwide The Equitable Evercore Partners Inc. Fletcher Asset Management, Inc.


'General Electric Corporation Hallmark Entertainment, Inc. The Hearst Corporation Holland & Knight Island Trading Company, Inc. Local 372 McGraw-Hill Marsh & McLennan, Inc. Morgan Stanley Group Inc. Northern Trust North General Pace Primitive Prodigy The Prudential The Readeris Digest Association, Inc. Sony Music Entertainment Inc. United Technologies Corporation Viacom International, Inc.

Maria Reilly Registrar

Retail and Admissions

Mark D'Amato Assistant Curator Carol Braide Curatorial Assistant/Publication Coordinator

Raquel Billings Carolyn Evans Frank Lewis Admissions

Katherine Mesirow Intern



Marjorie Ransom Coordinator of Volunteers

Danielle Amato Milligan Director ofDevelopment

Current as cfAugust 19, 1997

Yvonne Balbin Development Associate


Maryellen Klein Membership Coordinator

Robert Rubin Jason Wright Co-Chairs Barry Lites Secretary Richard Faktti Assistant Secretary Lofton P Holder, Jr. Treasurer Corice Canton Arman Charles B. Benenson Sherry Bronfman Lawrence Gussman Jane Frank Katcher Irwin Smiley A. Eugene Kohn Lee Lorenz William Lynch, Jr. Kathryn McAuliffe Rodney Miller John Morning Robert Neimeth Don H. Nelson James J. Ross

STAFF Executive Grace C. Stanislaus Executive Director Shakira Ferrell Executive Assistant

Education Leon Waller Director ofEducation Muniania Lubangi Education Assistant

Finance Andrei Nadler Controller Mohibur Rob Assistant Bookkeeper

Operations Evelyn Diaz Reception Bernard Saunders Chij4Securiry, Lawrence Ekechi Fitz Caesar Tammy Farmer Lawrence Kendle Ivan Moffitt Winston Rodney Securiry Francisco Ramos Building Manager Johanna Cooper Events Coordinator

Curatorial Frank Herrman Director ofExhibitions

Tamela Allen Museum Store Manager

Public Relations Victoria Benitez Director ofPublic Relations


Anthony Cooper Bibi Gajraj Myrna Kanter Museum Store Volunteers Anna Lents Curatorial/Public Relations/ Registrarial Volunteer Joan Banbury Claude DeBacker Janet Dees Lois Henderson Wendi Jackson Christopher Logan Xavier Rivera Aielianna Ross Mary Roth Volunteer Educators


Contents African Art: Stance and Circumstance Alain Nicolas The Sagacity of the Artist Jean-Hubert Martin 19



Amateur, Accumulator, Collector, Connoisseur Jacques Kerchache Interview Annan / Alain Nicolas An Encounter :11onique


Catalogue of Objects


Notes on the Objects

/ Arman

Texts by Anne-Marie Bowiaux-Ndiaye, Luc De Heusch, Els De Palmenaer, Merle Joubert,Jacques Lombard, Alain Nicolas, Louis Perrois, Christopher Roy, Gustaaf Verswijver. History and bibliography ofobjects by Marianne Sourrieu. 267

Appendices Bibliography Biography ofArman List of Objects


Accumulation of reliquary figures Kota, Gabon New York Photo: Gerard Bonnet

African Art: Stance and Circumstance by Alain Nicolas Director, Music d'Arts africains, ocianiens, amerindiens—Marseilk

Everyone who is to some extent familiar with the still so-called "primitive" arts, knows that Arman possesses a collection of African art. Indeed, numerous exhibitions the world over have shown one or more of his objects, and many specialized publications have drawn on his collection for their iconographic use. But today, we have something else, because for the first time his collection has been brought together for exhibition in our museums... the most significant portion of it, at any rate. What makes it that such a collection could only belong to an individual like Arman, to the exclusion of all others, while in fact many others (with equal or superior financial means) had access to the majority of these pieces on the international art market? The answer is, of course, not a simple one, even if Arman has his own views on this question. This introductory note will attempt an analysis. A sort of myth has grown up around Arman's collection... First off, who knows exactly what he's collecting today? Knives, Japanese armor, Oceanic objects, pistols, pens, Aboriginal objects, radios from the 1950s, objects from Easter Island, automobiles, rare books, African art... Recently, he's broken up his Easter Island and Oceanic collections, but not without offering to the Musee d'Arts Africains, Oceaniens et Amerindiens de Marseille a large and beautiful Papuan from the low-valley of the Sepik River. I mention this merely to demonstrate his extremely generous nature. The figure of Arman is complex, and thus it's necessary to get to know him a little in order to better understand the tenets of his collection. We'll cast a simple, but attentive, glance at what Arman has shown me. Let's say right off—with his consent, we won't be returning to his own oeuvre—that he is known in the world of art principally for his "accumulations" of objects, a brilliant concept enriched with many strong works, and that this word "accumulation" is one of the keys that open his doors. Arman is a diva of contemporary Western art, always busy between six exhibitions, ten sculptures, three books, four paintings, three inaugurations, two interviews, from one end of the planet to the other. Always in motion. Seemingly elusive.


But for him his collections represent a sort of floating anchor, something stable and permanent amidst all this apparent Brownian agitation, so much does the Armanian practice of time and space astonish one at first sight. Arman is a blackbelt in judo—and he's taught the martial arts, with Klein. He is a venerable adept, semi-professional, of the Japanese game of go. He holds a diploma from the Ecole du Louvre. He's passionate about boxing, and never misses a contest on television. He loves opera and sports. He adores New York, which he describes as one gigantic accumulation, that he signs at the bottom, on the left and on the right. He is a devotee of the cult of good food and wine. He evidently has, at least, two homes: one in New York, the other in Vence (AlpesMaritimes). The material life of Arman is that of an artist who's made it. And made it with, according to the artist, a collection of debts as well! But Arman is intelligent: this is the second dominant aspect of his personality. He manages to explain to us that his life is multiple, that he lives about twenty of them at a time, and that these twenty lives are his life. He collects lives, and everything then comes down to a question of organization. His life is his most perfect accumulation. He has no doubt come to understand much about the stuff of life, and that one must manage this short space of time given to all. The number one problem for Arman is, thus, this life-time. He is extremely combative. Even when playing ping-pong—it's the same way for everything he takes on—it's to win; he runs with death to win. That's why he runs so fast, everyday, everywhere. To outrun death, even... The presence of his works in the museums of the world, these places where things are conserved for a theoretical eternity, is already an admirable victory. He is known and renowned. He is celebrated. He will go down in history. But to here, nothing fundamentally original. Arman, like any other collector, does not collect merely anything. It all has a sense to it. He would like, of course, to have the MOST the BEST. After having accumulated all sorts of things, within a quite organized discourse, he accumulates collections of objects which are, by definition, out of the ordinary, being works of art and, if possible, masterpieces: the most beautiful knives (not inevitably the most expensive), or else the rarest, the most beautiful pens, the most beautiful cars (or the most something), the most beautiful Japanese armor (they are unique), the rarest pistols. The words "very" or "many" hold no interest for Arman: they are aren't enough. He has the need for still more. At the same time as accumulating collections and objects, he has accumulated specialized knowledge as well. He has been, is, or will become the best specialist in the field of his respective collections. And he's managed to pull it off. Thus, there's evidently a question of pride involved here. His collection of African art, in its ensemble, raises some echoes of these character traits. To begin with, he possesses many objects, but he doesn't know exactly how many: four hundred or five hundred, if one counts the "small ones"... In any case, it is not the largest collection in the world, or in history—and he knows it. And yet...


African Art: Stance and Circumstance. 12 - 13

Considered by him or by us as an accumulation, his collection has something of the Russian doll about it. Indeed, the exhibition includes two veritable accumulations, and Arman claims as much: that of the Kota reliquaries, and that of the Mende masks. He has made accumulations of them, and considers them as accumulations. The Kota are in his dining room in New York, while the Mende are in his Connecticut bedroom. He signs them below and to the right. Or to the left. After the accumulations come the groups, certain of which surpass fifteen individual members: the Fang reliquaries, the Mahongwe, the "fetiches a clous," the Punu masks... The group from Gabon is stylistically extraordinary. The Arman known and renowned is there, in these accumulations and these groups, and his collection of African art is one of his most beautiful works. This is certainly true, but incomplete. For we also have the "individuals" to complete the portrait: some masterpieces, and many major pieces. When they are not universally applauded as the most beautiful, they have a "detail" or a particularity such that these objects could only have wound up with Arman—perhaps an exceptional "pedigree," an atypical construction, a special size, a story, a material, an extreme rarity ... That is to say, in what I call the "individuals" may reside a certain aleatory value. A particular dose. But homeopathic, for if one knows something about Arman one can almost predict his next acquisitions. At least—there are many factors that come into play, including the financial—one may say that logically speaking a certain object should one day enter the Arman Collection, and not another object, and not in another collection. A matter of attraction, or determinism? As to the financial aspect, Arman has always managed to acquire the objects he's wanted, even during the darkest and least prosperous days: though this too must be factored in to the equation, as the statisticians say. He is not free from notorious and sometimes irritating pride found in all collectors, but he is also capable of saying what he recently told me in an interview given in conjunction with the Batcham exhibition: "Andre (Fourquet) has more masterpieces than I do." Have we answered the question posed at the outset, namely that of whether the Arman Collection of African art could not be anything other than the Arman Collection of African art? First, on reflection, I am not sure that this question is not "hackneyed". Not completely sure. Indeed, in frequenting collectors and seeing their collections—the problem is identical when they're in the public domain—I know and see that there exists something of the very intimate connecting the collectors and their collections. And not only the pathologic side of "wanting to possess." That is banal. What is less so, and rarely seen, is the presentation of a collection belonging to someone of renown and still very much alive, and to examine the discrepancies that might exist between that which one knows of this person and that which he shows us through his manner of collecting. This exhibition is all that. A veritable passage between a contemporary Western artist and African art.




The Sagacity of the Artist by Jean-Hubert Martin Conservator General in Charge, Musee national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, Paris

It is a truism to state that an exhibition can only be evaluated after being seen. One may well imagine that for Arman, as well, the joint presentation of a large number of his works will constitute a sort of litmus test. It goes without saying that he has a through knowledge of the works in his collection. Some among them have been long coveted. Others go to form groups, like the Kota pieces in his New York dining room, to which he no longer deigns any modification. Nonetheless, the display of some two hundred objects and the way in which they are mounted will give rise to considerations which one may not prejudge. I am, for my part, curious to gauge the erudite expertise as compared to the artistic intuition brought to bear here. Arman has recounted how he had to rein in his passion as expert and connoisseur in African art. It had come to devour practically all his time, and at a given moment he found himself obliged to choose between his vocation as artist and what might have become a new profession. Having become an excellent connoisseur, he revolts against the tendency of some dealers to categorize certain singular or not wholly trustworthy works as "artist's pieces," aimed for sale to them. Arman is here no doubt referring to some particular instances where dealers were mockingly disdainful of the artists' judgment. This topic is nevertheless worthy of our scrutiny, for it leads to an inquiry regarding the evolution of taste in the matter of African art, and on the role played by artists past and present in this respect. The question as it is posed implies a judgment of authenticity, and is one of the most delicate points for collectors of African art. For the postulate according to which it is only the object made by a local artist for local use that is authentic, comprises many twists and turns. Frank Willet has set out a classification of nine intermediary categories of authenticity before arriving at those fakes made by and for non- Africans with the deliberate aim of deception. Present day consideration of that famous Fang mask belonging to Vlaminck and to Derain (M.N.A.M., Centre Georges Pompidou) and produced in bronze by Vollard Paris)—which had never danced and had been made for some foreign client—does not much detract from its aesthetic and historic value. The pedigree of the work, which in this domain is said to be worth a signature, can thus singularly amend this rigid postulate of authenticity.


* Musee National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris

One has the tendency to consider that the history of the discovery of African art by Western artists has already been definitively written, that his story is open and shut. But Arman is one of many artists in the ranks of collectors of African art. And as our concept of art has much evolved since the beginning of the century, contemporary artists do not collect the same works as did their predecessors. Arman belongs to that generation of artists who provoked a considerable rupture with respect to our notion of art. He has, moreover, been one of the major actors in this transformation: abandoning the traditional registers and materials considered as noble, he introduced scrap and waste materials into the artistic domain. Then, with his "accumulations," he initiated a new interpretation of seriality. His collection reflects in large part his taste as "enlightened amateur." One sees this in his much prized Fang and Kota objects, which reveal a taste that one may qualify as the classical in African art. To this is added a rather expected ensemble, owing to its concordance with his own accumulations: namely, the Congo nailed power figure. A fourth ensemble is more surprising and reveals a personal bent: these are the Mende masks—objects which have not engendered covetousness among collectors. The inscription of the face within the geometry of a flattened lozenge, sometimes under exuberant hairdos, has not to present been accorded sufficient attention to be granted true authority among the polyphony of African styles. This exhibition may, in this regard, serve to evolve our appreciation and reorient our view. One hopes that other individual pieces will also play that role. In any event, most of these pieces derive from a conception of African art inherited form the taste of Arman's forerunners at the beginning of this century. It is above all a question of sculptural invention, handling of volumes, and ingenious formal solutions in the treatment of the face or the body. Now, for artist of Arman's generation as well as the following me, because they work from already existing objects which they then combine in their assemblages and installations, the interest is much more in the "charge" or "load" of African objects. It is not the beautiful formal solution which interests them, but rather the evocatory force of the object, its visual impact, its capacity to give a sense to all it reveals of the strangeness of societies that recall submerged parts of our civilization. One will find magical objects, vestiges of rituals, shamanical instruments in which horns, bones, and skulls are components of their making. We have recently seen Sarkis and Spoerri integrate into their works a type of object that, not long ago, could have been treated as ethnological by collectors. It is not immaterial that one find this same type of object among the works of two great contemporary collectors of acute insight. To its great benefit, the history of the evolution of taste in the matter of African art is an ongoing one. By virtue of a familiar progression, objects not long ago still: "invisible" have passed from being scrap, out of action and old-fashioned, to the stage of being a curiosity, then interesting, before finally being deemed beautiful. The extraordinary expansion of artistic creation where nothing is proscribed with respect to materials, techniques and processes, has brought about an enlargement of the visual aesthetic field. A demonstration of this could be seen in the recent Africa exhibition mounted in London by the Royal Academy, conceived by the artist Tom Phillips. A certain number of objects considered masterpieces by a consensus of experts and amateurs were omitted here, particularly those series of Kota and Fang reliquaries which have been celebrated and valued since the beginning of this


The Sagacity of the Artist. 16 - 17

century. The curator oriented his choice toward pieces that might be termed singular and "atypical" from these ranks. Likewise, he often mixed works endowed with a certain importance in social and religious life, together with everyday objects embellished by an elaborate decor. If one holds to the postulate of pedigree equaling signature, then odds are that many works now in the hands of artists will be highly valued by the generation to come. The principal appeal of the so-called primitive arts is their provision of an enormous quantity of works whose corpus is far from being set in stone. On the other hand, archeological discoveries and collectors' researches are unendingly making new objects known to us. On the other hand, evolution in Western aesthetic thinking continues concomitantly with the current of artistic creation, with objects re-emerging from neglect to be seen in a new light. Thus, perhaps we are not on so firm ground when denigrating those objects termed as "artist's pieces." What is undeniably disagreeable, is when dealers substitute themselves for the artists in rendering this judgment. And one would be wrong to neglect a category of bizarre objects, singular, sometimes violent, charged to the point of having a quite unsettling effect, but nevertheless revealing beliefs that fascinate the Western spirit—at the risk of once again being labeled as exoticism. Objects of this type, sometimes not belonging to well identified series, are often found in the homes and studios of contemporary artists. Perhaps these are the masterpieces of tomorrow.


Power figure NIcanu, Zaire Collection Arman and Corice Arman Photo: Gerard Bonnet

18- 19

Amateur, Accumulator, Collector, Connoisseur byJacques Kerchache

My dialogue with African art derivesfrom the conviction that artistic creation arisesfrom a commonfund of humanity and that in the discovery of aesthetic solutions the making of masterpieces supersedes regions, cultures, and becomes part of the treasuresfrom all places and all times of human creation. Arman It was on an evening in 1962, in Iris Clert's old gallery, at the closing of one of my first exhibitions, bringing together works from Pol Bury, Sotto, Cruz Diez and Kramer, Arman walked in, and caressed the walls. He told me that it was very good to have kept them as they were, painted in white by Yves Klein, his best friend who had just died tragically. While Klein figured "the empty," in the same space Arman was a little later to echo a reply in "the full," saturating the space with an accumulation of refuse. I spoke to him of my projects: a presentation of white foodstuffs from Malaval which was to precede an exhibition devoted to Sepik objects from New Guinea. The immediate current of fellow-feeling that was established between us has evolved over thirty-five years of friendship—one peppered with rows, dialogues, breaks, exchanges and "competition." In 1955, the year when I bought my first object at the flea market, Arman discovered two exhibitions that were to mark him deeply: the one, organized by Ratton and Kramer, the other, Analogies, at the Arnaud Gallery. In 1956 or 1957, he made his first purchase, a Dan mask. Shortly after our encounter, I left on military service to Frejus. Arman invited me to his home, on the Cote d'Azur, and let me see his atelier where I was impressed and enthused by his work. In the years that followed, we had our first exchange of works: one of his shattered violins in plastic for a Mahongwe reliquary. When Andre Breton later paid me a visit, on seeing the violin he remarked: "That's the way I like music!" This was also the start of a long series of trades and reciprocal purchases. Between Arman and myself, there is a mutual respect, and I have too much admiration for artists to propose to him that which he calls in his Mgmoires accumulies "artist's pieces": "The dealers in Black art are all collectors of modern art. Living


surrounded by somber objects, they long for color. So, in Paris, a certain X. and Y. wish to trade. Each time I arrive, they receive me with joy and show me, they say, their most interesting pieces. 'Look, a curious Cameroun mask!—Are you kidding me, it's not even from Cameroon, I say—You think so? Well anyway, come and take a look at this Dogon.—Me: It's poorly sculpted, it's no Dogon.— After awhile Y. gets upset:—We can't do business with you. You denigrate everything.—Because you show me crap! (yours truly retorts).—But not at all (he protests), we've put these pieces aside especially for you, they're artist's pieces. —Well bravo! That's fine. All the junk, the unclassifiable, the problem objects, the murky ones: these are your artist's pieces!' So many of my fellow painters have fallen for this line, and wound up with what otherwise are unsaleable specimens, somewhat belated, barely or poorly sculpted. I never fell for it." Here Arman cites the case of one of our mutual friends, the painter Jean-Claude Fahri. I well remember that at the inauguration of his atelier, he showed us a Senufo sculpture. Arman and I looked at each other. Without having to exchange a word, but with common purpose, we threw the object into the fire. After a few seconds, we pulled it out, saying: "It's better like this." From Gauguin, Derain, Vlaminck, Picasso and up to Baselitz, Arman is without doubt the artist who has accorded the most of his time, effort and energy to the constituting of his remarkable collections, and his collection of African art in particular. There was not a single important exhibition in a museum or at a dealer's, or private collection, that he did not visit. He might get a call in New York about an object of possible interest, and next thing he was on the plane. This frenzy reached its height between 1975 and 1980. I spent some time at Arman's during this period. He met everyday with a great number of dealers, collectors, museum directors, not to show his own work, but to evaluate, buy, sell, or render his expert opinion on objects of African art. I was able to make the observation that the time he devoted to this part of his life had a negative effect on his creative activities. He well understood this, and once remarked to his wife: "Am I a sculptor, or a specialist in African art? I suppose one should know, right?" Arman more shares the detached point of view that Picasso proclaimed with irony: "L'art negre, connais pas!", than that of Brancusi, conscious of a hold that he defended himself against in writing to Epstein in 1932: "One must not be influenced by African art." Arman's oeuvre precedes his encounter with African art, and if there's a similarity, then it's in the manner of a "play on words, play on forms." We can cite an example of this in his accumulation of revolvers entitled "Fetiche a clous," which I placed face to face with a real fetiche a c/ous, for the Primitivism exhibition in Munich in 1972, to which I was consultant. The relationship that exists between the oeuvre of Arman and African art is based only on what Appolinaire called "the aesthetic of the banal object" when discussing the guitar (1911) or the glass of absinthe (1914) of Picasso, and the act of appropriation/reincorporation, a common practice among African artists. The accumulation of appropriations: Arman's identity may be so summarized. But I no longer agree with him when he amuses himself by leading African objects astray by encasing them in plastic, even if in these cases he uses only minor objects. Neither can I say that I'm particularly touched by the result, though I well understanding that it has to do with a pretext, and treated with much humor. On the other hand, I what I do find extremely interesting, is the presentation of


Amateur, Accumulator, Collector, Connoisseur.

them at Arman's home—series of object from the same family (Kota, Fang, etc.)—for these accumulation then permit one to appreciate the value of the notion of competition, something dear to African artists. The spirit of competition is also not found lacking in Arman. And he has practiced it in disciplines as varied as judo, ping-pong, chess and go. He's proved it, too, in his accumulation of other collections, always of great quality: Japanese weapons and armor, Oceanic objects, knives, pens, watches, guns, cars, contemporary art... Nonetheless, over the past few years he has understood that by breaking them up, he could acquire works of true importance. It required a choice on his part, and he decided to concentrate his attention and financial means on African art. Arman has never tipped over into primitivism, he's never been a speculator. He is an Amateur, in the noble sense of the term. Today, his collection figures among the most beautiful in the world. It is not encyclopedic, and even less exotic. It is impregnated with a strong identity. It has a history because it has been made with love, passion and generosity.


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Interview New York, December 2nd, 1995 kvAlain Nicolas

Main Nicolas: In 1993 we had a long interview in Marseille concerning the exhibition Batcham, sculptures du Cameroun, during which you talked mainly about Bamileke sculpture. I would like to center this interview more on your collection and your manner of collecting. My first question is very simple: how many objects do you have today? Arman: I don't know exactly, I haven't counted the objects-300, 400?... It depends if one also counts the small objects. Because my collection is composed of several parts: those I just fell for, that's to say the pieces that interested me aesthetically, ones I desired; but also the sorts of systematic gestures, of accumulations. With the idea of putting things of the same type together, always following this design, which is mine in many of my works, that of the accumulation. What's more, because I'm a little bit... ambitious by nature, I've always tried to do things which aren't easy, to collect objects that are difficult to acquire, or of high quality. Not possessing the fortune that I merit—that's a phrase I like, because no one ever has the fortune he deserves—I find a way, I retrade things, I resell, I rebuy, wheeling and dealing until I get the piece that I want. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. A.N.: Can you envision that one day your collection will befinished? A.: No, not really. I will always have longings, like to buy back an object that I used to have and now miss, or something like that. I can't really say. I've the impression that this sort of collection and this sort of collector, will only be finished when I'm finished. A.N.: Don't you think that !I-you could answer this question about the end ofyour collection, you would be able to answer the question of why you collect? A.: I collect because collecting is a part of my make-up. I've always done it. I've always accumulated, much more than I've collected. And by accumulating, I've always been surrounded by objects. I've collected African art for such a long time


now, at a really heavy tempo, and with such study, that I've become my own expert advisor! In general, I rarely consult someone when buying an object. But for this collection, I had my encounter with African art at a time when there were few collectors around. Gradually, in a few years, we'll perhaps come to see fewer and fewer masterpieces on the market. Everything always ends up in museums. And that's all right. A.N.: You started your collection in the 1950s? A.: Yes. I'd seen an exhibition in Paris (I think it was in a large hotel), and then two or three years later, another one in Cannes. These two exhibitions made a big impression on me: I didn't know anything, I had no notion of the quality to be seen in African art or Oceanic art—the so-called primitive arts. And it reinforced a very important idea in me: the realization that every culture, that every ethnic group can produce masterpieces. This reinforced the idea, that I already held, that man is the same all over. And the discovery of this idea was a great source of pleasure to be, while I was still quite young. A.N.: So, in the 1950s you went and saw these two exhibitions. You were already starting to buy yourfirst objects around this time? A.: At the flea market in Nice, I think in '55. A Dan mask. A.N.: Do you recall the exact circumstances of this purchase? A.: I'd often go to the flea market, on the Paillon. There were a lot of boutiques there, with objects from all over. One of these was the shop of Bertrand Bottet, himself a collector. Primarily, he was the buyer in the South of France for Charles Ratton. He kept him informed about everything that was going on. One day, walking around the market, I saw this Dan mask that I thought was quite beautiful. I bought it. At that time, we're talking about really ridiculous amounts. Small sums—minuscule! A.N.: Have you kept all the objects you've bought in this period? A.: Only from after 1959. I hadn't come across, or couldn't acquire, quality objects before then. A.N.: What is the oldest object in your collection today? A.: The oldest object? A.N.: 1 mean the one you've had longest. A.: There are three or four: the small Fang byiri, on the very long baton; the large komo elephant mask; the small Kongo mirrored fetish; and the grand Dan mask, with tarboosh felt. All these objects date from that period. A.N.: You've never let them go?


Interview. 24 - 25

A.: No. A.N.: Why have you kept them? A.: I don't know. For that matter these objects are reproduced, except for the komo mask, in Arts primitffs dans les ateliers d'artistes, an exhibition that was at the Musee de l'Homme. I've always considered these four objects a bit like fetish objects, I've always loved them. They are still of a quite fine quality: they've never varied, not in their attractiveness, not in the appreciation I have of them. AN.: There is the problem offakes,from which veryfew people escape... One might say that no one escapesfrom it. A.: No one escapes, no. A.N.: Have you ever bought afake? A.: Yes, it's happened. It's quite humbling, because I'm usually very sure of myself. It's happened two or three times, when I really wanted something, and didn't listen to that little voice inside. I let myself be taken by objects that were not genuine. I especially remember a Kota. This Kota was curious. It was very domed, and very old. But there was something that bothered me. Consulting a friend, who also knows the Kota quite well, we discovered that it was a very old Kota, but very simple, to which one had artificially domed the forehead to give it more interest. Naturally, I'd found that the wood on the back side was very fine, with the ancient "lozenge," etc. I had a good look at it. It had a very interesting price, but I was had, because it had been "improved." Also, when there are things that I know less well—Africa is so immense, that to say "I know African art" is a bit much: I know parts of African art. Sometimes, for certain ethnic groups or for certain regions, I've been obliged to take advice. I'm not such a connoisseur when it comes to the art of East or South Africa. I've had a false ivory, for example, because it's not my habit to collect ivory. In the profession of dealers of African art you have all types. There are some very honest individuals who take extreme care to sell perfect objects, objects to which there's no problem attached, but there are others who don't give a damn, who would sell you simply anything, and they're usually excellent salesmen. It often happens that I'm left certain objects "on approval." I've been tempted by several of these. I remember a sort of helmet mask, the top of a bete box. The broker hadn't been gone five minutes, and I was already dissatisfied. Well, I started by sniffing it all over, holding it, picking it up, measuring it, breathing it, searching my references for corresponding objects and, of course, I became more and more dissatisfied. The next day I call this guy and tell him: "Come pick up your object—I don't want to hear about it." That's happened to me two or three times. So, it just might be—I humbly admit it—that there are still a few fakes in my collection, but then not to my knowledge. Certainly not a large proportion, because I know these objects as well as any other specialist or dealer, but one can always be mistaken. There is a certain consensus. There are several levels of false objects. There is the


replacement object, which I don't want in my collection, that's to say an object which has been rapidly made to stand in for another that's been hidden away. There is also the more commercial object, made for sale or as a gift: the "ambassadorial" object... Next, there are the downright fakes, expressly made to fool. In general, the best fakes, very sophisticated in the working of the wood, the patina, the aesthetic details, are made by restorers. And it's very disturbing, because one sees more and more fakes, mostly in the "rare" ethnic groups, or "expensive" ones like the Fang, the Chokwe, etc. The worse thing about the whole affair, is that there are writers, specialists in African art who are conversant with African ethnology and the history of African art, but who have no sense of Antiquities and who endorse these fakes. There are fakes in some widely reputed books. One day maybe they'll end up in museums, all the more so because they have certificates signed by these so-called "experts." Everyone's in agreement nonetheless: all those who have some knowledge, be they collectors or dealers, never had any desire to acquire these pieces. And today these pieces very nearly have authentic status! It's very disturbing. So, does this mean that every writer or museum expert should have an antiques dealer at his elbow? It's an important question, no? A.N.: Precisely. When one is named Arman and one collects, many eyes must be on you when you set out to buy. A.: Yes. A.N.: There's a sort of pressure brought to bear, led by the journalists, the specialists, other collectors, dealers, museums... When an important piece is presented at public sale, and when one says that Arman is interested in it, then this pressure mounts. A.: That can happen. But quite often I don't attend the auction myself. I buy through another person. For several reasons. First, out of fear that sometimes the price will be padded, if you'll forgive the expression. There are auctioneers very good at that: they can feel more or less were you're prepared to go. But I am very strict, I give a price for a piece and I don't go beyond it. A.N.: Do you maintain good relations with other collectors? Are there any, for example, that you count asfriends? A.: Yes, I have many friends in this milieu. For a while, I saw only them. Before 1980, my wife would complain: we only see these African art people, collectors, museum people, writers... We frequented no other circles, even to do with my professional activities. Rather strange... A.N.: There had to come a moment when you said: "Enough! I'm stopping." A.: Yes. At a given moment, I stopped. For four years I didn't buy a single object, and I didn't go to any exhibition of African art. I had the feeling that it was taking precedence over my life as an artist, eating up too much of my time and energy. I've even had the offer of writing the encyclopedia of African art. So I had to ask myself: "Who am I? What do I want to do in life? Become a big specialist in African art, or remain a sculptor?" I made the choice.


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Masks: bundu Mende, Sierra Leone Photo: Girard Bonnet

A.N.: Because it's the one or the other? A.: Yes, and seeing the evolution of this collection, it would not have been good for my work as a sculptor. It would have even been quite a nuisance. I made the right choice. A.N.: But many ofyourfellow artists also collect. You're not the sole example! A.: Not like that. Many artists collect, yes. But even those who have fine collections—take an artist like Baselitz—collect pieces that have something to do with their own work. These are not objective collections. Traditionally, artists have always had objects. From the time of the Cubists, the Fauvists and others. That confirms a sort of exotic taste... I've always known artists, often a bit older than myself, with objects around them, even if they didn't really collect. It was part of the artist's bric-a-brac. The same as there have always been artists who have had objects in their studios, but these weren't fantastic objects. I remember some of my dealer-friends who made trades with artists. One thus arrives at the "artist's objects," which may be rather spectacular, but aren't always the best. A.N.: But what's special about these objects? A.: They're a bit spectacular, a bit large. This goes well in an artist's atelier. It even became a generic term: "objet d'artiste." A.N.: Do you trade with your collector-friends? A.: Sometimes, yes. Particularly with Jacques Kerchache, and with just about all the dealers. A.N.: I've tried to get a global view of your collection, and to see y there's some constant running through it, ethnically or formally. And I must admit, I haven't really


found it yet. A.: There is a preference in my collection: it's for Gabon. I am very easily attracted by certain objects from Gabon, like those of the Fang, the Kota, the Punu, and even up to the region of Cabinda, that's to say objects of the Kongo, Yombe... This has been a preference. Next, there have been objects that I've simply fallen for: certain objects that I've desired, or others considered as extremely rare, like the Mbole. I've always dreamed of having an Mbole. When I was younger, objects circulated less. There have been mythic objects like, for instance, the Mbole in the Schindler Collection. Me, I have a small one. A.N.: But this region of Africa, around Gabon, must correspond to something more or less conscious inside you? A.: Yes. There's something of the need to dominate in me, to have better pieces than the others. That's a trait often seen among collectors. A.N.: No, I mean in thisformal constancy, around Gabon. A.: First of all, in this region you have the Fang, with their objects of interiority. They are so charged, so strong, so concentrated as sculptures! One also finds more "aesthetic" objects there, like those of the Punu, the Lumbo, or the Yombe. These objects have an aesthetic that for me is near immutable, universal. In Gabon one finds many of these heart-shaped faces. A.N.: Also among the Lega of Zaire,for example? A.: Yes, one finds them among the Lega, among the Mbole, etc. I've always been very attracted visually and instinctively by these heart-shaped faces, these heavy domed foreheads. And indeed, that's what I often encountered in Gabon. A.N.: It's aform that somewhat reminds one of the curves of a violin,for instance... A.: ... No, not at all. For the curves of a violin one would sooner have to go to the Cyclades. A violin, that's an object so modern and sophisticated, so technical an object! A.N.: And also sofinished? A.: Finished, yes, termini. An object that undergoes no further change. While for the human figure, and traditional renderings... In all these "basic" arts, instead of granting pride of place to naturalism, the artists opted to give the symbol precedence. The fact that they found sculptural solutions between the symbol and the representation is fascinating. There are some perfect successes. A.N.: Do you know how many Fang objects you possess? A.: I must have a dozen of them. A.N.: A dozen: what exactly does that number mean? And why don't you have more?



A.: At one time I had more, but as other objects caught my interest, I traded the Fang in order to get them. Just recently, for example, I've exchanged two Fang for important Nok objects. A.N.: ifyou like, let's talk a little about Nok sculpture and African archeology—an always current topic. What do you think of these objects that come to leave African soil, in an inevitably "artyicial" manner, to quickly arrive... A.: ... Clandestinely, you mean... A.N.: ... Yes, clandestinely. A.: I have an opinion about that. All of the geographic and cultural areas do not have the same problems. The conditions in which these clandestine exits occur are not all alike, nor are the intents. There's one thing about which I'm pretty clear: if there was not this interest on the part of collectors, of Western museology, of the dealers—then a large segment of the history of African art would have disappeared. Because, in the lands where one finds these objects, there hasn't been and there never will be a very deep interest for certain archeological objects, neither for their conservation and protection, nor for the exploration of these sites. From time to time they wake up. One has the impression that this matter of clandestine removals is in large measure driven by institutions and international entities, sometimes out of purely financial motives. For example, some objects, which have been unearthed in certain countries accompanied by much publicity, find themselves on the market a year later. They did not wind up in the museums of the countries in question. They ended up in the hands of ministers, or other important locals, who hurried to sell them on. As for archeology, I'll make a distinction between the object from the surface and those found in excavations. It's clear that where excavations have been carried out with care—like in Mali, for instance—there should be no competition between the official excavations and the clandestine. I am in favor of official excavations. But we found ourselves, in Nigeria, face to face with a pretty curious case, concerning the Nok, the Sekoto. Objects were found on large industrial mining-sites, and there wasn't much feeling to alert the Department of Antiquities. For around a dozen years it was preferred to just smash them up. There were cubic meters of Nok sculpture and cubic meters more of Sekoto that were crushed. It was only with the realization that they were worth money that these Nok objects were able to leave clandestinely. If not, they'd continue to be destroyed. So I feel, up to a point, that these pieces have been saved. They've made it this far and will one day wind up in a museum. The day when there will be serious institutions in these lands, we will see... But at the same time, one mustn't blindly indict these counties, only having emerged some forty years ago from long periods of colonization, for lack of management when it comes to these relics. Forty years is young! The feeling, the current climate, is against this evolution towards having serious museums. This is clear for Africa. I'm not speaking of South America, about which there could be much to say, nor about southeast Asia. But in Africa there's been a strong degree of Islamization, which more corresponds to the intrinsic character and the mode of life of these people. I am not denigrating Islam, but Islam is not for in favor of a barbaric, savage iconography. It favors the destruction of this


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New York and Vence, winter 1995 Photo: Eric Laporte




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iconography. During the Biafran War, in 1961, to take a recent example, the village of the Oron clan was taken by the Muslim Assouan, and was burned to the ground. It was one of the rare intact villages. So, you'll understand that with all these considerations, I do not think—though I could be wrong—that compensation has been made available to farmers who find something in their fields. This would be more of a curse for them. If it wasn't for the interest shown by collectors and dealers, a large percentage of the history of African art would have been destroyed by the natural elements, but more so by man. Well, I'm proud enough that some examples have been able to be saved and that we can show them; they'll finish in museums and thus be enjoyed by everyone. I strongly hope that one day they will figure in the collections of African museums. You know, all collectors, even those who are the most miserly with their objects, say: "If you have a serious museum in Africa, we'll contribute, and we'll contribute masterpieces." A.N.: I believe that you have given several objects to an African museum. A.: Yes, that was in Senegal. President Senghor wanted to create a Museum of African Arts in Dakar, not only Senegalese arts. He hoped to turn Dakar into the cultural capital of central Africa, its Athens, and thus, to show the arts of Africa from the south of the continent to the west. He had the project for the museum designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The plans were already made. I asked him, "What are you going to put in this museum?" "The collection of the I.F.A.N. (the Institut franfais de l'Afrique noire, later to become the Institutfondamental de l'Afrique noire)." " I know this collection very well. I've been through it in detail. It is not sufficient for your project. It contains some very important ethnological objects, but you don't have enough masterpieces, and a museum worthy of this name must base itself around masterpieces. The non-specialist leaves a museum and recalls only four or five objects, always the same ones. So, for your museum of African art, you have need of the Venusfrom Milo of African art, the Victoryfrom Samothrace, the Mona Lisa. You need a dozen major objects, big-guns, from the different ethnic groups, which will serve as focal points. Then you'll need some fifty or a hundred very beautiful objects to support them, and then ethnological objects of fine quality, etc. But you cannot have a museum with only the I.F.A.N. collection. You have to go further if want to make a museum of world quality." He agreed with me. We started to do the research, and he told me: "Thinking along these lines, don't you think that the Musee de la Porte doree and the Musee de l'Homme will give me some very beautiful objects?" I answered him, "They'll never give you their masterpieces. Maybe a few objects, but not the chef-d'oeuvre. Don't count on it." Then he said, "We will find them in Africa." So, I told him, "It's very difficult, because the few objects still to be found in Africa pass through a network, runners in the bush who know the dealers. Right now—at that time—there is no African expert in African art. There are ethnologists, there are anthropologists, and certainly, in Senegal, there are excellent specialists, but no experts in African art." He answered me, "But that's terrible!" Well, we took a tour of the horizon to see who could take charge of the museum project. After having mentioned various specialists and experts, we finished by


Interview. 32 - 33

agreeing on one name: Jacques Kerchache. He accepted to become the "sheriff," that's to say, to preside over the purchases and the organization of the collection, traveling two or three times a year to Senegal. Then came the problem of the budget. The museum was going to cost something like ten million dollars. A.N.: Ten million dollars. A.: It takes money to make a nice museum! We were working over the figures for obligatory purchases. Just then, Jacky said, "Me, I'll give such-and-such a masterpiece." "Me too," I responded, "I will give such-and-such a masterpiece. For this, we'll create an association for the Dakar Museum in New York and Paris, and people will contribute to it. But nonetheless, you have to buy; Senegal had to take the first step by buying a few masterpieces on the art market." We drew up a budget of around two million dollars at the time, to buy five or six major pieces. Everyone was in agreement, and the museum project passed to the Council of Ministers. The ministers—only Senghor was not Muslim—told us, "This is abominable.., you want us to spend all this money on these ignoble and barbarous objects? We accept, but only if there is also a museum for Islamic art. The project got lost in all the talk. In the end, Senghor did not stand for re-election, and the project was totally abandoned." So that's the story of my near collaboration with an African museum. A.N.: Are you especially sensitive to the materials used by African sculptors, particularly their use of wood. I've recently seen on Arte television, a program with Jacques Kerchache expounding on the Mumuye sculptors. His whole presentation attempted to explain the work of these Mumuye sculptors who, in practicing their incredible virtuosity, must have smashed an enormous number of working models before arriving at the final realization of a piece which is a cliff-d'oeuvre. Is there not, in your way of collecting, a measure of nostalgia for a certain practice of sculpture and wood carving? I know that you haven't worked in woodfor quite some time now. A.: Yes, it's been awhile. But I'm not particularly bothered. If I was going to carve directly, then I'd use stone or marble, much more than wood. It's not my temperament. But you're right, in the materials of my collection, you can see that I don't have many bronzes and practically no ivories. As for the terracotta, those are fairly recent additions. I am interested in statuary in wood—mask or statue. Certain of the objects are indeed works of virtuosity. What's the most interesting, is that this virtuosity is not apparent at first glance; it's not "lacework" like seen in Oriental virtuosity, for instance. It's virtuosity related to the grain of the wood, related to the cut. Risks are indeed taken, and one wonders if there's not a certain percentage of abortive attempts. I agree with Jacky about this. A.N.: So, my question is the following: don't you have a certain nostalgia for this way of working, and the inevitable wastage it produces? A.: No, no nostalgia for sculpting in wood. I've done some, but it's not my work. A.N.: But my question applies equally to stone, orfor another material.


A.: Yes, if you're talking about direct carving. There's always a kind of physical struggle between the direct attack upon a material and the result. And thanks to the systems I use in my work, I've been able to attain this pleasure of the direct clash. Especially in the "para-paintings" that I do with objects and brushes, because from the point of view of sculpture and statuary, aside from cutting, rewelding, remixing and remaking certain things, I have no further very direct impact on the material itself. But, in my manner of collecting, in my choice between two pieces, I don't especially favor one over the other just on grounds of virtuosity. To me, the expressivity of the piece is more important. So, perhaps certain Mumuye sculptors have more virtuosity than the Senufo sculptor who made the deble statue in my collection, but I am much more taken by the result of the deble, which is a perfect piece of sculpture. Perfect according to my canons, of course, but perfect. Vence Photo: Alain Nicolas

A.N.: And what are your canons? A.: I think they are those of a modern art education by way of classical art. I start modern art from the Quattrocento: from then on, there was no more traditional art. Traditional art is that which is embedded in social, cultural or religious principles, with obligatory objects, observing defined form and with preferential subjects followed over generations. A.N.: And youfind this in Africa? A.: Modern art? Sometimes, but not always... that often remains traditional art. That which is interesting, I find among today's young African artists, and some of them are wonderful. The transition has been made, without slavishly copying what's done in the West, without being prisoner to tradition. Certain artists have been able to undergo this transmutation and are modern artists of today. A.N.: Do you have a special eyefor contemporary African artists? A.: Of course. I watch what they're doing. A.N.: But you don't collect what they make? A.: I have. I have done so and I'm still on the lookout. In fact, right now I'd like to have a sculpture of Mustafa Dene, a quite interesting artist. I have two Ouatara and three of four other African artists. A.N.: You've bought them because they are artists, because they are African, or



because youfind something of African art in their paintings? A.: No, I don't buy these works for their folldoric side. I buy them because they are good works, the same as I'd do for a Basquiat, a Warhol or a Toni Grand. A.N.: Has it happened that you've had missed chances on the market in acquiring one piece or the other? When you've said to yourself "How could I have let that one slip by?" A.: Yes, but that really doesn't matter so much. I've had enough experience to tell myself that one day or another there will be a comparable piece on the market. But I've had quite a few misses, yes. For a time, I was so strapped that I couldn't acquire an important object without having to sell another important piece that belonged to me. That's how it is. You could make another collection from what's slipped through my fingers... A.N.: Can you give me an example of these "misses'? One of those objects that you regret not having been able to acquire. A.: Well, there have been many, but usually it was a question of means. Sometimes, I wasn't fast enough... Missed objects? The missed ones are the very beautiful objects that I've had and then let go of. A.N.: In your collection of radios, you've told me that you're only one piece away from completing it? A.: One model, yes. I don't have all the various colors, but as for the model, I'm missing only one. A.N.: What price are you willing to put onfinishing this collection of radios? lfyou were able to acquire the model you need, your collection would be complete. A.: No, because then there are all the colors for each model. A.N.: So there is no end? A.: No end, only in the number of models. In fact, this is a question of price: the person who possesses this model wants a ridiculously high price, so I won't buy it. Sometimes, something in my character just stops me. A.N.: Is there one objectfor which you'd be ready to sell your whole collection for, or a part of it? A.: No, let's be serious. The whole collection—that includes a lot of things! I have sold certain entire collections to obtain an object of African art. But, all my African art collection, my God, why? For another object of African art? No. There's not an object of African art in the world that's worth my entire collection. To my mind, at any rate. Perhaps an object from another culture. But that object is already in a museum. Why have it leave there? It's quite fine as it is. It belongs as much to me as to everyone else. No, the question doesn't arise.


34 - 35

Opposite page Reliquary figure Janus Kota, Gabon Photo: Gerard Bonnet

A.N.: Isn't there one work that awakens a strong desire in you to obtain it? A.: There are some objects I know can't have: a beautiful caryatid from the Master of Boli, I don't think will ever come my way; a sublime Fang head like that in the Metropolitan Museum, or some from the former Monzino Collection that are now in the Musee Dapper, I would always like to have. But even for a head like that, or even for a caryatid, I wouldn't give my entire collection. I would perhaps be capable of sacrificing certain pieces, but not my collection. A.N.: Yesterday I went to the Metropolitan Museum. I've gone there I don't know how many times before, but I still managed to see some piecesfor thefirst time: they bring out objectsfrom their reservesfairly often. A.: To begin with, there's the Rockefeller Collection. A.N.: Yes, there are many objects in that collection, some of them only recently put on exhibition. Still, when one goes into this large museum, one of the largest in the world, one passesfrom Persia to Medieval Europe, and one arrives at Africa and Oceania. While today in France the question again arises of allowing so-called "primitive" or "primordial" arts into the Louvre—where do you stand in this debate? A.: You have to draw a distinction. The aim of the Louvre, like that of the Metropolitan Museum, must be to show the excellence that humanity has produced. For, in its creations, humanity is one whole, with all its variety. Unfortunately, the Louvre, by virtue of its collections, by its structure, has excluded three fourths of humanity. I don't think this can be a good thing. There is a certain arrogance in the favoring of a "royal route" that leads to French art. I think that this approach is arrogant. Heaps of excuses are wheeled out. For instance, I've been told: "Yes, but there's the Musee de la Porte doree, there's the Musee Guimet..." That's not what we asked them. When I go to the Louvre, it doesn't interest me to visit a side hall with Roman heads of indifferent quality, nor to see the 50 square meters of painting turned out by the atelier of Rubens. I don't get anything out of this from an artistic point of view. The Louvre is so large in itself!... I would like them to present some chefs-d'oeuvre from other artistic traditions. And, of course, we can leave out many useless things from the Louvre, which are repetitions, redundancies. Then, they tell me that we have the Musee de Cluny for the medieval, Versailles for tapestries, etc. No. When someone comes to Paris for three or four days, if there's one museum to see, then it's the Louvre. The same way that one would visit the Metropolitan Museum in New York or the British Museum in London. People who aren't specialists don't have the time to visit all the museums. I think it's important that we abandon some of this arrogance, not to be afraid of showing some masterpieces from preColombian to African to southeast Asian. This wouldn't cost the Louvre so much; they would get many donations. We would all be only too proud to do something like that. I admit that I don't understand it, or only too well. And it bothers me. When I analyze the fundamental reason for this rejection on the part of the current team at the Louvre, I feel embarrassed. It seems to me that this fundamental reason runs in the same vein as Catholic fundamentalism. The Louvre shows only one route, the "royal route": the Mediterranean basin, Egypt included, Arabia,


Interview. 36 - 37

then the plains, the steppes, the North a bit, then Europe and France. The rest of the world doesn't exist—they're savages. And so this division, which I don't accept. I find it arrogant and racist. A.N.: Would it be indiscrete to ask you what future awaits your collection? Have you decided, or will you one day decide, to make a gft of a part of it to a French or American museum? A.: Before anything else, I want to give a structure to my collection: together with my wife I'm creating a foundation. It won't manage the complete collection, only the best pieces: maybe thirty or forty exceptional pieces. Perhaps later we might distribute them to museums, but it's clear that I'm going to give my collection a legal framework, one with a future. Because the best way of possessing something is by giving it. That way we have it for always. A.N.: But f you create a foundation, the collection will remain private... A.: It will stay private to begin with, but that's just a first step. It won't be American, for there is simply no fiscal advantage in establishing a foundation in the United States. I have many children, a family, and I have to take them into account. In France, in the eventuality that, on my death, I would be considered famous, perhaps something could be negotiated in the way of a bequest. Perhaps the African collection would go this way, so freeing the rest for my children. A.N.: What has been, and what is the role of your mfe in the story of your collection of African art? Does she herself collect. Do you encourage her to buy? A.: No, she possesses her own collection of Cycladic art, as well as Chinese antiques. She is extremely fond of African objects. She knows them a bit, but doesn't choose them. She has attachments to objects, but doesn't take part in their acquisition, nor in their "de-acquisition." She has the tendency of wanting to keep every-


thing. A.N.: Bowing to tradition: is there a question that I should still ask you? A.: It's evident that I see the differences in all the arts, from all cultures, and I love them deeply. I've collected Oceanic art, with many objects from Easter Island, which I once visited. I've had exquisite Polynesian objects. I have some knowledge of Asian art, because my thesis at the Ecole du Louvre was on the birth of the sign of Tao Tse in China. I know art history, and I'm fascinated to see just how important it is to learn all of art's facets, all these expressions that at once translate adaptation to environments, ways of life, difficulties, visions of the world, cosmogonies—and that we can hear their echoes inside us.


A rman, 1987 Cavaleria Heroica Photo: Raph Gatti

40 - 41

An Encounter by Monique Barbier-Mueller

With his international reputation, Arman certainly needs no introduction. But perhaps what is less well-known is the multiplicity of his activities, the extent and diversity of his interests. In this vein, he's put together several collections, celebrated by connoisseurs. These are as disparate as a collection of watches, of radio sets from the 1950s (in catalin, a kind of dianolite in bright colors with a marbling that one shouldn't confuse with common bakelite, as I, in my ignorance, once did!), not forgetting an incursion that pushed him towards traditional Japanese martial arts. But he's above all impassioned by African art, which he's studied to the point that he's now an expert whose erudition is universally recognized and appreciated, and whose personal collection, very carefully selected, includes a number of veritable masterpieces. Despite an extremely packed schedule, with incessant travel from one continent to another, Arman showed his great kindness in making a few hours available to me, to together choose an object from our collection to which he feels particularly attracted, and to share his thoughts on what this object inspires in him. Like for many aficionados, Arman's first encounter with African art was disappointing, the artist not finding the least interest in the mediocre objects habitually brought back by ex-colonials, or tourists, nostalgic for exoticism. The shock that he later felt when visiting an exhibition in a luxury hotel in Cannes by the great antiquary Charles Ratton—encouraged to do so by some eclectically-minded friends, like Dr. Poujol—could not have been greater. He still recalls today his discovery of Zairian sculpture, of some Fang pieces, or a very beautiful Punu mask. The impact was sufficient that, from 1959 or 1960, he began to seriously apply himself to collecting, within the limits of his means at the time. But as soon as his fame was better established, he was able to pursue fruitful exchanges, like with the Galerie Larcade, for example. The relationship that Arman has with African objects is maintained on several levels. The connoisseur in him appreciates them and analyzes them in the light of his flawless erudition, nourished by endless reading and a faultless memory (concerning this, Arman confided to me that he could envisage selling a part or even all of his collection of African art, but he would never accept being parted from his reference library, so infinitely precious is it to him). But it is as a


colleague, and as an artist faced with finding solutions to the same formal problems, that he analyzes the invention, the daring, the savoire-faire that has gone into producing an object like a particular Dan mask, shown at the M.O.M.A. in the Primitivism &Modern Art exhibition. "Its modernity," he said, "throws light on an inevitable fact: at each working moment, the artist is confronted by choices, and the creative dimension—be the artist Black or White—comes down to the decisions made."(Tr. from Arman, Memoires Accumulies, Edition Belfond). With respect to a Fang head (plate no. 32, in Art Ancestral du Gabon, Musee Barbier-Mueller), it is "the solution of figuring the eyes with tacks, as one calls these upholsterer's nails, utilized in threes," that seems of interest. "This head fascinates me first of all because it is beautiful—it is proud, just as are all beautiful things from Africa. When they are perfect, they have this attitude of pride which adds a sort of extra dimension to them. The gaze is not wholly fixed, not on a place, not on another, and provides it with a kind of double, triple field-of-vision, and I am very, very sensitive to this. There is at once an interiority and exteriority in this gaze, while usually there's either the one or the other. Truly, this is a Fang head that I like very much." M.B.M.: What is it that particularly interests you in African art? A.: Two or three things. First, it's more sculptural than the art of Oceania, perhaps more surrealistic, more imaginative. The forms are understated. There's a kind of improbable latency; one feels an energy ready to explode. If one thinks about certain Fang, it's like a chrysalis just before the butterfly emerges. There is an interiority here, a spirituality that always poses the same question, like Gauguin's painting: "Where do we come from, what are we, where are we going?". It is not at all an art which is aesthetically gratuitous, decorative. There's something going on there, and this disquiet, which is metaphysical, and found at the origin of numerous artistic approaches, I find sensibly present in African art. M.B.M.: Tell me about these solutions that the African artist invents to express his feeling? A.: There have been artists who've worked according to precise givens, within theoretical frameworks which hardly permitted anything but the faithful reproduction of archetypes, and these constraints gave rise to groups. Nonetheless, despite these constraints, one finds original and personal solutions, like, for example, the enormous eyes of a Kota reliquary in your collection (plate no. 7, in Art Ancestral du Gabon), which, to me, is fascinating. The pieces that have interested me the most, have impressed me by the rendering of the eyes. What fascinated me was that this Kota artist went beyond the canonic script, and introduced his own personal innovation. M.B.M.: It's a kind of genius, this sort of work? A.: Of course! I think that at the beginning of the century, many artists were sensitive to it, because they themselves were ready to bring these revolutionary solutions to bear upon certain artistic problems. African art and Oceanic art had been on show long before that in curiosity cabinets. But it wasn't until Impressionism and Fauvism that one was prepared to recognize these astonishing


An Encounter.

inventions. You can term it a quite a find, when, faced with forms of traditional art that had been fixed for years, for centuries, like a Crucifixion or a Woman-and-Child from the Middle Ages, or in our case a guardian of ancestral bones or a Kota protecting-figure reliquary in tribal art, an artist suddenly makes a small change. This decision makes all the difference with regard to a production that perpetuates a tradition and might be interesting, but doesn't bring us anything that we didn't already know. This decision makes itself felt as an enrichment, an addition, like a change in the volume or in the relationship between the elements. Sometimes this decision goes to create a masterpiece. M.B.M.: Put another way, when youfind yourselfface toface with a work by a good African sculptor, you are looking at a sculpture, a work, as you would do for any other artist, no matter where on this earth? A.: Absolutely! Indeed, any artist of my generation, myself included, and any other traditional artist from the past, are called upon to make such decisions. My own forms are not unchangeable, but in the end they come to set within my own stylistic canon. One is not constantly in the process of reinventing. Thus, there are a number of givens that characterize me, just like for many artists. And there, from time to time, I am obliged to take decisions, to stop with something, to start with something else, and it's in this entire creative process that I feel very close to the African sculptor, to the Oceanic sculptor—in this particular case where one is confronted with what one must do, to change or not to change, to exaggerate something. A.M.B.: I suppose that you've unsurprisingly discovered that among these so-called "primitive" artists there was the same consciousness, the same creative capacity, as felt by yourself: A.: You're right, this didn't come as a surprise. Since my youth, I've had the conviction that man is the same everywhere, strictly the same, with the same proportion, in any particular group, of people who are intelligent, stupid, generous, egotistical, good folks and bad. That's to say that, unfortunately, human groups produce around the same proportion of geniuses or imbeciles. And when I discovered masterpieces from other cultures, so-called "primitive" cultures, I was relieved to have confirmation of this notion that man is the same all over. A baby born in a certain culture but raised in another absorbs it like a sponge, and it belongs to the new culture where it grows up. Thus we all have more or less the same starting materials, whether in painting or in sculpture, the fact that—if you'll excuse the expression—"he eyes have it." This because we belong to one of those species of higher mammals that accords primacy to the sense of sight, instead of to smell as is the case with many others. With us, it's the seeing, a fixed gaze. When people get together, they don't go around sniffing each another like dogs and cats. But they look at each other, and this look carries many things, changes, nuances. I think that it's the most important of the social senses, the sense of contact between people. In certain works, whether they come from African art or the Quattrocento, or even in more recent works, this "perception" is pushed and extended. It's these works that I find particularly interesting, and to which I'm very much drawn.


42 - 43

M.B.M.: I'm thinking of those statuesfrom Oceania where the eyes are in a way sffaced, but where their gaze nonetheless persists... A.: Yes, it's just this absent stare that attracts out gaze. That exists in many art forms. One sees a sort of depression where the eyes should be, but this reconstruction is of our own making, it takes account of the form and orientation of the whole face, or even the body, to evoke a missing gaze. M.B.M.: This vague or sifaced gaze provokes us. This sort of timidity is really audacious, because it challenges you... A.: And everything that challenges us is infinitely important to us. We ask to be provoked: Astonish me!, Astonish me! M.B.M.: It's quite clear that you've long been fascinated by African art, and yet it hasn't influenced you. A.: Maybe if I'd gotten to known it at an earlier age. But in 1954-1955, I was already 26-27 years-old. I already had a vision and, what's more, I'm not a sculptor, a real sculptor. But I'd been attracted, for example, to the "fetiches a dous," because they have their accumulative side—to certain of the very charged fetishes like those of the Teke, with little ends of string. But for me, back then, this accumulative side was more of an encounter than an influence. If I had been more a "sculptor," than perhaps the influence would have been more determinative. But I'm more a mounter of objects, an "assemblagist." M.B.M.: In a way, you make collages. A.: Yes, collages in three dimensions, in two dimensions. I've always done them, and there are African works that are collages: they've interested me because of this kinship, to such an extent that when I made an accumulation of revolvers, welded together into a kind of vertical form, in 1960, I called it the "Fetiche dous"! M.B.M.: Really? A.: The revolvers were pointed in an intentional manner, to give it a menacing appearance. So, you see, between my work and African art, there's been an "encounter," not an influence. M.B.M.: The visit to your apartment in New York (with, by the way, a breathtaking view over the Hudson) gave me the chance to see that some ofyour African objects are arranged so that they constitute a conscious grouping. On entering, we're met by the collection of radiosfrom the 1950s and a large installation, quite beaugful, of green-shaded desklamps, like onesfound in newspaper offices in the U.S.A. in the 1930s,filling an entire wall. But I noticed, in the composition of the group of Kota reliquaries, a studied balance in the quality of the objects chosen, that Ifound striking. One can distinguish three 'levels" of accumulation, ff I may pat it that way: the collection itself which can expand or contract, like that of pre-war radios; then the work of art, that inscribes itself in the chro-


An Encounter. 44 - 45

New-York Photo: P.-L. Jordan

nology of your artistic creativity—with the sculpture of desklamps against the wall—and finally, a kind of re-creation with the group of Kota, whose juxtaposition serves to highlight the quality of each object, while at the same time expressing the will, your will, which led to the grouping you've assembled them into. It's impossible not to see that this involved a deliberate choice, a model of equilibrium, but also something that initiates a dialogue between the dyferent sculptures. I presume that you bought all of these objects out of love, without the idea, a priori, of constituting a collection. Everything probably accumulated a little by chance. A.: Everything becomes collection for me. M.B.M.: Yes, but concerning African art, despite your book knowledge, you didn't envisage making a collection from the start? A.: Of course, I always wanted to. I like to make groups. Even as a kid, with marbles or leadsoldiers, I would regroup objects by category—and it's a little like that I collect. I should add that with African art, I can manage without having to call on an expert, just like for Japanese art. M.B.M.: I know, you're the expert! A.: I'm very ambitious: when I do something, I aim for the top right from the start. Nevertheless, I'd rather own fifty pieces of first quality than a thousand runof-the-mill objects. M.B.M.: The common denominator, thus, of all these diverse objects is quality. At your home I was struck by the beaugful series of Kota thatforms such a well equilibrated group. Is an installation like this subject to modgication?


A.: Very good question. In fact, when the arrangement is successful, I no longer feel like changing it. M.B.M.: It's become an oeuvre—one senses the hand of the artist. And !!fyoufind a new Kota? A.: I wouldn't put it there. Concerning that group, I've created an entity that I have no desire to modify.

M.B.M.: In this group, the objects are related to each other, they speak to each other and they answer. Immediately, each of them gains in readability, each is in a way completed by its neighbor, even y- the latter is of lesser quality. A.: Let's say that there are a multiplicity of dialogues. In fact, I have two attitudes. That which determines what I call my taste for objects, and that which predisposes me to possess only a limited number, originating from many different cultures. For example, I was looking for a beautiful Cycladic sculpture and a quite handsome Fang. In choosing them for their quality, one accedes to the notion of universality, because for me the masterpiece is universal. At this level, I don't draw a distinction between cultures. But I also have the taste of accumulation, a taste for demonstration that pushes me to make groups, plethoric collections. M.B.M.: And then you also use African objects in your work as an artist. I recall that in an exhibition on the Cote d'Azur, at the Galerie Nahon, you made assemblages of Mende masks (there was even one that camefrom myfather's collection). Hadn't you also cut others into slices like with your violins? What were you getting at here? A.: It was to just to make the interior of things visible. My father used to like to take me along to expositions in Nice, in Marseille, Lyon. In those days, a manufacturer, of anything from cars to cameras, would exhibit a sectioned model or example of his product. This revelation of the insides of a car, of all technical objects that are sliced in two, fascinated me, and one day I felt like doing the same thing with objects one doesn't usually slice—like a violin or an antique statue. This enabled me to sometimes come up with some extraordinary finds with regard to form, a bit like anatomical plates. You see how it goes. I've had this liking all my life. And so, I've cut poor Makonde masks in half (I only do this with poor objects), and by revealing the interior, they became quite beautiful. M.B.M.: Did that enable you to find out something about how these masks were made? A.: Not really, even though I could notice that there was a difference of volume in the mask, thinner to the back, above the face which for it's part was thicker, with more material. These very white slices were revealing, very beautiful, in the end much more beautiful than the ugly Makonde from which they derived. M.B.M.: Was this strictly an exercise in curiosity? No hint of cunning vandalism? A.: No, and I should have done it more often. There's so much bad African and


An Encounter. 46 - 47

Oceanic art. That would soothe the eye. M.B.M.: Still, this manner of detailing these objects in thin slices like delicatessen cold-cuts is not overly respectful. A.: How can one respect things which aren't respectable! M.B.M.: That's true. A.: And then, we can show these slices on hinges, which will make these sculptures transformable. One can spread these slices out a bit. For instance, this way one could make a head up to a meter on each side: I've had a lot of fun with that! M.B.M.: You've cut up violins. Why violins? Do you play? A.: No. My father played the cello, I play a little piano. That's all. But the first violin that I cut up came from the flea market, and each slice, each level of cut rendered a slightly different vision. That fascinated me—and then afterwards, by smashing them, I intervened with another act. Just like, in 1958, I inadvertently broke a coffeepot with two cups and saucers, that later I re-glued onto a white background. That's called Teafor Two. M.B.M.: Teafor Two? A.: I think I wanted to recall the disaster. Maybe it's only on the ground that the break revealed something (I don't remember)? Or else I'd been interested by the fact that the object broke in a certain way (there's a dynamic of the break), and perhaps it was at that particular moment, in looking at the ground with curiosity, that I got the idea of freezing the disaster, gluing it. Like I remember that when I was a kid we were short of everything in France, especially in Nice where there weren't even rations, and one day I broke a bottle of milk. M.B.M.: That must have been terrible. A.: It was terrible. And that puddle of milk, those pieces of glass, fascinated me like a major catastrophe. It's remained in my memory, I wanted to prolong the image, and so I've gone on to break things. M.B.M.: So your activities reach back a very long way? A.: Always! I believe that we're the product of our experiences. M.B.M.: In a more or less conscious way. A.: Have you seen the archeological museum in Beirut? Have I told you the story of the concrete blocks? M.B.M.: Tell me about the concrete blocks.


A.: When I visited there two years ago, I was asked, "What is it that interests you?' I said, "Archeology." And as I was part of a charitable mission for the museums, I was invited one early morning, around nine o'clock, to take coffee with the director. He asked me if I'd like to see the museum rooms that I knew from before the war, and all of a sudden I found myself standing in front of three consecutive rooms large like that, and filled with volumes in concrete: cubes, rectangles. I realized that when the rectangles were layed out, they had a sarcophagus there; there, where another piece was upright, there had been a sculpture of Tyr with upraised arms. Well, I went up closer and said to myself, "This is crazy; they have a conceptual artist here who, when the sculptures were taken away, replaced them by these 'modules.' And I asked the director, "Who did this?" He answered, "Monsieur Arman, you very well know that these things are between two- and four-thousand years old, we don't know the name." So, I said to him, "But do you mean to say that they're inside there, in the concrete?" He answered in the affirmative. And then I asked him, "You poured the concrete directly on top of them?' He said yes, and so I told him, "But you can't save them this way, it's insane! Why did you do it?" The director replied to me as follows, "We just did the same as everybody else! In 1975, we started by surrounding them with bags of sand. But then the militias came with machine guns and trucks and stole our sandbags, instead of making their own. So, we patiently started again, and after fifteen days when we were about to again cover our sculptures with sandbags, another militia showed up and took the bags away. And just like that, they start to open fire. Some objects were hit, and because they were a bit damaged we started to wrap them in cloth, nylon, in all kinds of fabric. We made frameworked forms and then poured the concrete right over them." I was dumbfounded. This story of hidden treasures inspired me in the works I made this summer. Because I've always worked in concrete, I told myself that I'd make accumulations that one would no longer see, drowned in concrete. But then the idea just dangled, and I started to make drawings with faucets, with this and with that. And then I gave it up. In the particular case I told you about, the only important thing was the fact that these were treasures that were hidden, cultural treasures. M.B.M.: Indeed, that gives it another meaning. A.: One doesn't hide just anything. For this, it's not faucets that are required. If I have to hide something, then it must be a treasure. Like the arrangement that I've just concluded with the French postal service. They commissioned a work from me, and I received two cubic-meters of new stamps, representing a value of 40 million new francs, given to me on the understanding that I use them in my work and that they're not re-sold. There are plates of 100 stamps and 100 sheets of 100 stamps in a plastic pochette—a total of 10,000 stamps at 2.5 francs, or 5,000 new francs. So I made a bag representing one-million new francs, and I prepared a sort of basket in metal with a framework, into which I put the stamps


An Encounter.

suspended in concrete. Today, you no longer see anything; they're in there. This accumulation was done under a bailiff's supervision, who attested to the operation, and thus I liquidated all these stamps in the making of these volumes, like in the museum, volumes of concrete containing hidden treasures, that I used to make an exhibition. M.B.M.: To conclude this interview, I would like to briefly bring up your last major work, which is the tower—also in concrete—whose inauguration I was able to attend in Beirut. This tower is called "Espoir de Paix." It includesfifty three tanks, each a dfferent model, immobilized in concrete. Around thirty meters high, it bristles with all it's gun turrets aiming outwards, but there's something reassuring in the thought that these can never again function. It's also quite satisfying to think that the army that commissioned this monument to peace, symbolized by arms made harmless, and which, to top everything, this monument is erected in a space that is inaccessible to mere mortals, for it is in an enclosure that surrounds the Army Ministry. I would like to think of it as a symbol. I would like to think that these military men had finally decided to saclice their own weapons on the altar of peace. In any case, it was up to an artist to do it, contentious and provocative like all his colleagues, to propose this simple solution for the use of arms. That such might be universally adopted!


48 - 49


Face Mask: syenkele Bobo Burkina Faso Wood, polychrome H: 116.5 cm


Bobo / Nuno 52 - 53

Face Mask Nuna Burkina Faso Wood, fibers, bone H: 80 cm



Plank Mask: nwantantay Bwa Burkina Faso Wood, polychrome, fiber H: 235 cm


Bwa / Mossi

54 - 55

Headcrest Mask Mossi Burkina Faso Wood, polychrome H: 25 cm



Headcrest Mask: chiwara Bamana Mali Wood H: 54 cm


7 _

Cap Mask: komo Bamana Mali Wood, fibers H: 89 cm




Female Figure Bamana Mali Wood, metal H: 37.5 cm


58 - 59


Male Figure: niongom Dogon Mali Wood I-I: 130 cm


Dogon / Lobi 60 - 61

Female Figure Lobi Burkina Faso \\nod II: 9


Female Figure Kulango Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: SS cm


Kutango / Senufo

62 - 63


Female Figure: deble Sena() Cote d'Ivoire, Mali Wood H: 91 cm



Five Figures: kafigeledio Senufo Cote d'Ivoire, Mali Wood, fabric, feathers, fiber H: various


Senufo 64 - 65


Helmet Mask: kponiugo Senufo Cote d'Ivoire, Mali Wood L: 114 cm



Fieadcrest Mask Toma Liberia Wood,leather, packets of power substances H:76 cm


Tome / Baga 66 - 67


Shoulder Mask: nimba or d'mba Baga Guinea Wood H: 129 cm




Half Figure: iran Bijogo Guinea Bissau Wood, metal H: 47 cm


Bijogo / Mende


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm


68 - 69


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende

Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm


mend, 70 - 71


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 36 cm



Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 35 cm



,-." ,•••••"_,

• ,

••1•••et's".',", • •k\ ‘.•,•••1, \





i ft

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Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm 23

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 37 cm

Ts _ Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm 25

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm


72 - 73


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 45 cm 27

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende N.•

Sierra Leone

• 411r.-

1410', 0 -

Wood H: 41.5 cm


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm 29

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 45 cm


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 39 cm 31

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 39 cm


Mende 74 - 75


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm 33

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 43 cm


Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 38 cm 35

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone, Liberia Wood H: 40 cm


36 Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood, metal H: 43 cm 37 _

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 38 cm

ii Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 38 cm 39

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood, metal H: 34 cm

,) Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood, metal, bamboo, fibers H: 41 cm , 1 _

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm


,51ende I Mau

76 - 77


Hand-held Mask: koma ba Mau Cote d'Ivoire Wood, brass H: 118 cm



Face Mask Dan Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 23 cm


Dan 78-79


Face Mask Dan Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 25 cm



Face Mask Dan COte d'Ivoire Wood, fabric H: 20.5 cm


Guro Cote d'Ivoire Wood, hair H: 28 cm

Gar° / Your

48 —

Face Mask Yaure Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 29 cm


82 - 83


Face Mask Baule Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 31 cm


Rauh. 84 - 85



Seated Figure Baule Cote d'Ivoire Wood, metal H: 42.5 cm


ii Monkey Figure: gbekre Baule Cote d'Ivoire Wood, fiber H: 63 cm


Baule / Yoruba

86 - 87


Female Figure: Ose Sango Yoruba Nigeria Wood, metal H: 61 cm



Male and Female Staff Figures: Eshu/Elegba Yoruba Nigeria Wood, leather H: 38 cm



Helmet Mask: Epa/Elefon Yoruba Nigeria Wood H: 96 cm


88 - 89


Materity Figure Yoruba Nigeria Wood H: 100 cm


Yoruba 90 - 91

_ i, Bowl Figure: arugba Yoruba Nigeria Wood H: 87.5 cm, D: 40 cm



Cap Mask: gelede Yoruba Benin, Nigeria Wood, kaolin H: 25 cm


Yoruba / Urhobo


Face Mask Urhobo Nigeria Wood, kaolin, fiber H: 53 cm


92 - 93

59 _

Face Mask: Agbogho monnwu Igbo Nigeria Wood, polychrome H: 33.5 cm


igbo 94 - 95

_ E7) Face Mask: Agbogho monnwu Igbo Nigeria Wood, kaolin, skin, fiber, fabric, metal H: 32.5 cm



Face Mask ibibio Nigeria Wood, kaolin, metal H: 35 cm


63 _

Helmet Mask Anang Nigeria Wood, skin H: 38 cm


Anang / Mama

98 - 99


Fleadcrest Mask Mama Nigeria Wood H: 40 cm



Human Figure Muminc Nigeria Wood H: 133 cm


Mumuye / Alboye 100- 101


Human Figure: kpaniya Mboye Nigeria Wood H: 133 cm



Slit Drum Fragment Nlbembe Nigeria Wood II: 77 cm


Mbembe / Mombila 102 - 103


Human Figure Mambila Cameroun Wood, fibers, horn, cowrie shells, fabric H: 45 cm


69 a

Female Figure Bamileke, Western Bangwa Cameroun Wood H: 106 cm

69 b

Male Figure Bamidleke, Western Bangwa Cameroun Wood H: 101 cm


Bangwo / Bamileke 104 - 105


Headcrest Mask Bamileke Cameroun Wood, metal H: 70 cm




Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Mabea South Cameroun Wood, mirror, metal H: 43.8 cm


Fang-Mabea / Fong-Ntumu 106 - 107


Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 52 cm



Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood, metal H: 42.5 cm



108. 109


Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood, metal H: 48.5 cm



Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 42.5 cm


Fang-Ntumu 110- 111


Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 39.5 cm



Six-Headed Reliquary Figure Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 27 cm



Reliquary Head Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood, metal H: 26 cm






114- 115


Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood, copped, fiber H: 41 cm


qfPo 81

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood, metal H: 53 cm


Fang-Betsi 116 - 117


Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood H: 38 cm


83 _

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood, metal H: 42 cm


Fang-Betsi / Fang 118- 119


Reliquary Head Fang (school of the Okano Valley) Gabon Wood H: 20.5 cm


83 Reliquary Head Fang Gabon Wood, metal H: 25 cm



Face Mask: ngo ntang Fang Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 63 cm


Fong / Fang-Goola 122- 123


Face Mask Fang-Gaola Gabon Wood, polychrome, fiber, metal H: 64 cm


89 Face Mask Fang Gabon Wood, polychrome, fiber H: 73 cm (including fiber beard)



Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 25 cm


Afahongwe 126- 127

92 _

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon (Mekambo Region) Wood, copper H: 45 cm


Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 36 cm

94 _

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 28 cm


Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper, iron H: 15 cm


Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 43.5 cm



Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 50 cm


Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 37 cm


Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 33 cm

ioo Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 41 cm



Mahongwe / Kota 128 - 129


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood,copper H: 49 cm



Reliquary Janus Figure Kota Gabon /1/

Wood, copper H: 56.2 cm



II 1


/L 1,4 SSW




Kota / Southern Kota

130 - 131

_ 103

Reliquary Janus Figure Southern Kota Gabon/Congo Wood, copper H: 61.8 cm



Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon/Congo Wood, copper H: 69.3 cm


!Cosa 132- 133

los Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 46.5 cm


Reliquary Janus Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 58.5 cm


Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 48 cm


Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 46 cm


Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon/Congo Wood, copper H: 46.5 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon/Congo Wood, copper H: 37 cm



Reliquary Figure Fragment Kota-Shamaye Gabon (North of Okoudja) Wood, copper H: 24 cm 112

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 54 cm


Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 39.8 cm 114

Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 33.7 cm

115 Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 42.6 cm 116

Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 42 cm


Kota 134- 135


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 58.9 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 62 cm

119 Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 44.5 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 68.5 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 45.7 cm



Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowc) Wood, copper H: 54 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 64.2 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowc) Wood, copper H: 58 cm


Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 42.7 cm


Kota/ Tsogho 136. 137

126 b

Female Pole Figure: ebandza Tsogho Gabon Wood, polychrome, glass H: 120 cm

126 a

Male Pole Figure: ebandza Tsogho Gabon Wood, polychrome, glass H: 113 cm



Face Mask Punu Gabon Wood, kaolin H: 29.5 cm



138- 139


Face Mask Pun u Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 30.5 cm



Face Mask Punu Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 30 cm


P41 MI

I 30

Face Mask Punu/Lumbo Gabon Wood, kaolin H: 32 cm


140- 141

131 _

Face Mask Punu/Lumbo Gabon Wood, kaolin H: 45 cm


Punu/Lumbo / Tsangui/Ndjabi 142 - 143


Face Mask Tsangui/Ndjabi Gabon Wood H: 29 cm


Face Mask Tsangui/Ndjabi Gabon

Tsangui/Ndjabi / Kuyu 144 - 145

1 34

Female Figure Kuyu

Congo Wood, polychrome H: 83 cm


135 _

Male Figure: kiteki Bembe Congo Wood, power substances, fiber H: 21 cm


Bembe / Teke 146 - 147


Male Power Figure Teke Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, power substances H: 80 cm


I 37

Face Mask Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, fiber H: 40 cm (including fiber)





1 4S - I 49


Maternity Figure: pfemba Kongo-Mayombe Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, leather, metal, mirror H: 31 cm



Power Figure Kongo-Mayombe Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, copper, mirror H: 34 cm


Kongo 150- 151

_ 140

Power Figure: nkisi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, copper, mirror, power substances, glass H: 25 cm



Power Figure: nkisi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, cowries shells, fiber H: 42 cm



132 - 133


Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, etc. H: 42 cm



Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, organic material H: 46 cm


Kongo 154- 155

_ 144

Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal H: 63 cm



Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo

Wood, metal, glass, fabrics, fibers, etc. H:65 cm



156- 157


Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, fabric, fibers, glass, metal, etc. ii: 67 cm



Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo

Wood, metal, glass, fabric, metal, fibers, cowrie shells H: 72 cm



158 - 159


Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, cowrie shells, etc. H: 75 cm



Power Figure Yaka Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 27.5 cm


Yoke 160- 161


Mask: kholuka Yaka Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, fiber H:60 cm (including fibers)



Face Mask Pende Democratic Republic of Congo Wood,fiber H: 38 cm


Pende / Mbala

162- 163

_ 152

Maternity Figure Mbala Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 30 cm


_ 153 Cup

Wongo(?) Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 26.5 cm




Janus-faced Scepter Chokwe Angola Wood H: 46 cm


164 - 163

155 Stool

Chokwe Angola Wood, metal H: 23 cm


chawe 166- 167

_ 156

Face Mask: cihongo Chokwe Angola Wood H: 20 cm


I 37

Face Mask: p'wo Chokwe Angola Wood,fibers, metal H: 21 cm


Chokwe 168 - 169


Face Mask: p'wo Chokwe Angola Wood, fibers, metal H: 23 cm (without coiffure)



Face Mask Ovimbundu Angola Wood H: 21 cm


Orimbundu / Salarnpasu

170 - 171


Face Mask Salampasu Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, pigments, fiber H: 30 cm (without fibers)



Helmet Mask Kuba Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, fibers, fabric, copper, metal H: 46 cm


Kuba 172- 173


Helmet Mask Kuba-Kete Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome H: 50 cm



Power Figure Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, nails, leather H: 71 cm


so.gye 174- 175


Power Figure Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 20 cm


_ 165

Power Figure Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal H: 48 cm


Songye 176- 177


Face Mask: kifrebe Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, kaolin H: 34.5 cm



Face Mask Tetela Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, feathers, fur, fiber H: 79 cm


Teak / Lulua 178 - 179


Male Figure Lulua Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 37 cm


169 _

Headrest Luba-Shankadi Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, beads, fiber H: 16 cm


Luba-Shankadi / Luba-ilemba

I 80 - 181


Stool Fragment Luba-Hemba Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 36 cm



Male Figure Hemba-Bembe Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 83 cm


flernba-Bernbe / Hemba

182 - 183


Human Figure Hemba Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, copper H: 26.2 cm


173 _

Male Figure Basikasingo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 71 cm


Bosikosingo / Tobwo

184 - 185


Double Figure Tabwa Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 20.5 cm



Male Figure Mbole Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome H: 44 cm


Amok/ ow, 186- 187


Male Figure Owe (?) East Africa, Tanzania(?) Wood, metal H: 73.5 cm


_ 177

Face Mask Makonde(?) Tanzania Wood, teeth, fiber H: 32 cm


m.kone, 188 - 189


Helmet Mask Makondc Tanzania Wood,skin H: 26.7 cm



Headrest Zulu South Africa Wood H: 18 cm, L: 31 cm



Zulu / Sakalava 190 - 191

_ 180

Maternity Figure Sakalava Madagascar Wood H: 94 cm



Male Figure Konso-Gato Ethiopia Wood H: 176 cm


Konso-G, 192 - 193



Notes on the Objects


Anang Established to the south of the Cross River,


Anang that one finds the most theatrical

the Anang have often seen their works

Helmet Mask

staging of the masks, with the interven-

attributed to the Western lbibio. This

Anang, Nigeria

tion of a high number of persons.

situation is in large part attributable to the

Wood, skin; H: 38 cm.

colonial era, when all lbibio-speaking this

This helmet mask was made utilizing a

appellation. Living in the region oftropical

technique widespread among the peo-

forest where the oil palm and the raffia palm

ples of southern Nigeria, especially in

flourish, they have the Ibibio, the Efik, the

the region of the Cross River: namely,

Eket and the Oron as nearest neighbors. In

that of wood covered by animal skin. Of

thisforest region, secret societies producing

impressive size, it comprises a head,

masks are very widespread and, for that

covered with scarifications and lines

matter, masks ofthis stylistic appearance are

radiating from a point situated at the

quite renowned: indeed, they have been

eyebrows' juncture, extending into a

produced and copied in great quantity by

massive neck. The eyes are given by



almond-shaped clefts, the mouth by a

organization is marked, as elsewhere in this

wide horizontal opening. It was during

region, by an independence and political

the 1830s that Anang sculptors devel-

integriry maintained in theface ofpressure

oped a production of masks covered

from neighboring peoples. A council ofelders

with antelope skin, closely akin to those

assists the influential man who assumes the

found in Ejagham country. This natural-

functions of chief of the group. Road and

istic style enjoyed great popularity in the

river provided the primary routes for

colonial period, among Europeans as

commerce, and was the way by which

well as Africans. This output may be

techniques and know-how were also

seen in relation to the male society of

conveyed. In the nineteenth century, a

hunters, admission to which necessitat-

period of relative peacefollowing upon the

ed the applicant's supplying the proof of

disasters produced by the slave trade, there

his skill in killing a feared animal of the

was a noteworthy expansion ofthese societies

bush—wildcat, leopard, or buffalo.

which then experienced veritable prosperity

Such societies, extremely widespread in

up to the twentieth century when more

the Cross River region, use these skin-

extensive roads and railroads came into

covered masks during the initiation and

operation. It was in 1884 that the British

funerals of their members. The art of

government established a protectorate over

eastern Nigerian ethnic groups is in fact

the region of the Oil Rivers. Most of the

characterized by its absence of unifor-

objects todayfound in our museums were

mity In the same community, one may

collected during this period.

encounter different styles employing an


were subsumed




Helene Joubert

identical technique. It is among the



Anang / Baga.

196- 197

Baga Just like the Nalu and the Landuman, with

enjoined: a most spectacular ped-ormance

in the role of a goddess and even less so

whom they share certain cultural and lin-

between two spirits, the one male and the

in the context of a hypothetical simo soci-

guistic traits, the Baga occupy the northern

otherfemale, in theform of two immense

ety, simo merely being the Susu term for

coast of Guinea and the southern coast of

wooden serpents. This ritual is a literal

things sacred. D'mba stands for the Baga

Guinea-Bissau. The region represents a

expression of the complementarity and

woman who has given birth to many chil-

"r6firge zone" ofmarshlands, settled by var-

antagonism that characterizes the two

dren. She symbolizes fecundity and,

ious waves of population originatingfrom

halves ofthe village.

therefore, presides at feasts ofsowing and

the mountains of Rita Djalon, and this

Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye

harvest. D'mba also dances at marriages,

apparentlyfrom the nineteenth century on.

and at funerals favors the passage of the

The Baga population, thus constituted by

deceased to the realm of the ancestors

successive migratory streams, on many occa-


who protect the village and assure its

sionsfound themselves infringed upon and

Shoulder Mask: nimba or

continuity. By her elaborate coiffure and

invaded by the Fulbe, the Mandingo and,


scarifications, she also conveys the idea of

above all, the Susu, to whom they became in

Baga, Guinea

the woman proud of her ethnic member-

large measure assimilated. Subsequent

Wood; H. 129 cm.

ship, displaying with dignity the external

French colonization and the extension of

Formerly in the Jay C. Lef Collection.

signs of this identity The wearer of the d'mba sees by way ofthe opening between

Islam, came close to getting the better of what remained of Baga social cohesion.

The d'mba mask, better known by the

the two breasts, maintaining the mask in

Acculturation imparted by the Susu was the

name nimba(a Susu distortion ofthe Baga

balance by holding the two frontal sup-

source ofsome profound misunderstanding,

term), is one of the grand sculptural cre-

ports with the hands. The mask's weight

one example of which may befound, among

ations ofAfrican art. In Baga country,this

restricts the wearer to a slow dance, one

the Baga, in the supposed simo secret soci-

type of mask has not been seen in this

that nonetheless includes some acrobatic

ety. Infact, the term simo is merely the Susu

form since 1950,and all known examples

movements. The circular outgrowth of

word designating all which is sacred, name-

ofthis monumental sculpture had already

the neck serves as a point of attachment

ly their masks, cult objects, and everything

become part of Western collections by

for a hoop, this to bear the abundant

that relates to their rituals, such as initia-

that date. Today, vividly painted d'mba are

amalgam of plant fiber that goes to form

tion. Oddly enough, it is through the device

still produced in Guinea, but then in a

the masks costume. This plant material

ofthe plastic arts and musical instruments,

more secular context or even for the

reaches all the way to the ground,so total-

associated with their religious practices, that

tourist market. In former times this mask

ly preserving the anonymity of the wear-

the Baga arrived at dOning an ethnic iden-

represented the very essence of Baga dig-

er. A skirt offabric posed upon the shoul-

tity which has still eluded them politically.

nity and culture. It was the illustration of

ders, completes the figure's ensemble.

Among the rituals fully celebrating this

the concept of female fecundity, guaran-

identity, it is initiation — the indispensable

tor of that society's future and carrier of

introductory step to marriage and the adult

its cultural values. Long presented, inac-

world — that allows male and female

curately, as a fertility goddess bound to

youngsters to accede to the various stages of

the rituals of the simo male association,

knowledge. The Baga village is composed of

d'mba allows itselfto be defined less exot-

two exogamous halves, each itsey divided

ically. It has more than something of an

into several sections. At the dose ofthe ini-

abstract nature. And though its field of

tiation (each twenryfouryears) a combat is

action is certainly that of fertility, it is not



Bamana There are about 1.5 million Bamana living


called chi wara or "farming wild animal"

in southeastern Mali. They arefarmers, who

Headcrest Mask: chiwara

for his ability to work rapidly and hard

grow millet, sorghum and maize. Their com-

Bamana, Mali

for hours in the hot sun. The crest was

munities were governed by a priest rfthe land,

Wood, H. 54 cm.

worn attached to a basketry cap that

and by a political drif who is responsiblefor

Formerly in the F.H. Lem collection

could be held in place by a strap around

social order They believe in a supreme being

Formerly in the H. Rubinstein collec-

the performer's chin. A thick costume

named Ngala, as well as spiritual beings that


of hemp fibers conceals the body of the

take theform cftwins. There is a primordial

Sale of the Rubinstein collection April

dancer. Such crests are worn in

couple named Pemba (male) and Mousso

21-29 1966 at the Park Bernet

male/female couples in celebrations held

Koroni (female). The spirit Faro, who ordered

Galleries, New York, cat. No. 75.

in the fields at the beginning of the

the universe, is androgynous. The Bamana,


farming season, when the refuse and

like most African peoples, honor their ancestors

— F.H. Lem, Sculptures soudanaise, Paris

stubble from the previous years harvest

and depend on the ancestral spiritsfor their

1948, no. 24.

is burned off, and small animals and

blessings. They have also organized their lives

— D. Zahan,Antilopes du soled, arts et rites

even occasionally antelope are to be seen

into a series cfinitiation societies which pro-

agraires d'Afrique noire, 1980.

fleeing in panic ahead of the flames.

vide instruction in all aspects tyBamana


These indude n'domo, komo, nama, kono,

Among the most important of all of the

chiwara and kore. There is debate about

Bamana initiation societies is Chiwara, to

whether these comprise separate groups or

which both men and women may

Female Figure

whether they are a sequence qflevels or grades

belong. The society commemorates a

Bamana, Mali

through which the Bamana pass. It is dear

mythical being, Chi Wara, born of the

Vlbod, metal; a 37.5 cm

that each is concerned with very dfièrent prin-

union between old mother earth,

ciples that are each essential to the conduct of

Mousso Koroni, and a serpent, and so

Although much of the early literature

hfe. N'domo is concerned with circumcision

part human,part antelope, part anteater,

from the colonial period emphasizes the

and prepares boysfor their roles as adults. It

which taught the Bamana to cultivate

use of figures by the Bamana in the con-

instructs boys in the origins of humankind.

the earth. It trains men to be skillful

text of fertility ceremonies, it turns out

Komo is judicial and provides instruction in

farmers, and teaches them the funda-

that very few are ever used as such.

Bamana cosmology. It is the society cfblack-

mental relationship between sun and

Among the Bamana carved wooden

smiths. Nyama takes action against sorcery

soil that yields abundant crops.

human figures are called yin mogoniw or

and malevolent sprits. Kono teaches the dual-

This Chiwara kun is of the abstract style

"little person of wood." Some of these


as both a spirit and a body

found most commonly in Wasaluka, a

figures may be associated with deceased

Chiwara celebrates the mythical being who

southern region near the town of

family members, especially of twins.

taught the Bamana agriculture. Kore teaches

Bougouni. It is composed out of two

When a twin dies a figure calledfani-

moral instruction and the importance of

animals, the aardvark that serves as a

tokde is carved. The figure is cared for by

humankind in a world ordet It instructs

metaphor for the earth, and the ante-

the mother until the surviving twin is

about death and resurrection ofthe individu-

lope that serves as a metaphor for the

circumcised or excised. When the living

al. Kore includes eight separate levels that cor-

sun. Both, when combined with water,

twin marries another small carved figure

respond to the celestial and terrestrial de-

cause seeds to sprout and grow. The

may represent the deceased twins


antelope and the aardvark serve as mod-

spouse. Smaller figures carved at the end

els for the ideal farmer, who is also

of staffs (sohma bere) are carried by

Christopher Roy


198 - 199

young women during the period when

the performer so that he could see

the events that are associated with komo

they are healing from excision. In the

through the large open jaws. Such masks


Bamana area west of the city of

are used by the komo society of the

Bougouni a figure decorated with beads

Bamana, in southern Mali. Dominique

is carried by young boys who sing the

Zahan, a student of Marcel Griaule,

praises of the blacksmiths and the best

placed komo second in rank just above

Face Mask

farmers in the community Figures are

n'domo, the society for young boys, but

Bamana, Mali

also displayed during initiations, when

Patrick McNaughton, whose research is

Wood; H: 48 cm

the leader of the Kore, the kore duga, dis-

devoted to komo,states that the society is

plays small human figures he uses to

for blacksmiths and is thus the most

mimic sexual intercourse. If a man who

powerful and important of all of the

has not been circumcised (because he is

Bamana associations.

not Bamana) seeks entry to the Komo

The Komo is the most feared of Bamana

society, a carved figure is "circumcised"

societies, for it is concerned with the

rather than subject an adult man to such

use of supernatural power, especially to

a painful procedure. When the head of

destroy anti-social sorcerers. "The

Komo dies a figure called komotigi maani

[Bamana] cannot speak about the Komo

or "little person of the chief of Komo" is

without a feeling of awe, or even terror.

placed next to the corpse. Finally,figures

That is why he generally speaks of it in a

are used in the Jo society when per-

low voice, when he cannot be overheard

formers carry them to help them win

by his fellow villagers. The fear inspired

prizes and receive gifts. The figures are

by the komo is caused by its association

washed and rubbed with shea nut butter

with human knowledge" (Zahan 1974

to make their surfaces glisten. They are

The Bambara, p. 17). Among the other

called jonyeleni, or "little Nyele" tradi-

objects used by komo are the famous

tionally the name of a first born daugh-

boliw (sing. boll) animal, or sometime

ter. The most useful source on Bamana

human figures that are composed of

figures is the catalog A Human Ideal in

combinations of magical materials and

African Art: Bamana Figurative Sculpture, by

clay over a framework of sticks, most

Kate Ezra

commonly to represent what looks like a C.R.

headless buffalo. Many Komo masks include the tusks of bush pigs, the horns of antelope, the quills of porcupine, and


the feathers of great birds of prey in

Cap Mask: komo

accumulations that are impressive for

Bamana, Mali

their visual power.

Wood, fibers; H. 89 cm

Because komo is also the most secretive of all Bamana associations very little is

This type of large, composite, animal-

known to this day about the way the

headed mask was worn horizontally by

masks are used, or what role they play in



6 -

Bamileke The term "bamileke" is a distortion of the

wad-are, agricultural work or tasks to do

power handed down to the chiefs could

expression mba lekeo, signifying "those

with the public domain, such as the surveil-

only be maintained by them via the

below;" the phrase used by the interpreter to

lance of the royal cemetery, etc. Every two

mediation of certain symbols, of which

one ofthefirst explorers of Grassland in the

years the regeneration rites of the Ke allow

many are sculpted creations: thrones of

Cameroun when,from the heights ofMount

the group to reactivate their customs

investiture (or simple chairs), figures of

Bambouto, he indicated the villages of

through the initiation of the young. Each

ancestors (ancientfo and mafo — the lat-

Babadjou and Batcham.

mourning ceremonyfor a chid.(funerals and

ter being the queens and princesses),

This term came to serve as a generic desig-

the termination of the mourning period),

posts and sculpted architectural ele-

nationfor all the peoples ofchi4doms in the

and especially the enthronement of new

ments bearing the effigy of kings, so

east ofCameroun, a region ofvolcanic high

kings, constitute occasions that go to rein-

legitimating the dynasty or recalling

force ties among the chiffdom's citizens. It is

symbolically important episodes of tra-

Bamileke designates, above all, the people

within such contexts that the masks and

dition (wars, conquests, mastery of the

dwelling in villages ofthe southern plateau,

other ritualfigures appear, accompanied by

natural elements, etc.).

between Mbouda to the north, Foumban to

the powe011y rhythmic music of the large

This activity of "royal" sculpture,

the east, Bangwa/Fontem to the west and

sacred drums.

encompassed all those objects of kingly

plateaus,fertile and often very grassy.

Louis Perrois

Tonga to the south. Over a million people

holders, couches, a variety of recipients

are distributed among around sixy of the more important kingdoms or chiefdoms. The

domain: chairs, staffs, fly-whisks, gourd

Ancestral Couple

(plates,cups and goblets, pots for tobacco or unguents, kola containers, coffers,

"chiefdom" is, according to custom, the 69 a

etc.), pipes for smoking or ceremony. All

unit ofGrassland (Perrois 1993).

Female Figure

of this regalia is marked by signs of the

The chiefdom (guns) is a sort of small

Bamileke, Western Bangwa,

king: panther, elephant, mygale spiders,

nation-state which is grouped together over


buffalo, cowries, etc., whose construc-

a well-dffined area and organizes an

Wood; H. 106 cm.

tion recalls that seen notably in the

fundamental political, social and religious


ensemble ofpeople of diverse origins, upon


whom the sole demand is to meticulously

69 b

respect the traditions and to unreservedly

Male Figure

subscribe to the dominant symbolism (the

Bamileke, Western Bangwa,


chief(thefo), the queens, the dignitaries,


Headcrest Mask

the councils, the secret societies).

Wood; H. 101 cm.

Bamileke, Cameroun Wood, metal; H.70 cm.

Each kingdom has its traditions and genealogies ofreference, which have punctu-

In all the chiefdoms of Grassland, in the

ated the group's history since the primordial

west as in the northwest, and among the

It is astonishing to see during, for exam-

epoch of the founding "hunter-king."

Bamun,sculpture in wood is given gen-

ple, the mourning for a chief, the "com-

Supporting the fo, the dignitaries of the

erous expression both with respect to

ing out" ofthe bamileke (thejuju) by the

Council of Nine and Council of Seven, as

the quantity ofobjects produced and the

dozen,for the rule in Black Africa is that

well as the secret societies (mkem) closely

diversity of types of representation. The

such objects are exhibited rather parsi-

oversee the harmoniousfunctioning of the

anthropomorphic statuary is directly

moniously. On archival documents dat-

community. Certain secret societies are

tied to the ritual life of the kingdoms

ing from 1907 and 1915, one may

charged with the training ofyoungstersfor

and the existence of the chiefs. The

equally see impressive processions of


Bamileke / Baoule

200 - 201

Baule masks, that is to say, masked characters

accurately identify the animal: horse,

The present-day Baule represent a complex

or dancers, entirely clothed in hoods

hippopotamus or dog; elephant with

mixture ofpopulations that has arisen over

and costumes, the head surmounted by

bird's beak or buffalo with elephant's

the course ofcenturies. Texts too often oblit-

figurations in wood,generally worn hor-

trunk (Harter 1986).

erate the ancient autodrtonal substrate and

izontally and not in front of the face.

From a stylistic point of view, certain of

the Agni influence, while emphasizing the

Masks are one of the major expressions

these masks are masterpieces of aston-

Baule's assimilation to Akan groups which,

of the secret societies which, at regular

ishing creativity while others are more

during the nineteenth century, swept into

intervals, must show their power, their

stereotypical, taking into account a size-

the central region of Cote divoire. This

cohesion and the force of their symbols.

able output in response to an ever pre-

migration, often presented asfounding ele-

The masks — the majority in wood, but

sent unflagging demand.

ment ofthe Baule population, above all per-

some in beaded and embroidered fabric —


mitted groups issuingfrom Akan lineage to

are always figurative, though according

legitimize their political superiority and to

to often stylized forms. They are either

modify, though only partially so and in a

anthropomorphic (notably, masks of

manner quite limited in time and space, the

princes), zoomorphic, or sometimes

structure ofautochtonal groups which up to


then were practically leaderless. Indeed,

The portTaitive anthropomorphic masks

Baule villages remained essentially under the

are more common in the south of

presidency of an elder whose authoriry was

Grassland: face masks with pierced eyes,

that conferred by great age and experience of

they may be worn before the face.

lye. Moreover, the Baule system of thought

Other masks, be they helmet masks or

can only be understood!fonetakes account

crested styles, are made to be bran-

ofthe pre-Akan cultural complex: a number

dished above the head (the batcham, for

of rituals indicate a relationship to an

example),the dancer being dissimulated

autochtonal background that the Baule

by an open worked hood and grass

share with other neighboring ethnic


groups—Guru, Senufo, Yaure and Mwan.

The zoomorphic masks are also quite

The use of masks, cults devoted to spirits

numerous, seen as much among the

and initiations, are expressions of these

Bamileke of the plateau as in Bamum

ancient traditions. The ancestor cult, on the

country, and throughout the whole of

other hand, very significant among the

the northwest.

Akan and introduced by them, remains of

The animals represented, whose strong

secondary importance to the Baule, who are

symbolism is tied to the power of the

content to invoke or solicit theirforerunners

chief and the leaders of the secret initi-

without ever making representations of

ation societies, are bovines (buffalo,

them. It is through the materialization of

sometimes zebu), elephants (masks in

diverse spirits of the earth, water or the

wood or fabric, simple masks or articu-

supernatural world in the form offigures

lated representations), birds, monkeys,

and masks, that the Baule artists have

rams and, more rarely, panthers and

acquired their extraordinary mastery. In

crocodiles. At times it is difficult to

their care to idealize the traits of their


anthropomorphic statuettes, they have sur-

natural world: a man (blob bian) for a

called ndoma (double), are essentially

passed their ambitions and achieved works of

woman, and a woman (blob bla) for a

inspired on female models, but it is not

international renown.

man — in a way, the lover from the

rare that men are represented, as is the

beyond. By way of satisfying the

case in this example. Ideally, when the

demands of this partner, a figure serving

mask is produced, the person that it

as a receptacle of the spirit is dedicated

evokes must hold it close and perform a


to it. This sculpture will be the object of

dance. The masks oftwins also belong to

Seated Figure

very special attention, receiving offer-

this same category. The Baule consider

Baule, Cote d'Ivoire

ings, unctions, invocations, etc.

that the birth of twins is a propitious


Wood, metal; H. 42.5 cm.


event that augurs well; if they attain adult age, a mask is sculpted in their

Among the Baule, the waka sran, fig-


honor, and this only appears in their

urettes sculpted after the human form,

Face Mask

presence. Most often the two faces,

may be divided into two categories:

Baule, Cote d'Ivoire

which are of course identical, bear scar-

those which are representations of

Wood; H. 31 cm.

ifications or have coiffures that distin-

nature spirits (asie usu), and those

guish them.

embodying spirits belonging to a parallel

Among the Baule, masks are subsumed

world (blob). They are indistinguishable

under the generic term ngblo, and the

from a morphologic point of view; only

example presented here belongs to


a knowledge of the context in which

those masks of entertainment that

Monkey Figure: gbekre

they are used offers us a clue. An asie usu

appear during the course of dance

Baule, Cote d'Ivoire

can integrate into the village, that is to

events known as gban gban. These festiv-

Wood, fiber; H.63 cm.

say the world of culture, after having

ities, associated with women,in the past

chosen a human being; the person so

would take place several times per week,

designated becomes "ridden" by the

as well as at funerals of persons impor-

spirit during fits of possession, and is

tant within the framework of the gban

transformed into a diviner by grace of

gban; today, the funerary context pre-

the clairvoyant gifts that ensue from the

dominates. Contrary to ngblo ritual

special relationship that this individual

masks which are conserved in the sacred

maintains with the spirit. Generally, the

forest, the gban gban dance masks may

diviner has an effigy sculpted that har-

come into contact with women and are

bors the spirit with which he works. The

kept in a hut in the village. They are

spirits of the parallel world, for their

borne , however, exclusively by men.

part, first appear to man by the various

The dances unfold in a precise manner,

pains that they inflict to gain the per-

with the masks appearing in ascending

son's attention. A dream very often

order of importance: the animal repre-

completes the picture, and permits the

sentations first, then the human. The

targeted individual to identify the

latter are sculpted in the image of per-

harassing spirit. This is always the per-

sons admired for their beauty and their

son's double, who inhabits the super-

quality as dancers. These portrait masks,



Baule / Basikasingo.

202 - 203

Basikasingo It was Daniel Biebuyck who unraveled the


attribute their ancestors with a power of

tangled ethnic web of this region, one

Male Figure

intervention that has both a beneficial

marked by numerous migrations consequent

Basikasingo, Democratic Republic

side (good hunts, many children), and

to the upheavals brought on by raids tofur-

of Congo

an equally malevolent aspect (sickness,

nish the slave trade in the second-halfofthe

Wood; H. 71 cm.

famine). Thus, communication that is

nineteenth century. Biebuyck proposed, by

vigilant and ongoing is a necessity, and

way ofexplaining the great degree ofhomo-


this is carried out by means of divina-

geneiry seen in the statuary style of this

— Neyt, F., La Grande Statuaire hemba du


region, the presence of pre-Bembe hunting

Zake, Louvain, 1977, p. 359, nos. 13,

sub-groups settled on both sides ef the

14, 15.

Lualaba River. Indeed, they have long been taken for their Bembe neighborsfrom the

This large male figure has torso and

banks ofLake Tanganyika. The large Bernbe

arms strangely animated by a sinuous

statuary has recently been reattributed to

movement that deliberately distances

the Basikasingo. They nonetheless have the

itself from normal anatomy. His face,

bwami association in common, which they,

broad and triangular, and framed by a

too, acquiredfrom Lega neighbors.

small, finely carved beard, is divided

Open to all, the bwamiframes the society

along the median line of the long and

within a hierarchical system of ranks and

narrow nose. The eyes, apparently

subdivisions, whose objective is the attain-

closed, are marked by the eyelid line, as

ment ofsupreme wisdom. Each rank entails

among the Luba. His small oval mouth,

its own initiation ritefor which objects are

open, merges with the tip of the chin.

sculpted, also allowingfor the redistribution

The torso, very elongated and bearing

offood and goods.

nodules in relieffor breasts and navel, is

Equally, they have been influenced by the

posed upon the practically circular vol-

religious beli0 of the Lega and Bembe,

ume of the lower abdomen,from where

from whom they acquired the cult of the

the genitals discretely append. A pair of

nature spirits, so induding the aquatic

short and sturdy legs, ending in feet

world which is projected through a bifaced

forming the socle, completes the

figurette. Their panilineal and segmentary

ensemble. The arms,turned to the front

system of lineage is based on the bwami

and decorated with bracelets superim-

hierarchyfor determining social status. The

posed at the wrists, are held tight to the

chi4; whose power is balanced by that ofa

body and so give the figure a strange,

council of elders, is always descendedfrom

almost introverted, attitude. Assuming

one ofthe three dominant lineages.

the intermediary's role in the cult, celebrated by the living in homage to distinguished ancestors of the group, this figure has a cavity atop the head to receive offerings. It is housed in a special small dynastic sanctuary. The Basikasingo



Bembe Settled on the plateaus of Angola, the


worship, similarly to the case with nkisi,

Bembe are in close contact with the Teke

Male Figure: kiteki

power figures from the area of the

(Congo) and the Kongo (Democratic

Bembe, Congo

Kongo, around the mouth of the Zaire

Republic ofCongo), and thisfact has influ-

Wood, power substances, fiber; H. 21

River. This entire region lives in the

enced Bembe traditions. Nonetheless, they

omnipresent remembrance of these

have translated the same underlying con-

forerunners, whose power can protect

cepts in their own original way. Mainly con-


their descendants from the plagues that

centrated in the district ofMouyoundzi, they

— Raoul Lehuard, An bakongo — Les cen-

are mankind's continual menace.

are distributed more widely alongside

tres du style, p. 176.

Stanley-Pool and in the large cities, like Brazzaville. This region was traveled up and

A representation of a standing ancestor,

down by Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza in

coiffed with a bonnet and sporting a

1882. The Bembe would have originated

small beard, the name of this statuette is

from a region situatedfather to the north,

kiteki, or bimbi, among the Bembe.

probably in Gabon, as we are told in oral

Sculpted with the utmost care, as we see

tradition. However, their language is a

in the torso and chest covered with geo-

Kikongo dialect, which argues in favor of

metric scarifications, this figure is an

their earlier links to the Kongo Kingdom.

idealistic rendering of an ancestor. As

Numbering around 70,000 individuals,

with most Bembe statuary, this example

their social organization is based on the

too is of small size. Their work is also

kanda, the matrimonial dan whose mem-

recognized by the habit of encrusting

bers may be spread over different villages. It

the eyes with shells or fragments of

is up to the village chid- to establish com-

imported earthenware. The man pre-

munication between the worlds ofthe living

sented here is adorned with an ankle

and the dead. At the summit of their pan-

band, and carries the magical load —

theon is the god/creator Nzambi, never rep-

composed ofvarious ingredients — in his

resented in sculpture, who is master of the

back. This is consecrated by the ritual

forces oflife and death. The ancestors occu-

specialist, the nganga. The magical

py a special position, one that is reflected in

charge may contain different elements

the statuary and religious practices. The

taken directly from the deceased ances-

muziri is an anthropomorphic powerfigure,

tor. Such might include relics like hair,

composed of plant material covered in red

nail trimmings, bone fragments — all

fabric, which contains relics of the ancestor

going to complement the ancestor's

and receives, under a small purpose-built

presence through the sculpted effigy.

shelter, regular libations ofpalm wine and

This assures his ongoing participation in

food offerings.

the life of the group from beyond death, H.J.

so keeping in close contact with the world just quit. The figurette was invoked by the nganga. Offerings were given to her in the context of her cult



Bembe / Bete

204 - 205

Bete speak, and it seems that the Bete con-

ofthe region between the Bandama and the

,. _ Face Mask

Sassandra, around the cities of Gagnoa,

Bete, Cote d'Ivoire

a sign of authenticity. For that matter,

Daloa and Soubre. Like the We, the Bete

Wood, metal; H :40 cm

the performances are so highly appreci-

belong to the Kw linguistic group and are

Formerly in the C. Ratton Collection.

ated that the best troops of dancers and

culturally very dose to the Nyabwa (located

Formerly in the Vlaminck Collection.

musicians frequently tour from one vil-

to the northeast, and ofthe same Km com-

Formerly in the Tristan Tzara

lage to another, taking part in funerals

plex). They, however, have been strongly


and other specific rituals.

influenced by their Akan neighbors, to the

Sale at Loudmer, 24 Nov. 1988, P. 93,

east, and the Gum to the north. In the past,

no. 213.

Bete country corresponds to the western part

the Bete livedfrom products ofthe hunt and subsistence agriculture. Today, they have

The majority of Bete masks appear dur-

linked to the market economy and much of

ing dances that play in any particular

their effort is devoted to the cultivation of

secret society and the fact that their

cacao and coffee. Patrilinear, the Bete live —

coming out coincides with a dance event

under the ancestors' authoriry — in small

in no sense takes away from the impor-

"headless" villages that comprise many lin-

tance oftheir intervention, nor from the

eages. Control of the natural elements and

harrowing impression engendered by

the spirits is an essential preoccupation, as

their physiognomy. Even if certain of

much for concerns related to agricultural

their ritual attributions have disap-

work asfor the community's social and reli-

peared or diminished, they nonetheless

gious organization. Each ritualfocuses on

remain effective mediators between the

the maintenance and care ofgood relations

supernatural world and that of man.Just

with the world of the ancestors, so as to

as for the We and many other neighbor-

assure the protection ofthe various lineages.

ing ethnic groups, the bellicose context

The religious cults give rise to numerous

of the masks' appearances no longer

mask ped-ormances, during the course of

exists: they neither encourage nor lead

which the music assumes fundamental

men into battle; nonetheless, they are

importance. The apprenticeship of male

always catalogued as war dance masks.

youngsters particularly concentrates on the

Above all, they intervene to ritually

mastery of these arts. Infact, within a vil-

cleanse the village, detect and chase

lage context the men form into veritable

away sorcerers, or preside over funerals.

dance societies, membership in which is

From a stylistic viewpoint, considering

indispensable. Though extremely rigorous

their expressionism, the Bete examples

and complex, these intensive musical and

are quite close to those that we find with

choreographicformations do not appear at

their Nyabwa neighbors. In addition to

actual initiation ceremonies, where individ-

this similarity, it is common for wearers

uals are grouped according to age.

of war masks to acquire their training A.M.B.

with these same Nyabwa. During its interventions the mask is brought to


sider a mastery of the Nyabwa dialect as


Bijogo The Bijogo occupy a mere twenty or so

recuperative initiation, pefformed by women

the Bijogo could provide this informa-

islands in the Bissagos Archipelago.

who are possessed by the spirit of the

tion. They are of the same essence, but

Mentioned as early as thefifteenth century


less condensed than the Great Spirit that A.M.B.

in Portuguese travel accounts, they are said

delegated to them very specific activities: agriculture, initiation, divination,

to have become islanders after Fulbe and Mandingo invasionsfrom Guinea. Moreover,


funerals, fecundity, sorcery. They all

they share still other cultural characteristics

Half Figure: iran

have a name, male or female, and their

with various mainland populations who

Bijogo, Guinea Bissau

gender determines their sphere of activ-

were exposed to like demographic pressures.

Wood, metal; H. 47 cm.

ity. The female iran are associated with work in the fields, fertility, with religious

Bijogo society, whose economy relies onfishing and agriculture (mainly rice), includes a

Sale at Sotheby's New York, May 1991,

practices and death, thus paralleling

series of matrilinear dans, in theory exoga-

no. 41.

women's domains of activity in the vil-

mous, andfunctions according to an elabo-

Sale at Christie's New York, 11 Nov.

lage. This example of a truncated iran

rate system ofage-dasses. Over time, evolu-

1993, no. 1.

shows all the stylistic characteristics of this category of objects among the

tion of political institutions has brought change at the religious level in its wake.

Among the Bijogo, figures of this type

Bijogo, notably the form of the face and

Originally, a council of elders would direct

are called iran, after a Creole name for

the ringed neck that evokes neck creas-

the village's temporal affairs, while spiritual

all that is sacred. The iran conserved in

es—highly valued signs of beauty

aspects were in the hands ofa priestess. At

the sanctuary belong to the chief of the

the end ofthe nineteenth century, the influ-

clan or the king, and are confided to the

ence of mainland kingdoms—probably com-

care and keeping ofthe priestess,ocquin-

bined with pressurefrom Portuguese colo-

ca. These objects, in a diversity offorms

nizers (who wished to place their "pawns"

(abstract or anthropomorphic) accord-

and exercise some means ofcontrol)—led to

ing to their location, their importance

the enthronement ofkings. The king would

and their function, only become effec-

also have say over some religious matters,

tive once charged with sacred sub-

thus reducing the powers of the priestess.

stances. At the summit of the hierarchy

This system endures up to today: the villages

of the sanctuary's objects: the iran

are led by a chief/king, whose authoriry is

grande, abstract or figurative—there is no

lessened by the presence of party officials.

rule. He represents the Great Spirit,

And while submitting to a weighty central

owner of the Earth, direct emanation of

authority not overly sensitive to the impor-

the supreme being, Nindu. Through his

tance oftraditional institutions, Bijogo soci-

intermediary, man can enter into con-

ety continues to practice its many religious

tact with Nindu and all the mythic

rituals. Among these, male initiations,

ancestors that he encompasses, but does

which today may not exceed two months,

not represent. Then come the iran, filial

butformerly ran over several years, and the

spirits; their morphological characteris-

women's, which characteristically consist of

tics do not allow one to distinguish them

offering access to adult statusfor boys who

from their "father", iran grande. Only a

have died before being initiated. This is a

knowledge of the use made of them by



Bijogo / Bobo 206 - 207

Bobo The Bobo are a Mande speaking people

central Bobo area, north of Bobo-

Face Mask: syenkele

Dioulasso, but has spread to the south,

neighbors. to the northwest, the Bamana

Bobo, Burkina Faso

where this mask probably originated.

and Minianka. In the literature on African

Wood, polychrome, H. 116.5 cm.

Such masks appear to this day in great

related linguistically and culturally to their

art they are often called the Bobo-Fing, but

numbers on many occasions during the

they call themselves Bobo. They number

Formerly in the EH. Lem collection,

long periods of men's initiations (vele

about 130,000 and live in Burkina Faso


danga), when they beat the young initi-

and Mali. They arefarmers (seseme, sing.

Formerly in the Helena Rubinstein col-

ates as they attempt to return to the vil-

sasama), and infact to be Bobo is to be a


lage from the wilderness, and to trans-

farmez The major food crops are red

Sale of the Rubinstein collection April

mit knowledge and understanding of

sorghum, and pearl millet, which are the

21-29 1966 at Park Bernet Galleries,

Dwo from one generation to the next.

ancient crops ofthe traditional Bobofarmer,

New York, cat. no. 91,P. 78.

In the south such masks are also worn at

as well asyams, and maize. They grow cot-

Sale at Christie's 12 May 1993, no. 73.

funerals, especially of those who have

ton and peanuts as cash crops. Their largest

been killed by lightning and road acci-

communiry is Bobo-Dioulasso, the second


dents. The performance consists of a

dry ofBurkina Faso, and smaller important

— Lem,F.H.,Sculptures soudanaises, 1949,

wild leaping spinning dance in which the

communities indude Fo, and Kouka in

pl. 58.

mask may soar across the performance

Burkina and Boura in Mali. The Bobo live

— Wingert, EL, The Sculpture of Negro

area, climaxing when the performer

in compact concentrated village communities

Africa, Columbia University Press, New

plants his feet and spins the wooden

ofpuddled adobe houses. Although they tra-

York, 1948, p. 17.

ditionally lived in two stony houses, with

— Elisofon, Eliot, La Sculpture afiicaine,

"head" of the mask in such a way that it makes a 3600 rotation. These rapid and

the upperjloor reservedfor the patriarch,few

Thames and Hudson, London, 1958, pl.

athletic movements recreate the actions

such houses remain as a result of the

47, p. 51.

of Wuro when he molded the universe

destruction of many Bobo communities by

from a ball of mud.

French artillery directed by Senegalese mer-

This mask was made by the smiths ofthe

cenaries in 1914 during the Bobo uprising

Bobo to be used by farmers to represent

against conscription into the French army

Dwo,the son ofthe creator God Wuro.

Like other peoples in Burkina Faso, the

The type is called ryenkele (ryekele) and

Bobo are allergic to centralized political

was worn with a thick fiber costume

authoriry, and all decisions were made on

made of hemp and dyed with bright red,

behayofthe community by councils ofcom-

yellow or green dye. The ryenkele type

muniry elders. The Bobo creator god is

includes a round helmet with a long

Wuro, whoformed the worldfrom a ball of

trapezoidal face bisected by a thin,

mud. He Ifft behind his three sons, Kwere,

straight nose. Above the helmet projects

Soxo and Dwo, of whom Dwo is represented

a thin plank and, if the mask represents

by masks ofboth leaves and wood. The prin-

the character tu, the buffalo, it has a pair

cipalfunction of masks is in the context of

of broad curving horns. Another type is

men's initiation. In the southern Bobo area

kuma, the hornbill, with an enormous

masks also appear atfunerals.

curving beak that projects from the face. C.R.

The ryenkele type is most common in the



Bwa The Bwa people are related linguistically

and which provide their blessings over each

circles are the two sacred wells in one

and culturally to other Voltaic speakers in


town that are said never to run dry. The C.R.

Mali and Burkina Faso, including the

masks are used in initiations of age-

Dogon, Gurunsi, Mossi, Senufo and Lobi.

grades, at market day entertainment

They number over 300,000 in both

dances, at funerals, and at renewals of

Burkina Faso and Mali, and occupy a large

Plank Mask: nwantantay

the annual ritual cycle. The plank masks

area that extendsfrom the Niger River in

Bwa, Burkina Faso

appear with other types, including the

the north to the Lobi area in the south.

Wood, polychrome, fibers; H. 235 cm.

bush-pig, hyena, antelope, bush buffalo

They are referred to in the older literature on

Collected from the Hounde region

and many others, all wearing thick costumes of brightly dyed hemp fiber.

African art as the Bobo-Oule, because they resemble the Bobo culturally, but they call

This great plank mask named nwantantay

themselves Bwa or Bwaba. Like most Voltaic

is made and used by the southern Bwa

peoples they are politically decentralized,

people, south of Dedougou in Burkina

without chifft, although the French colo-

Faso. The southern Bwa are called

nialists appointed chi0 to help in indirect

nyanegay, or "scarred Bwa" because their

rule and the families of those men retain

faces and torsos are heavily scarred by

some status into the post-independence

patterns applied during initiation. These

period. Like the Bobo, the Bwa resisted

southern Bwa abandoned the use of leaf

inscription into the French army in 1914

masks to honor Dwo and adopted the

and many of their communities were

use of wooden masks from their

destroyed by artillery and machine guns.

Gurunsi neighbors sometime within the

The Bwa arefarmers who grow grain, espe-

past 150 years in response to serious

cially millet, sorghum and maize. They have

affliction, including the arrival of French

grown very large amounts ofcotton since the

colonial officers and mercenaries at the

colonial period, and the growing ofthis cash

end ofthe 19th century. The masks rep-

crop has contributed to the destruction of

resent nature spirits that family elders

their traditional patterns of cooperative

encountered in the wilderness and

farming. They have been confused with the

which watch over their families. Both

Bobo because, like the Bobo they worship

the scars on peoples faces and the pat-

Dwo, the god of the wilderness, represented

terns on the masks represent the moral

by masks of leaves. Unlike the Bobo, the

code or religious laws that the followers

Bwa are very open and receptive to change,

of these spirits must obey if they are to

and are quick to adopt and adaptforeign

receive the blessings of the spirit. The

ideas that theyfeel are useful. In the south-

great cross on the front of the mask is

ern area the Bwa have acquired the use of

identical to a cross worn on the fore-

large, spectacular wooden masks covered

head of most older Bwa in this area. The

with red, white and black geometric patterns

four rows ofzig-zag lines above the hook

from their neighbors the Gurunsi. These

represent the path of the ancestors that

masks represent the spirits of nature with

all Bwa must follow if they are to over-

which the ancestors have had encounters

come adversity The double concentric



Bwa / Chokwe

208 - 209

Chokwe The Chokwe, a matrilinear Bantu popula-

prince; aforeigner honored as hero/hunter)

able influence on the fecundity of her

tion, originally lived in the Serra de

or of deceased leaders (mwanangana).

descendants. P'wo is the idealized image

Muzamba, in central Angola. Particularly

Other sculptures evoke women, and are

of the woman,source of life. The wear-

renowned for their fine sculpture, the

sometimes kept in memory of the female

er, clothed "coquette", performs an ele-

Chokwe owe the refinement and wealth of

anonymous ancestor who also inspired the

gant dance for the assembled public.

their art to a very stable society,and a very

figure ofthe p'wo mask. Most ofthesefemale

The male cihongo mask (no. 156) repre-

sophisticated court culture. They strongly

figures recall the woman's important posi-

sents power and wealth. In fact, he is the

influenced the art of neighboring ethnic

tion: wife, mother or sister of a monarch,

male counterpart of p'wo. Both are of

groups. From thefifteenth century up to the

and pay devotion to a domestic cult. It is

noble stock. They belong to the impor-

middle of the nineteenth, the Chokwe lived

not in thefacial expression that the woman

tant group of dance masks (akishi a

in independent chiefdoms ruled by a

is evoked, but rather by the combination of

kuhangana). Each of the masks is distin-

monarch ofdivine right. Realism and atten-

scarifications and details ofthe coiffure. This

guished by its coiffure, accessories and

tion to detail characterize these sculpted

last-mentioned item appears to have most

comportment. The dancers go from vil-

representations that one finds on chairs,

often been the principal element in icono-

lage to village and are recompensed for

combs, snuffmortars, scepters and pipes. In

graphic idenrification.

the favorable influence that their perforG.V

around 1860, the Chokwe started a move of

mances bring. Women also take part in

expansion toward the north. This was cer-

the spectacle, but must keep their dis-

tainly consequent to a serious epidemic

tance. In no case may they touch the

which provokedfamine, so dispersing them

wearer; this is a sacrilege punishable by

as far afield as in the south of the


Democratic Republic of Congo and western



Zambia in search of a promised land.

Face Mask: p'wo

During this migration, they progressively

Chokwe, Angola

abandoned their traditional settled mode of

Wood, fiber, metal; H. 23 cm.(without

lye (with an economy based on agriculture



and hunting)for a semi-nomadic existence.


Face Mask: p'wo

The rich artistic production ofa prosperous

— Arts d'yyrique Noire, n° 56, 1985.

Chokwe,Angola Wood, fiber, metal (earring); H. 21 cm.

court became less elaborate, and acquired more robust and static tendencies.

Professional sculptors fabricate their

(without coiffure)

The Chokwe draw a distinction between

masks from wood, resin, or a combina-


"ancestral" spirits, and' foreign" spirits.

tion of the two materials. P'wo

— F. Neyt, Arts traditionnels et histoire du

Thefirst group watches over the well-being

("woman") or mwana p'wo ("young

Zaire, 1981, p. 223, fig. XII.2.

of their descendants, while the second

woman") comprise two of the several

engendersfear. Indeed, the 'foreign" spirits

figure-archetypes that belong to the

can exert a negative influence on the com-

large variety of masks (worn exclusively

munity. They can,for example, induce seri-

by men). She represents an ancestor

ous illness or possess an individual. Chokwe

who had died young.P'wo symbolizes the


figurative art includes a considerable series

eminent position of the woman in this

Face Mask: cihongo

ofancestorfigures. The majority,are repre-

matrilinear society, and evokes the


sentations of Tshibinda Ilunga (a Luba

female ancestor who exercises a favor-

Wood; H. 20 cm.



royal bracelet (lukano), the two-edged

female figures, with head held in the

Janus-faced Scepter

sword (mukwale), the cikungu mask,sym-

hands as a sign oflamentation. These are

Chokwe, Angola

bol of the ancestors of the mwanangana,

ancestors regretful that their descen-

Wood; H. 46 cm.

and the curved-bladed hatchet, cim-

dants are negligent in their devotion to

buya—all these are parts of the official

their cult, which must be regularly hon-

Formerly in the Morris Pinto Collection

regalia. Moreover, they also possess

ored. Indeed, in such cases of non-


scepters, a throne or a chair, and other

respect, descendants run the risk of

Sale at Sotheby's, 9 May 1977, lot no.

accoutrements such as a pipe, fly-whisk

being struck with misfortune or illness.


and double-cup. The sculpture present-

Imported since the eighteenth century,

Sale at Sotheby's, 3 July 1989, no. 182,

ed here is crowned with a Janus-form

brass was considered like gold by the

p. 105.

head that evokes two ancestral chiefs.

Chokwe, and this explains why brass


The deceased sovereigns (considered as

wire or nails often decorate objects of

African An in American Collections, survey

ancestors worthy of honor) are also

prestige, such as chairs.

1989, New York.

often represented by means of cihongo,


the male mask with characteristically

— M.L. Bastin, La sculpture tshokwe, 1982,

prominent disk-shaped chin. G.V

p. 192, no. 111. — W.M. Robbins, African Art in American


Collections, survey 1989, 1989,no.998, p.



Chokwe,Angola Wood, metal; H. 23 cm.

The Chokwe never had one,single ruler. Their leaders are the descendants of

The caryatid is a recurrent motif in

Lunda noblemen who handed down

Chokwe artistic tradition. Originally, the

their system of leadership. Until the

traditional throne of the chief or

middle of the nineteenth century, the

sovereign was a simple round stool in

Chokwe lived in independent chiefdoms

anvil shape, whose uprights were deco-

ruled by a monarch of divine right,

rated with geometric designs. In the

named lord ofthe land (mwanangana) or

nineteenth century, the Chokwe did not

supreme leaders (mwata munene). They

fabricate caryatid seats, though such was

had the say of life and death over their

frequently seen among the Luba and, in

subjects. Following matrilineal tradition,

lesser measure, with the Pende. The

upon enthronement the new sovereign,

Chokwe probably adopted this type of

protected by the spirit of his ancestors,

object during the course of northward

inherits the function and name of his

migrations, when they came into contact

maternal uncle. During the course of

with peoples who were to become their

the official ceremonies, the chiefs make

neighbors. Consequently, sculpted fig-

their appearance, surrounded by a

ures often replace the original supports

whole series of symbols indicating their

on seats of more recent manufacture.

high status vis-a-vis their subjects. The

These frequently take the form ofseated



Chokwe / Dan 210 - 211

Dan The Dan (also called Yacuba) belong to the


large domed forehead, a fine nose, a

south Mande linguistic group. For the most

Face Mask

mouth designed with precision and a

part they occupy the wooded savanna region

Dan, Cote d'Ivoire

bright patina. Examples from the

of western Cote d'Ivoire and, to a lesser

Wood; H. 25 cm.

regions bordering territory of We

degree, the east of Liberia; one alsofinds a

groups are more expressionistic, with

few Dan villages in Guinea (southeast).

All Dan masks, be they "great" or of

pronounced—sometimes disproportion-

Traditionally cultivators ofrice and manioc,

lesser importance, are sacred; they do

ate—features, monstrous appendices,

the Dan also work immense cacao and cof-

not represent spirits of the wilderness,

eyes and mouth protuberant. Example

fee plantations. Organized in exogamous,

they are these spirits. Over time, many

no. 45 could be a runner's mask from

virilocal patrilinear lineages,from a cultur-

among them have lost their original

the north, associated with amusements

al viewpoint they are dose to the We popu-

function and have been recycled into

for the young where he participates in

lations (ofthe Kru linguistic group) situat-

contexts related to entertainment,

the races: the large round eyes free the

ed inforest regions ofthe south, and against

emerging only for festivals or events

view of the wearer and might go to sup-

whom they have waged innumerable wars.

organized for tourists. Nonetheless, the

port this hypothesis with regards to its

The village is under the authority ofa chid

great masks live on, their ever more rare


and a council cfelders. Since the end ofthe

appearances being reserved for times of

nineteenth century, the secret go leopard

tension, when it is important they may

association represents the most centralized of

exercise their role of social control and


village institutions, until then without a

their faculty to reduce conflict or settle

Face Mask

very stable political structure. For the Dan,

legal wrangles. Since the end of the

Dan, Cote d'Ivoire

the village and the wilderness, opposite and

nineteenth century, it is the go master,

Wood,cloth; H. 20.5 cm.

complimentary, constitute the world within

the head of the like-named society, who


which they must evolve. In order to attain

possesses these masks (the go ge) and

Arts primitifi dans les ateliers d'artistes,

adult status, all the boys and girls of the

who guards them in a sacred hut. These

Musee de l'Homme, Paris, 1967.

same age-group undergo an initiation that

go ge masks may be old masks of lesser

Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals,

indudes, in addition to specific teaching,

importance promoted to a higher rank,

The Museum for African Art, New York,

circumcisionfor theformer and ditoridecto-

or perhaps had always assumed high


myfor the latter To underline the transi-

offices. It is practically impossible to


tional aspect of this trial, it takes place in

define the function of a go Be solely on

—Arts priminfi dans its ateliers d'artistes,

the world (beyond norms) of the bush—the

the basis of stylistic characteristics. In

Musee de l'Homme, Paris, 1967, no.

realm inhabited by spirits who, like the

the same way, one may encounter, dur-


ancestors, can play an mediating role

ing entertainment events, powerful war

—Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and

between humans and the supreme being

masks reutilized in this secular context,

Reveals, The Museum for African Art,


now that armed conflicts between vil-

New York, 1993, pl. 49, no. 67.

lages ofenemy clans or neighboring eth-

—African Arts, 1993, vol.-XXVI, no. 1.


nic groups no longer take place. At the most, one may conjecture upon the localization

of certain


Northern Dan masks have a sober style, very well-known and now classic, with a



Dogon past two decades.


The Dogon live in the spectacular clffft of

Face Mask

the Bandiagara escarpment east ofthe Niger

Dan, C8te d'Ivoire

River, 100 milesfrom the commercial ciry of

Wood; H. 23 cm.

Djenne, in eastern Mali. There are about

Male Figure: niongom


250,000 Dogon in 700 villages which are

Dogon, Mali

Fragments ofthe Sublime, New York 1980.

built ofmud brick and stone with day mor-

Wood, H. 130 cm.


tar The villages are situated on the tops or

Exhibition: African Art — Kimbell Art

— Fragments of the Sublime, New York,

at the base of the dgi, and on the talus

Museum, Texas

1980, no. 13.

slopes that line the cltffi. There is ample evi-


dence from the oral histories of both the

— African Art, Kimbell Art Museum,

Dogon and their neighbors, especially the


Mossi, that the Dogonfed to the area in

— H. Leloup, Statuaire dogon, 1994, no.

the early 1500's because ofattacks by the



Mossi. The region they now inhabit is rocky and unaccessible to Mossi cavalry, and so

Wooden figures called dege are found in

the Dogon were styefrom attack.

two important contexts in Dogon com-

The Dogon are farmers who grow millet,

munities: each lineage has a shrine

sorghum, maize and onions. The land is

(vageu) to the founding collective ances-

dyficultforfanning, and so the Dogon have

tors. The family shrine is located in the

created small rectangularfields edged with

ginna, or house of ancestors. Sacrifices

stone which are fertilized with donkey

are offered on these altars at both plant-

manure and carefully watered and tended.

ing and harvest time, and throughout

The principle religious leaders ofthe Dogon

the year by anyone who has special need

are the hogon, priests ofthe lebe cult, dedi-

of the ancestor's protection from dis-

cated to agriculture. One ofthe major cere-

ease, accident, or help conceiving chil-

monies ofthe lebe is called bulu, to renew or

dren. Binu shrines are more public than

return to lye, which is celebrated each

the vageu, and include wooden figures

spring. The ancestors are honored through

that commemorate the beings (binu) of

the binu cult, and the ancestors in turn pro-

the mythic period when humans were

vide their blessings over their living descen-

immortal. Binu shrines are built in the

dants. It is primarily in the context offuner-

courtyard of the ginna house, and con-

als and the binu cult that the masksfor

tain altars on which are placed both sim-

which the Dogon arefamous appear The

ple and more elaborate and anthropo-

Dogon are among the most heavily studied

morphic figures that represent the binu.

ofAfrican peoples, having been the subject of

or perhaps the nommos, the first beings

intensive research by Marcel Griaule, Michel

created by Amma,the creator god.

Leiris, Genevieve Calame-Griaule, Germaine

This large figure shows numerous signs

Dieterlen and many others in the 1940's to

of the offering of millet porridge in

1960's, and by Roger Bedaux, Kate Ezra,

prayer to the ancestral spirits. Its angu-

Rachel Hoffman, and many others in the

lar shoulders, arms parallel to the torso,


Dan / Dogon / Fang 212 - 213

Fang semi-circular head, and protuberant

The peoples that are called "Fang" in the

African Republic—who have become people

mouth are all characteristics of the

geographic or ethnographic literature con-

oftheforest under the various pressures ofa

Dogon carving style.

stitute a vast mosaic ofvillage communities,

social or historical order. Poorly settled

established for many centuries in a large

nomads, the Fang were "initiated" to the

zone ofAtlantic equatorial Africa comprising

forest by the Pygmies, who onefinds still

south Cameroun, continental equatorial

today,farfrom Bantu tracks and villages.

Guinea and nearly the whole north of

The Fang, also called the Pangwe, Pahouins

Gabon, on the right bank of the Ogowe

or Pamues, according to the nationality of

River. This great rain forest region is a

the travelers (German, French, Spanish)

plateau ofmiddle altitude, cut by innumer-

who proffered these names, are known as

able waters with falls and rapids rendering

Bed in Cameroun. The different peoples

navigationfor the most part impossible, and

constitute an ensemble of dans whose

with a climate rypically equatorial. The

importance is primordial in social, political

dense forest covered highlands, little

andfamilial relations, mainly owing to the



strict rules of kinship and matrimonial

nonetheless been the setting for multiple

exchanges. We count around 300 different

gradual displacements of the villages, small

nicyong (dans)among the Fang peoples. All

group by small group, over the whole course

these groups have more or less related

of the last two centuries, in a generally

dialects. Three sub-ensembles may be differ-

northeast to southwest direction, but also

entiated: the Bed (Ewondo, Bane, Eton),

accompanied by many smaller ventures into

Bulu, Ngumba and Mabea of south

all directions depending on contacts made

Cameroun; the Ntumu who occupy the cen-

and the difficulties ofthe terrain.

ter ofthe Fang area,from south Cameroun

Many explorers and other missionaries who

to the eastern part ofequatorial Guinea and

"discovered" the Fang overestimated their

to the north of Gabon; the Nzaman-Betsi

numerical importance, this due to the con-

(Mvai) and the Okak who, more to the

centration of certain villages in the rare

south, inhabit the right bank ofthe Ogowe

zones of passage, with numerous dwelling

and the southwest ofequatorial Guinea.





huts and other "barracks", the men's ritual meeting houses. On analysis it appears that the Fang peoples numbered around


800,000 individuals at the beginning of

Reliquary Figure: byeri

the twentieth century.

Fang-Betsi, Gabon

The habitat is very dispersed, in groups of

Wood; H: 45.5 cm.

dwellings that most often include members ofa single lineage, thefindamental element


ofthe patriarchalfamily.

Reliquary Figure: byeri

Infact, all Fang groups are probably people

Fang-Betsi, Gabon

ofthe savanna—the eastern regions ofmid-

Wood, copper, fiber; H. 41 cm.

Cameroun and confines of the Central



d'ancitres en Afrique, Musee de Marseille-


Reliquary Figure: byeri

Reunion des musees nationaux, 1992,

Reliquary Figure: byeri

Fang-Betsi, Gabon

p. 196-197.

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon

Wood, metal; H: 53 cm.

— Willett, Frank, L'Art africain, Thames

Wood, metal; H. 42.5 cm.

Formerly in the John Graham Collection.

and Hudson, Paris, 1990, no. 153, p.

Formerly in the Croninshield Collection.



Formerly in the Paul Rabut Collection.

— L. Perrois, La Statuairefan du Gabon,

Reliquary Figure: byeri


ORSTOM,Paris 1972, p. 81.

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon

Western Artists/African Art, Crocker Art

Wood, metal; H. 48.5 cm.

Museum, Sacramento 1995.


Cf. photo of the Fang with Rabut in,

Reliquary Figure: byeri


Primitivisme dans l'art du XXe slick, p. 616.

Fang-Mabea, South Cameroun

Reliquary Figure: byeri

Wood, mirror, metal; H. 43.8 cm.

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon


Formerly in the Schesca Kotchouko

Wood; H: 42.5 cm.

Reliquary Figure: byeri


Formerly in the Paul Guillaume

Fang-Betsi, Gabon


Collection (?).

Wood; H. 38 cm.

Byerifang, MAAOA, Marseille 1992.


Formerly in the Paul Rabut Collection.


Exhibited at Durand-Ruel in 1931-32,


— African Arts, 1978, vol. XI, no. 4.

no. 14.

— W Robbins, L'Art africain dans les collec-

— Byeri fang — Sculptures d'ancitres en

The Art of Collecting African Art, New York

tions amiricaines, Ed. Praeger, 1966, no.

Afrique, MAAOA, 1992,P. 108-109.


— L. Perrois, La Statuairefan du Gabon,



ORSTOM,Paris, 1972, P. 279.

Reliquary Figure: byeri

Reliquary Figure: byeri

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon


Wood; H. 52 cm.

Wood; H. 39.5 cm.

Reliquary Figure: byeri

Purchased during the sale of the

Formerly in the Paul Guillaume

Fang-Betsi, Gabon

Rubinstein Collection at Park-Bernet


Wood, metal; H. 42 cm.

Galleries, New York, 21-29 April 1966,


catalogue no. 210, P. 184.

African Negro Art, Museum of Modern


Purchased from at Gaston de Havenon,

Art, New York 1935.


around 1978.

The Art of Collecting African Art, New York

Arts primitifi dans les ateliers d'artistes,

Numerous exhibitions, including The Art


Musee de l'Hortune, Paris 1967.

ofCollecting African Art, New York 1988.


Byerifang, MAAOA,Marseille 1992.


— L'art vivant review, 1935.


— The Art of Collecting African Art, New

— James J. Sweeney, Actium Negro Art,

— Arts primicifi dans les ateliers d'artistes, Societe des Amis du musee de

York 1988.

WW Norton and Co., New York, March

— African Arts, Feb. 1989(vol 22, no. 2),

1935, no.57.

l'Homme, Paris 1967, no. 60, p. 59.

article by Christine Muller !Creamer.

— The Art of Collecting *icon Art, New







— L. Perrois, Byeri fang — Sculptures

York 1988.


Fang 214 - 215

The ensemble of Fang peoples practice a

jawbones, teeth and small bones. They

Styles of the Northern Fang

cult devoted to ancestor lineages, the

were the object of an "ordinary" cult

• nsumba sub-style (south Cameroun,

byeri, whose aim is to both protect them-

consisting of regular libations by way of

towards Lolodorf) with slender but

selves from the deceased and to recruit

appeasement, and to protect the living.

angular forms, with systematic utiliza-

their aid in matters of daily life. This

The byeri also serve for therapeutic ritu-

tion of metallic plaquettes (in iron or

familial cult of intimist character does

als and, above all, for the initiation of

brass) as decorative elements on the

not monopolize the Fang's religious uni-

young males during the great so festival.

face, thorax and shoulders.

verse, for it coexists with other beliefs

The figurettes were then separated from

• mabea sub-style (south Cameroun,

and rituals of a more collective charac-

the relics, to serve as ritual marionettes

towards ICribi, near the coast) of more

ter, like the ngi, the so, the ngo ntang, the

during the quasi-theatrical events when

realistic design, especially with regards

bokung, the dons, the schok, etc.

the candidates—duly drugged and pre-

to the face and upper-body (wood

It is, however, the byeri which has most

pared—have to "die" as children to then

with clear patina).

obviously given rise to the making of

be "reborn" as adult men. It is by way of

• ntumu sub-style (extreme south

remarkable wooden sculpture. The other

a hallucination that they are able to see

Cameroun, northeast of equatorial

rituals, like the ngi and the so, have pro-

their ancestors and, above all, come to

Guinea, north of Gabon) with very

duced monumental anthropomorphic

learn their new names. Through this

elongated forms, spindly limbs, a thin

representations in day, but—given the

revelation, the candidates come to know

trunk which is more or less cylindri-

difficulties involved in their transporta-

the role of the reliquary figurettes.

cal, widening at the generally well-

tion or conservation—these only remain

These secret rituals and complexes have

rounded abdomen provided with a

to us in some rare archive photographs.

gradually disappeared since the 1920s,

navel in marked relief, conveyed in a

Each lineage or lineage fragment pos-

except in equatorial Guinea where they

quite sober technique, head with an

sessed, at the beginning of the twentieth

could continue to be practiced until the

amply domed forehead surmounting a

century, one or more figurettes in wood

1960s, this owing to the particular inac-

characteristic heart-shaped face, deter-

representing the deceased ancestors in a

cessibility of these areas.

mining a wide mouth, thin and pout-

symbolic and generic manner, these

The byeri ritual statuary of the Fang may

ing, without chin. The coiffure with

being physically present at the heart of

be divided along two major stylistic

central comb,sometimes very elongat-

the patriarchal family through relics

lines, now differentiated by morpholog-

ed into a sort oflow bun at the nape of

piously conserved in boxes of beaten

ical traits and quite specific and vouched

the neck, is particularly typical.

bark. These reliquaries are sorts of por-

for settings.

Styles of the Southern Fang

traitive monuments. They were guarded

In the north, sub-styles have volumes

• betsi (nzaman) sub-style, with squat

in a dark corner of the main room,

that tend toward the elongated; in the

and rounded volumes in a massive

where one lived alongside them.

south, several others fashion volumes

overall design, with a proportionally

Sometimes, deceased members of the

which are more rounded and massive.

enormous head, short trunk and legs

lineage were buried in the same hut

The sub-styles which have been able to

(thighs and calves) in powerful muscu-

space or in that of some close relative,

be determined by ethno-morpholologic

lar relief. The patina is always very

this to prevent someone making off with

and historical analysis ofseveral hundred


any osseous remains, to be used in sor-

figurettes from a great variety of public

Betsi works have a notable variant, that

cery against family members.

and private collections, in both Western

of the Mvii, with a sizeable head hav-

The relics were essentially skull frag-

countries and in Africa itself, are the fol-

ing a coiffure in three combs,forming

ments, or sometimes complete skulls,


an ensemble where the curved sur-


faces and full volumes dominate. This

and the types of objects they produced


design stands in contrast to ntumu

within a chronological perspective,

Face Mask: ngo ntang

examples, more fine and slender,

notably when it comes to solitary heads.

Fang, Gabon

though not different in any radical way.

Given the present state of our knowl-

Wood, polychrome; H.63 cm.

• okak sub-style (equatorial Guinea),

edge, this is a most hazardous exercise.

massive with curvilinear forms, but of

The historical precedence presumed for

more naturalistic design, notably with

these heads as compared to whole !yeti


regard to the face and upper-body

figurettes, is unfounded. One has simply

Face Mask

(shoulders, chest).

noted that the majority of such heads

Fang-Gaola (region of

that are known and documented, come

Lambarene/Najole), Gabon

from the right bank of the Ogowe River,

Wood, polychrome, fiber, metal; H. 64


in its middle course, in the regions of


Six-headed Reliquary Figure

Abanga, Okano and the Gabon estuary.

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon

No head has been localized further to


Wood; H. 27 cm.

the north, that is, in south Cameroun.

Face Mask


One may suppose that at least in the

Fang, Gabon


nineteenth century, solitary heads coex-

Wood, polychrome, fiber; H. 73 cm.

Reliquary Head

isted with full-size statuettes in many

(with fiber beard)

Fang-Ntumu, Gabon

Betsi and Nzaman villages of Woleu-

Wood, metal; H. 26 cm.


The Fang have fabricated numerous

Formerly in the Charles Ratton

Certain of these heads have a very char-

masks for ritual use, but contrary to


acteristic coiffure, with a "helmet of

other peoples of the region, there

tresses" of geometric design, framing

remain but few specimens in museum


the face with a markedly domed fore-

collections. Two reasons for this scarci-

Reliquary Head

head, very precisely recalling the hair-

ty: the secret character of these objects

Fang, Gabon

pieces always worn by both men and

during the nineteenth century with their

Wood, metal; H. 25 cm.

women, made from rattan and vegetal

important connection with initiation

wadding, and decorated with cowries,

rites; and the lack of interest accorded


glass beads, and often with shirt buttons

them by travelers through the region. All

Reliquary Head

of European making (afakh or nlo o ngo).

these objects were considered to be

Fang, Gabon

The Fang heads, certain of them impor-

gross in form and satanic in significance,

Wood, copper; H. 18.5 cm.

tant masterpieces, are often particularly

and thus little worthy of attention, let

finely sculpted works, in contrast to the

alone collection.


figurettes whose subsidiary parts(hands,

Few ancient ngi masks are known, the

Reliquary Head

feet, sometimes limbs) are often left in

most having probably disappeared under

Fang (Okano Valley school), Gabon

an sketchy state, with only the upper-

Christian missionary influence in these

Wood; H. 20.5 cm.

body occupying much of the sculptor's

regions since the beginning of the twen-


tieth century. Some specimens, refer-

It is tempting for historians of African


art to place the various Fang sub-styles

ence examples, were collected by G. Tessmann between 1904 and 1907


Fang / Guro / Hemba


Guro (Lubeck Collection). Other forms have

Among the Guro, masks are general!),the

shaped points, on both sides of a medi-

lived on,gradually transformed.

property ofdignitaries or persons possessing

an part consisting of successive small

The ngo ntang masks, too, are of rather

magical powers. They only appear on rare

rectangles. The face's jaw is of triangular

ancient pedigree, with one or multiple

occasions, such as for the funeral or

form underlined by a collar of beard.

flat, circular faces, decorated with

enthronement ofa chid:

The high domed forehead is surmount-

kaolin. N,go ntang means "the young


ed by a diadem finely carved to the hair

white woman", and is associated with


certain mythic elements evoking beings

Face Mask

sculpted pyramids that are reminiscent

from the beyond.

Guro, Cote d'Ivoire

of diadem models in metal. The almond

After the 1930s, some Fang groups

Wood, hair; H. 28 cm.

eyes, sculpted in relief,join at the center

roots, continuing into a fan of small

replaced these masks with others, like

of a depression, to each side of the rect-

the ekekek (the ogre) or bikeghe (a mon-

angular bridge ofthe prismatic nose that

ster both human and gorilla), interven-

overhangs the rectangular, protruding

ing in anti-sorcery ceremonies. Other


mouth. The rounded arms are separated

masks, of more geometric form, recall

(See Luba)

from the trunk and end in fingers indi-

types attested to south of the Ogowe

cating the figure's lower abdomen. This

among the Bandzabi, such as the mvudi


position immediately draws attention to

masks, with an overhanging forehead

Male Figure

a part of the body, around the bulbous

above a prismatic nose.

Hemba-Bembe, Democratic

and tattooed navel, which evokes the

It appears that forms of masks circulat-

Republic of Congo

transmission of life through procreation.

ed to a far greater degree than did figure

Wood; H. 83 cm.

The singiti ancestor figures express equi-

forms, due to their operationally "use-

Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

librium,symmetry and refinement in an

ful" role against baleful powers—a major


infinity of models whose sculptural

preoccupation of all these peoples


beauty reveals the highest moral quali-

between the 1920s and 1960s.

—J. Kerchache, J.L. Paudrat & L.

ties. They are called upon by the chiefof

Stephan, L'An africain, Mazenod, Paris

the clan who is in charge of them, in a

1988, no. 673, p. 442.

dialogue recalling the valiant deeds of

—F. Neyt, La Grande Statuaire hemba du

the ancestor in return for his benevo-

Zaire, 1977, p. 56, 332, 333.



—Art d'Afrique noire, no. 1, 1971, p. 14.

Hemba statuary generally takes as model


the standing representation of the male

Human Figure

ancestor. This specimen illustrates a lit-

Hemba,Democratic Republic of

tle-known style, no doubt from the


northwest of the region, as related by F.

Wood, copper; H. 26.2 cm

Neyt who has made a study of Hemba styles. He characterizes them by their

This stern faced figure has a body with

very original skullcap coiffure, formed

angular shoulders, amphoral torso

by parallel rows of small diamond-

marked by scarifications radiating from


Ibibio the navel, framed by thin arms and rest-

Numbering some two million individuals,


ing on very short legs of rounded vol-

the Ibibio live in the state ofAkwa lbom, in

— Rencontre du Ciel et de la Terre, Cannes

umes which link the ensemble to objects

southwest Nigeria. To the north and east

1990, p. 21, no. 44.

of Hemba production. The head, quite

they have the Igbofor neighbors, to the east

voluminous, nonetheless possesses traits

the yk, and to the northeast the Ogoja.

Endowed with an extraordinary face, this

more attributable to the Buyu of Kivu

They traditionally cultivate yams, plantains

mask has a quite emaciated appearance,

Province, given the circular and globular

and maize, and harvests depend on protec-

nearly just skin and bone. The maxillary

aspect of the eyes, seemingly deprived of

tion accorded by the ancestors, once properly

line follows the contour of the bone and

sight. On the one hand, this is certainly

appeased via sacnfices and libations. The

seems absolutely fleshless. The extremely

related to the migrations that brought

structure of their sociery tends to give every-

hollow orbits, the depression serving as

other peoples into Buyu territory, such

one his chance: social ascent is thus based on

nose,and the rictus ofthe slightly opened

as the Lega, and on the other hand

a person's own virtues. The title ofthe chid:

mouth, are obviously indicative of the

betrays their great assimilative capacity

dom passes, injunction ofthis criterion,from

image of death. But it may be, in this

with regard to Tabwa and Luba art

one family to another. One distinguishes

case, a reference to diseases which afflict

which are of most notable influence.

among them two groups that nevertheless

the area, like leprosy or tropical ulcers,

This influence may have been two-way,

share the same cultural traits, resultant to

that disfigure the face and which the

as this original work testifies. The

frequent intermarriage: the Ibibio themselves

Ibibio have the habit of representing

straight nose, the angular jaw, the eyes

and the Anang, who speak appreciably dose

through pathological masks.

encircled by scarifications, that one fur-

dialects. Authority at thefamily level is in the

The Ibibio possess a number of impor-

ther sees at collar bone level in chevron

hands of the senior elder of the lineage.

tant masks belonging to the ekpo mask-

shape, are quite close to Buyu art, oth-

Above him is the village chid; who supervis-

ing society, an institution widely dis-

erwise called Basikasingo. Their statu-

es the proper observance ofthe laws and tra-

tributed among the cities of southeast

ary, objects of great care, exclusively

ditions. Decisions are made in common dur-

Nigeria. With the Ibibio there exist, in

represent ancestral kings. Perhaps this is

ing the councils that bring together the vil-

fact, three secret societies that use

also to be seen in the thick necklace of

lage elders. Their history is bound up with

masks comprising a face in wood, to

copper, a sought after and precious

that of the slave trade, as they were great

which is attached a costume of raffia

material, which entirely surrounds the

providers ofslaves during the eighteenth cen-

fiber that extends down to the wearer's

figure's neck—a mark of high social

tury. Embarkingfrom the Rio Real and the

waist. Ekpo means "ancestor," and


port offfic of Old Calabar, thirty thousand

through the masking institution one

The Hemba practice an ancestor cult

slaves were taken eachyear In the nineteenth

again sees the widespread concept of

which preserves the memory of their

century this commerce would make wayfor

spirits' beneficial involvement in human

great men,and maintains the seat of the

trade in palm oil.

affairs. They serve as relays between the

chief's authority that may never be called into question.

world of the living and that of the ances61

tors, whose striking deeds during their

Face Mask

earthly existence go to justify their priv-

Ibibio, Nigeria

ileged position as intermediaries. Of

Wood, kaolin, metal; H. 35 cm.

course, only called upon are the positive


ancestors who have rejoined the earth

Rencontre du Gel et de la Tare, Cannes

spirits. From their position, they oversee


the well-being of man, particularly those who are related to them by blood.


Ilemba / lbibio / Igbo.

218 - 219

Igbo Living mainly in theforested areas ofsouth-


continues to take an interest in the

west Nigeria, the Igbo number some ten

Face Mask: Agbogho monnwu

affairs of his descendants and relatives.

million individuals. They are surrounded by

Igbo, Nigeria

Their appearance at festivals and at

the Edo ofthe kingdom ofBenin to the west;

Wood, polychrome; H. 33.5 cm.

other junctures in the agricultural calen-

the peoples ofthe Cross River, the Ejagham,

Sale at Loudmer, 27 June 1991, no. 75,

dar is a manifestation of the communi-

Ibibio and Anang, to the east; and by the

p. 63.

ty's prosperity.

Ijo who live in the Niger Delta to the south. Mainlyfarmers and merchants, they also

This mask exhibits like characteristics:

hunt andfish. Their political?stem is com-

fine facial features, particularly the nose,


plex and little known. It is based on the

coiffure with crested summit,and curvi-

Face Mask: Agbogho monnwu

concept ofa dualistic world which allowsfor

linear covering scarifications over the

Igbo, Nigeria

relative disorder It curiously combines a

face's ensemble. The coiffure presented

Wood, kaolin, skin, fiber, fabric, metal;

quite developed sense ofindividualiry, with a

here is a style that one often sees repro-

H. 32.5 cm.

feelingfor the group which is equally strong.

duced,and exactly mirrors that worn by

The village is the most important social

young girls as shown in a photograph

Belonging to the same category as the

unit, and the extendedfamily, the umunna,

published by G. Basden and dating from

previous example, this finely featured

the smallest social unit. Each village has a

the 1920s (Among the Igbos of Nigeria,

face mask with crested coiffure is tradi-

large degree ofautonomy, placed under the

1921). The face's expression remains

tionally described as the head of a young

authoriry ofthe eldest lineage chid With a

something of an enigma: the mouth,

girl. It celebrates and emphasizes her

system which is both egalitarian and decen-

with corners slightly turned down,

qualities of physical and moral beauty:

tralized, the Igbo value their individual lib-

opens to a row of kaolin-treated teeth.

lightly shaded, thin lips, uli facial tattoos,

erty too highly to submit to a permanent

The ears are stylized in semi-circles; the

straight nose, high and sophisticated

chief This notwithstanding, it also bean

eyes are fashioned by simple clefts. The

coiffure. Igbo art is very representative

mentioning that the power ofthe king ofthe

surface of the hair is entirely carved in

ofa marked taste for complex forms and

Nri, the Eze Nri, indeed extends throughout

parallel lines whose dynamic plays off

complicated covering designs. The coif-

the whole of Igbo country. A relationship

that of the facial scarifications. The

fure of each mask, in fact, corresponds

has been established between them and the

whole goes to express sophistication,

to the age of the subject represented,

remainsfound by T Shaw on the celebrated

elegance and beauty, as transmitted

the status and the class of the spirit to

site of Igbo Ukwu datingfrom the ninth

through the sculptor's talent, inspiration

which it belongs.

and tenth century A.D. Contrary to the

and imagination. This mask sometimes

The costume that accompanies the mask

Yoruba, the Igbo have no pantheon ofsupe-

appears in the company of the mask of

is in black fabric decorated with bright-

rior divinities. They draw a distinction

an old man, ugly and potbellied, who

ly colored designs. Small bells, cowries

between, on the one hand, a supreme

makes advances to the young girl. In

and pearls embellish it, and at the same

god/creator, Chuku, considered as omnipo-

contrast to the elegance of the female

time bears witness to the accentuated

tent, omniscient and omnipresent, and on

mask, the old man's mask incarnates

idea of beauty and those of riches, fertil-

the other hand, the spirit ofthe earth, Ala.

male power. Essentially for amusement,

ity and creativity The wearing of the


this mask may also intervene as an

mask goes together with a dance that,

instrument of social regulation. The

with acute powers of observation, very

Igbo see this mask as the incarnation of

accurately mimics feminine comport-

a deceased group member, one who

ment: it is not rare for viewers to actual-


Idoma ly believe that they are in a woman's

Established in the center of Benue State,


presence. Very popular in Igbo country,

which is a crossroads of traditions and a

Face Mask

its incarnation by a man is also a humor-

communications junction between Nigeria's

Idoma, Nigeria

ous point that does not go lost on the

dfferent geographical regions, the Idoma

Wood; H. 27 cm.

assembled audience.

share a habitat consisting offorests and

The dance offemale spirits illustrated an

savanna, and have come under the influence

Anthropomorphic in design, this Idoma

important aesthetic intention, one that

oftheir Chamba and Tiv neighbors. Farmers

face mask is closely similar to that pro-

permitted the artists and dancers to

ofyams, like their Igbo neighbors to the

duced by the northern Igbo. The broad

communicate sentiments and ideas

south, the Idoma also grow millet and

face is symmetrically constructed along

without recourse to speech, through the

sorghum in the north oftheir territory, and

each side of the median line extending

means of repetitions, variations and

place these cultivations at the heart oftheir

from the forehead to the level of the

contrasts. The masks intervene as a

festivals. Counting around one million indi-

short, upturned nose. The hollowed

group on the occasion of the festival

viduals, it is thought that they came to the

out, almond-shaped eyes are placed

given in honor of the young girls, under

region they currently occupy somefive cen-

close to the bridge of the nose, giving it

the leadership of the mother of the spir-

turies ago, consequent to theJukun invasion

a somewhat simian appearance. The

its who dances with moderation.

in I53S. Infact, other streams have also

empty area between the tip of the nose

made their contributions: Igbo hunters who

and the mouth (open and toothed) is

seeded here during their migrations, as well

large, and serves to bear a transverse

as refugees of diverse origins who came to

scarification line. Indeed, the entire face

flee Islam or wan between the Igala and the

is marked by such lines. The temples are

Kingdom of Benin. Peoples speaking the

decorated at eye level by two carved

Idoma language have a great variery of


political ?stems, organizedfrom the level of

The Idoma sculpt masks of various

village unit to the kingdom. They would

forms which relate, be it in this world or

also have been influenced by the poweOul

in that of the beyond, to the exercise of

Jukun Kingdom to the northeast and the

justice. As in other societies, the mani-

Isola to the west. Moreover, the pretender to

festation of masked ancestors signifies

the Idoma throne receives instruction at the

their presence into the world of the liv-

court of King Igala ofIdah. If to this one

ing. The spirits' return is, thus, the key

adds the influence ofpeoplesfrom the Cross

element underlying Idoma religious

River, as seen through their ungulali crested

thought. Occupying an eminent position

masks, it becomes dear that the Idoma have

at the society's very heart, the ancestors

over the course of centuries been broadly

are special mediators of relations

receptive to outsideforms and customs, and

between the Idoma and the supernatu-

that they have appropriated these with

ral forces that surround them. They also


incarnate the memory of the Idoma


people, for their apparition serves as pretext for the public recital of their genealogies and history. It is possible that this ancestor cult tradition originat-


lab° / Idoma / Kongo.

220- 221

Kongo ed from peoples located far more to the

Present in three countries—The

their sacred powers. The cult objects

west, as has been noted by F. Neyt.

Democratic Republic of Congo,

also participate in this process of the

Angola and the Congo Republic—the

recapture, mastery and employment of magical forces. These rituals of


Kongo occupy the region at the mouth of the Zaire River. Numerous subgroups go to form the vast Kongo cul-

intervention where such sculpted

tural complex, among which the Vii,

and capable ofinterceding on human's

the Woyo and the Yombe are the best

behalf are, still practiced today, albeit

known. When the Portuguese arrived

in a less showy manner.

objects filled with supernatural forces

in the fifteenth century, the Kongo


population already constituted an


immense kingdom with a centralized

Power Figure: nkisi

system of power. Christian missionar-

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

ies began their blind proselytizing at


once, and the Kongo kings were

Wood, copper, mirror, power sub-

among the first African converts to go

stances substances, glass; H. 25 cm.

to Europe in order to receive a "civilized"




Portuguese presence, combined with

Power Figure: nkisi

internal power struggles, led to the fall

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

of the kingdom. By the eighteenth


century it had dissolved into a multi-

Wood, metal, glass, fabric, cowrie shells,

tude of small chiefdoms. Oral tradi-

fiber; H. 42 cm.

tion relates that the Kongo originated


from nine founding matrilinear clans,

—African arts, vol. 10(3:8) April 1977.

whose spiritual energ is retransmitted

The nkisi (pl. minkisi) is a spirit from the

at each investiture in the person ofthe

world of the dead. By extension, it is the

chief or the king. The ritual enthrone-

name given to the sculpted receptacles

ment of the holder of power is thus of

anticipated for use by man to gain hold

capital importance, for it transforms

of a spirit from the beyond, then

the king into a veritable receptacle for

employing it for terrestrial aims. In

the spirits ofthe ancestors. The recap-

order to face certain trials (illness, con-

turing and channeling of spiritual

flict, sterility, sorcery, etc.), the Kongo

forces is, for that matter, a constant in

take recourse in this type ofobject. Thus

Kongo thought and religious ritual.

supported by a supernatural spirit from

This mastery of the supernatural

the beyond,they attempt to resolve their

allows the religious and political

problem, or to intimidate or punish the

authorities to conduct ambiguous acts


of protection and control, their hold

Anthropomorphic minkisi such as these

being based on the fear engendered by

are the result ofcombined efforts on the







part of the sculptor and the nganga ritu-

Power Figure: nkondi

Power Figure: nkondi

al specialist, the former being responsi-

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

ble for the general form of the object,



the latter seeing to its activation and effi-

Wood, metal, etc.; H. 42 cm.

Wood, metal, glass, fabric, fiber, etc.; H. 65 cm.

cacy The sculpture only becomes nkisi once the nganga has complemented it


with the charge of power substances

Power Figure: nkondi


(bilon,go). Usually located on the belly, on

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

Power Figure: nkondi

the head or between the legs, these


Kongo, Democratic Republic of

power packets are composed of a pre-

Wood, metal, glass, fabric, cowrie shells,


cise mixture of diverse natural ingredi-

etc.; H.75 cm.

Wood,glass, fabric, metal, fiber, cowrie

ents: white clay, animal or plant frag-


shells, etc.; H. 72 cm.

ments chosen in function of the sphere

Western Arts/Africain Art, Crocker Art


of action of the nkisi. The bilongo are

Museum,Sacramento 1995.

—R. Lehuard, Arts bakongo, les centres de

contained within a resinous structure

s0e, p. 220.

that, when situated on the belly, is often


—African Arts, 1971, vol. IV, no. 2,p. 61.

sealed by a mirror. This forms part of

Power Figure: nkondi

—W.B. Robbins, African Art in American

the arsenal for detecting sorcerers via

Kongo, Demo(ratic Republic of

Collections, survey 1989, Smithsonian

the capturing of their image. The result


Institution Press, no. 954.

is an object with latent powers. To be

Wood, metal, fabric, fiber, glass, etc.; H.

activated, the potential active force

67 cm.


awaits the requests of its client as inter-


Power Figure: nkondi

preted by the nganga who, as a last

—R. Lehuard, An bakongo, les centres de

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

resort, supplies the necessary impetus

s9,1e, p. 259.


and injunctions. There are two cate-

Wood, metal; H. 63 cm.

gories of zninkisi: the benevolent ones



who work to favor wealth and fertility,

Power Figure: nkondi

Fragments ofthe Sublime, New York 1980.

and the violent ones who punish and

Kongo, Democratic Republic of


avenge. The avenger minkisi are far from


—African Arts, 1980, vol. XIII, no. 3.

being malevolent, although this notion

Wood, metal, glass, fabric, organic

—Fragments of the Sublime, New York,

continues to circulate. They only use

material; H. 46 cm.

1980, no. 4.

destructive means for positive ends.

Sale at Loudmer(Arman Collection), 18

They are charged with wiping out com-

Dec. 1972, no. 91.

The nkondi (pl. minkondi) is a particular

mitters of misdeads, which if not benev-

Sale at Christie's, 13 Oct. 1978, no.

type of nkisi. Long designated as "fetich-

olent in itself, is beneficial for the Kongo

335,p. 133. Sale at Sotheby's,20 Jan. 1982, no. 258.

es a clous," a name no doubt full of

society whose equilibrium was placed in danger.

imagery, but one whose pejorative connotation does disservice to these


anthropomorphic or zoomorphic sculp-



222 - 223

tures spiked with nails, iron blades and

no way evil powers that may be wielded

context in which it was used, or the

diverse knots—all testifying to the pacts

in order to sort out matters of petty per-

location of its collection, could permit

and promises exchanged between the

sonal vengeance. Of course, here we are

us to place this object in the one catego-

nganga and his client. The minkondi of

in rather ambiguous territory: when

ry or the other. The ndunga masks of the

large size are often associated with the

things start to get out of hand, the ngan-

Woyo are agents of social control that

chief's or king's power, and support

ga is in a prime position to become a

operate like secret police. The other

them in their role as dispensers of jus-

sorcerer. The sorcerer is nothing more

type of mask is directly related to the

tice charged with the elimination ofsor-

than an individual who, like the nganga,

work of the nganga, the mediator who is

cerers and criminals. As guardians and

masters supernatural forces, with the

in such a privileged position vis-a-vis the

protectors of the village, these objects

difference being that he does so for evil

nkisi that he is sometimes associated

belong to the category of violent or


with them. When he wears this mask,

avenging minkisi. They are also the result


the nganga literally abandons his person-

of the combined efforts of the sculptor

1 37

ality to take on that the nkisi and, there-

and the nganga ritualist, who applies

Face Mask

fore, is able to profit from its supernat-

them with their sacred charge. It is also

Kongo, Democratic Republic of

ural powers. Masks of the nganga are

the nganga who plants the nails in the


experienced as extremely terrifying

figure to seal his pact with the client. In

Wood, polychrome, fiber; H. 40 cm.

apparitions—the incarnation of a spirit

this way he also stimulates the destruc-

(with fiber beard)

coming from the world of the dead can

tive powers of the nkondi. From an aes-

hardly pass off as an innocuous

thetic point of view, the ritualist is

This example has affinities with two cat-

event—and certain examples are, more-

directly involved in the elaboration of

egories: that of the ndunga masks of the

over, covered in white, a color associat-

the object, whose appearance he contin-

Kongo Woyo,and that of the nganga rit-

ed with death. In some texts we are told

ually modifies through the addition of

ualist masks of the Yombe. Certain

that nganga who possess this type of

more and more nails. Examples con-

stylistic characteristics sometime allow

object are particularly reputed for their

served in museums and private collec-

us to easily differentiate the two types,

ability to search the world of the dead

tions thus give a snapshot of an inter-

notably the more expressionistic traits

for the souls of sick persons who are on

rupted creative process. When a con-

seen with the ndunga and, on the other

the brink of death. This well corre-

tract has been concluded and the matter

hand, the realism and great finesse

sponds to the same paradox evoked for

resolved, it may occur that a nail is with-

found in the features of nganga masks.

the nkondi, where a very powerful and

drawn, a sign that judgement has been

Here we are in the presence of an object

potentially dangerous supernatural force

delivered. The minkondi with accumula-

that has something of the nature of both

is put to use for aims beneficial to

tions of nails correspond to another

these tendencies: the bichromy, the cir-


process: here, the object's efficacy is

cular incisions on the forehead, and the

highlighted, with the accumulation of

coiffure recall certain ndunga character-

nails offering proof of the great number

istics, while the treatment of the eyes,

of cases handled. For long interpreted as

the nose, and the general feeling of inte-

malific figures, the minkondi are in fact

rior tension that emanates from the

objects used to positive ends by those

ensemble refer more to the examples of

skilled persons who track down the evil,

masks held by the ritual specialists. Only

flush it out and eliminate it. They are in

more precise information regarding the




Konso Information concerning this people is very

According to oral tradition, an entire com-

Nzambe and a terrestrial Nzambe, reflects

scarce. They were made note ofat the end of

plex of related peoples—speaking Mbede or

thefusion oftwo religious universes and two

the nineteenth century by Dr. Schweinfirrth.

Mbete, and today occupying the region of

cultures. The god of heaven being "the

In his article "In the Heart ofAfrica,"some

the Sangho toward present-day Central

ancient god ofa hunting people living under

illustrations show a cemetery surrounded by

African Republic and in the north of the

a patriarchal system and comingfrom the

large sculptures in painted wood, accompa-

Democratic Republic of Congo—began pro-

east, in all likelihood with a Hamitic com-

nied by bones of animals killed by the

gressive migrations to the south beginning

ponent." The god of earth would be "the


in the eighteenth century. Many such waves

god—or the goddess—fertiliry ofan agrarian

The Konso live in Ethiopia, dose to the

made their way to the valleys ofa vast zone

people; ofmatriarchal law, a people encoun-

Kenyan border. They are farmers and

bordering Congo and Gabon, toward the

tered by the ancestors during the course of

hunters. Their villages arefortified.

upper Ogowe and the Zanaga region. These

their migrations." It is true that today one

peoples, designated by the term Kota,from

again finds the two types of organization,

the name of one of the groups (the Kota-

patriarchal in the north, matriarchal in the


Kota or, from the area near the Ivindo),


Male Figure


Konso-Gato, Ethiopia

Bawoumbou, on the one hand, and the

Wood; H. 176 cm.

Mahongwe, Shake, Shamaye, on the other,

Alain Nicolas


Obamba, Mindassa


Funerary sculptures, carved in a very

demographic importance.

101 Reliquary Figure

hard wood, were made during the life-

In times gone by, the Kota did not bury

Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

time of an individual. Certain sculptures

their dead, but "exposed" them in the dis-

Wood,copper; H.49 cm.

represent masculine figures, arms along-

tance of theforest. Only the chiffi of lin-

Sale of the H. Rubinstein Collection,

side the body, with heads topped by tra-

eages were interred. Gradually, contact was

21-29 April 1966 at Park-Bernet

ditional crested coiffures. It would

entered into with other peoples (the Fang?)

Galleries, New York, catalogue no 203.

appear that certain women who had

and the custom of burying important per-


killed a man were also represented by

sons, then "treating" their remains, was

—F. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 140, no. 2.

such sculptures.

begun. It is worth noting that, until rela-

Objects for the open-air, the rare

tively recently, persons dying in special cir-


Konso-Gato sculptures that


cumstances—accident, suicide, execution for

reached public or private collections are

crimes or sorcery, etc.—would not have been

Reliquary Figure Southern Kota, Gabon/Congo

quite furrowed and grooved, but one

allowed a normal burial. Kota rituals allied

Wood,copper; H. 69.3 cm.

can distinguish the facial features, with

to ancestor cults aimed to honor illustrious


the pupils underlined in red and the ears

deceased members of the lineage, but also

—Werner Gillon, Collecting African Art,

figured by two circles.

would carjully keep them out ofthe reach of


other villagers.

—F. Chaffin, L'art kota, p. 204, no. 104.

as well as some other small groups oflesser


E. Andersson has shown, in a very erudite analysis ofKota religious beliffi, that::for


the Kota, the concept of'good' has its basis

Reliquary Janus Figure

in thefusion oftwo rather dissimilar notions

Southern Kota, Gabon/Congo

of the divine." The belij in a celestial

Wood, copper; H.61.8 cm.


Konso / Kota.




Reliquary Janus Figure

Reliquary Figure Fragment

Reliquary Figure

Kota, Gabon

224 - 225



Wood,copper; H. 56.2 cm.

Gabon (north of Okoudja)

Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Sale of the De Mire Collection, Dec.

Wood,copper; H. 24 cm.

Wood, copper; H. 42 cm.

1931, Paris.

Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache



窶認. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 98, no. 21.

Reliquary Figure



Southern Kota, Gabon

Reliquary Figure

Reliquary Figure

Wood, copper; H. 46.5 cm.

Kota, Gabon

Kota, Gabon(Upper Ogowe)

Wood,copper; H. 54 cm.

Wood, copper; H. 58.9 cm.



Sale at Loudmer and Poulain, Paris, 14

Reliquary Janus Figure

June 1979, lot 166.


Southern Kota, Gabon

Sale at Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1989.

Reliquary Figure

Wood,copper; H. 58.5 cm.

Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Sale of the H. Rubinstein Collection,


21-29 April 1966 at Park-Bernet

Reliquary Figure

Galleries, New York, catalogue nツー 200.



Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Reliquary Figure

Wood, copper; H. 39.8 cm.

Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)


Wood, copper; H. 62 cm.

Reliquary Figure

Wood, copper; H. 44.5 cm.

Southern Kota, Gabon


Wood, copper; H. 48 cm.

Reliquary Figure



Reliquary Figure


Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Reliquary Figure

Wood,copper; H. 33.7 cm.

Wood, copper; H. 68.5 cm.



Reliquary Figure

Reliquary Figure



Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Reliquary Figure

Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

Wood, copper; H. 45.7 cm.

Southern Kota, Gabon

Wood, copper; H. 42.6 cm.

Wood,copper; H. 46.5 cm.

Sale at Sotheby's, New York, 15 April


1988, no. 115.

Reliquary Figure

Southern Kota, Gabon/Congo Wood, copper; H. 46 cm.


Kota, Gabon

Reliquary Figure

Wood,copper; H. 54 cm.

Kota, Gabon/Congo Wood,copper; H. 37 cm.



embellish the museums of Berlin and

morphic stylization, the blossoming of

Reliquary Figure

Paris(Musee de l'Homme).

sub-styles and "schools" in villages. Our

Kota, Gabon

Kota sculpture reflects "a decorative

inquiry inevitably leads once again to the

Wood,copper; If. 64.2 cm.

sense and a freedom of expression gen-

matter of the actual degree of freedom

erally unsuspected in African art" (Bolz

possessed by artists and artisans within


1966). In fact, the entire ensemble of

the supposedly constraining context of


Kota production—from the Mahongwe

representations for ritual aims in the

—L Perrois, Arts du Gabon, Arts d'iyrique

in the north to the Bawoumbou in the

arts of Africa.

noire, Arnouville, 1979, no. 221 a and b,

south—is a representation in two dimen-

The glistening panorama of Kota forms,

p. 216.

sions, most often flat, made to be seen

all very elaborated, most certainly

—W.M. Robbins & N.I. Nooter, African

straight on.

reflects a centuries-old tradition which

Art in American Collections, Smithsonian

The reliquary figures decorated the reli-

has been able to survive and even pros-

Institution Press, Washington, 1989,

quary baskets of the ancestor cult; they

per under the influence of diverse cul-

nos. 913-914.

were sometimes used as ritual mari-

tural contacts during the migratory age.

—F. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 306, no. 189.







The variety of their forms is astonishing for such a limited territory. Kota figures 124

represent an extremely stylized human

Reliquary Figure

body, reduced to shoulders and "arms,"

Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)

in emptied lozenge shape, surmounted

Wood, copper; H. 58 cm.

by an enormous face framed by an ample coiffure with hanging tresses. The


face, always oval, may be either concave,

Reliquary Figure

convex or often concavo-convex, with a

Kota, Gabon

forehead in quarter-sphere.

Wood, copper; H. 42.7 cm.

At the interior ofthe general design, one

Sale at Loudmer and Poulain (Druot),8

may spot a significant series of variants

June 1978, no 320, under the heading

whose formal criteria, silhouette, deco-

"Collection Pinto."

rative motifs and construction (brass


plaquettes) are constant features

—E Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 224, no. 125.

(Perrois 1985). For I. Bolz, the famous transverse cres-

The first Kota reliquaries brought to

cent coiffure of the Kota might be a

Europe were discovered by explorers in

transformed reproduction of animal

the second-halfofthe nineteenth centu-

horns (probably antelope), comparable

ry: Oscar Lenz and Pierre Savorgnan de

to similar motifs seen notably on masks

Brazza crossed the middle and high val-

of the Kwele and Fang.

leys of the Ogowe with their teams

Kota art raises many questions related to

between 1877 and 1885, and collected

the exact meaning of the figures and

several exceptional specimens which still

motifs, the extreme degree of anthropo-



Kota / Kota-Mahongtve 226 - 227

Kota-Mahongwe The Mahongwe constitute the northern



branch of the Kota peoples. Numbering

These rehquaryfigures were exhibited during

Le m'boueti des Mahongoul, Jacques

between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals,

the course of public dances associated with

Kerchache 1967.

distributed over several groups in two can-

the initiation ceremonies and rituals involv-


tons near Mekambo and the region border-

ing magical therapy. All such objects disap-

— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des

ing Congo-Brazzaville up to Kelle, they

pearedfiom the villages between 1940 and

Mahongoui, 1967, p. 63.

have long remained apart owing to their

1960. Confiscated by missionaries or

obstinate resistance to the penetration of

destroyed by prophets of new syncretic reli-


French administration.

gions (the "Mademoiselle" cult,for exam-

Reliquary Figure

The Mahongwe practice an ancestor cult

ple), others were sometimes merely hidden in


(bwete) that was at the center ofa system of

ancient cemeteries, deep in theforest, where,

Wood,copper; H. 36 cm.

beliefs and rites. Fea01 of the deceased,

accidendy, some are still been recovered.

above all the phantoms that wander thefor-


est (menkuku), but also the living-dead


Reliquary Figure

(elolongo)—beings who have been rejected by


Mahongwe, Gabon

the world of the dead—the Mahongwe

Reliquary Figure

Wood,copper; H. 28 cm.

showed particular devotion to relics of


important ancestors ofthe lineage, guaran-

Wood, copper; H. 25 cm.


torsfor the protection and survival of the

Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

Reliquary Figure



Mahongwe, Gabon

These relics, augmented by some "charms"

Dated: late 19th/early 20th century.

Wood,copper, iron; H. 15 cm.

and other power substances, were kept in


Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

woven rattan baskets upon which were

Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, Jacques


arranged reliquary figures in wood plated

Kerchache 1967.


with thin brass strips, plates or wire. Copper


Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, Jacques

originally camefrom the mines of Niari,

— J. Kerchache, J.L. Paudrat & L.

Kerchache 1967.

and later from recycling. Even some old

Stephan, L'Art africain, Mazenod, Paris


ancestor skulls were themselves covered with

1988, no. 591, p. 427.

— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des

brass plates as well.

— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des

Mahongoue, 1967, p. 36-37, specimen

The sub-sryle of the Mahongwe,formerly

Mahongoue, 1967, p. 67, no. 22.


exhibited as Ossyeba, was not properly iden-

— F. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 92, no. 15.

— F. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 88, no. 12.

tified until 1966, afierfield research in east

— Arts d'Afrique noire, nos. 5 and 20.

Gabon. The Libreville Museum conserves the first boho-na-bwete discovered in situ close

96 92

Reliquary Figure

to Mekambo: these are the reference exam-

Reliquary Figure


ples which have allowed us to more accu-

Mahongwe, Gabon (Mekambo

Wood, copper; H. 43.5 cm.

rately characterize Mahongwe art and, more


particularly, to be able to discern two types

Wood, copper; H. 45 cm.

of related objects, the large bwete (the

Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

founders ofthe lineage) and the small (their



Kuba 97

Situated in the province of West Kasai, the


Reliquary Figure

Kuba have created a kingdom centered

Helmet Mask

Mahongwe, Gabon

around the royal tribe, the Bashi Bushong,

Kuba, Democratic Republic of

Wood, copper; H. SO cm.

established in the capital of Mushenge.


Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

Kuba legend describes the world at the dawn

Wood, polychrome, fiber, fabric, cop-


of time as a space covered by waters. The

per, metal; H. 46 cm.

Sale at Sotheby's, London, 30 March

indisposed demiurge belchedforth the sun



and the stars, followed by human beings

J. Kerchache, J.L. Paudrat & L. Stephan,


and the animals once the waters had evap-

L'Art africain, Mazenod, Paris, 1988, no.

Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, Jacques

orated. Blacks and whites then definitively

743, p. 456.

Kerchache 1967.

separated. The Bushong dan dominated


that of the Kubafollowing a migration to

The design of this mask's face is more or

— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des

the east. The last king of thisfirst dynasry

less shield-shaped, surmounted by a

Mahongoue, 1967, p. 26,specimen 23.

died without direct issue in the sixteenth

curvilinear motif of a pair of coiled

— F. Chaffm, L'Art kota, p. 87, no. 10.

century. A son ofa royal slave then seized his

horns. The very large eyes with multiple

chance and overthrew the reigning king

eyelids show no openings, nor orbits, as


whose tenure was unpopular It is with this

is generally the case for Kuba masks.

Reliquary Figure

second dynasty that the Kuba Kingdom

They come together at the base of the

Mahongwe, Gabon

extended its reputation and established

nose, with its broad, flat nostrils, and a

Wood, copper; H. 37 cm.

structures which permitted the blossoming of

volume that exceeds that of the small,

a particularly refined court art which,

bean-shaped mouth. Large zones of tri-


beyond the person ofthe king, attests to the

angular scarifications painted in black

Reliquary Figure

wealth and prosperity of the nation as a

and white invade the forehead and tem-


whole. The Kuba kings are monarchs dis-

ples, standing out from the background

Wood,copper; H. 33 cm.

tinguished by their practice of the metal-

red, most likely attained from tukula


smith's art. The fourteenth king, Kot a

powder. The lower portion of the face

Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, Jacques

Mweeky II, received the visit of a Black

ends in a point, and has several holes

Kerchache 1967.

American missionary, Sheppard, in 1892,

allowing for the attachment of a cos-


while earlier sovereigns had always mfirsed

tume in fiber or fabric. This type of

— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des

contact with the whites who had infiltrated

mask originates from a border area

Mahongoue, 1967.

the continent's interior In 1902, King Kot

between the Bushong, another name for

a Pg, with whom the Hungarian ethnolo-

the Southern Kuba, and the Northern

100 Reliquary Figure

gist Emil Tordayformed afriendship, had to

Kete of Kasai Province. The example

come to terms with the European presence.

here is perhaps the mask called inuba,

Mahongwe, Gabon


Wood,copper; H. 41 cm.

which intervenes for initiations as well as during funerary rites for village chiefs and dignitaries. It is preceded by a mask of lesser importance in the form of a warrior, who serves to announce his arrival. When he appears, the women


Kota-Mahongnt /Kuba / Kulango

228 - 229

Kulango run off home in haste. The mask is the

face's smooth surface. The eyes are

Speaking a language ofthe Guro linguistic

sign of the presence of the ancestors,

globe-shaped and marked by a trans-

group, the Kulango occupy a region in the

who will attempt to pit themselves

verse slit, the very high placed ears are

northwest Cote d'Ivoire that borders

against him during the long and bitter

figured by an inverse spiral, the nose is

Burkina Faso (to the north) and Ghana (to

palavers. Thus, the mask's mission is to

straight, broad, marked by two nostrils

the east). The vast expanse ofthis territory,

negotiate the protection of the village,

in semi-circle at the base, and the pro-

which includes the three established com-

shielding it from the aggressive acts of

truding oval mouth is highlighted with

mercial centers of Kong, Bouna and


kaolin. The long parallel oblique lines

Bondoukou, explains the dialectic variations

cover the cheeks between the lower bor-

of the language. The Kulango, culturally

der of the eye and a frieze seeded with

very close to the Lohron ethnic group (cele-


points at the base of the face, that

brated for their metalsmith's guilds, often

Helmet Mask

mounts to the level of the lower nose.

commissioned by the Kulango), are matri-

Kuba-Kete, Democratic Republic

The sculptor's work is entirely animated

linear. They live in villages where family

of Congo

by this play of colors which character-

property is set according to lineage lines.

Wood, polychrome; H. SO cm.

izes, albeit with other means (the addi-

The elders direct community life, based


tion of various precious materials such

around the agricultural calendar. In the

The Art ofCollecting African An, Center for

as multicolored pearls, cowries, fabric,

past,from the seventeenth century until the

African Art, New York 1988.

fur, etc.), the art of royal Kuba masks.

Mandingo invasions organized by Samory


This mask, however, does not belong to

(1896), a Kulango king, installed at

— J. Kerchache, L'Art africain, no. 744, p.

the category ofroyal masks: it signals the

Bouna, ruled the kingdomfor better orfor


opening of important rituals that aim to

worse through the mediation of princely

— Arts d'Afrique noire, no. 67, Autumn

honor and appease the ancestors, in

families. His power was primarily felt in

1988, p. 35.

expectation of their reincarnation.


— The Art of Collecting African Art, Center

Bouna, a booming center ofcommerce domH.J.

for African Art, New York 1988.

inated by Diula merchants. Following the conquest ofSamory, the monarchy was significant!),diminished, rebounding in afinal

This helmet mask has some affinities

gasp as a tool of French colonial adminis-

with the Kuba mask: it is a model with

tration. Large migrations of Akan (seven-

an anthropomorphic face coiffed with a

teenth century) and Lobi (nineteenth cen-

pair of horns that indicate, here too,

tury), comingfrom the east and north, also

provenance to a level superior to that of

destabilized Kulango cultural uniry. At pre-

man. The Biombo, close neighbors of

sent, the Kulango share numerous institu-

the Kuba, living in the Kasai around the

tions and characteristics with ethnic groups

mouth of the Lulua River, possess hel-

which, in search of arable ground, have

met masks very comparable to the

gradually come to settle in the region.

example here, but are quite rare


nonetheless. Relatively tall, it is distinguished by a form that widens slightly toward the base, and has a balanced composition of features in relief on the


Kuyu Ii

The Kuyu live in the Congo, on the banks

(tetep) played an important role in collective

Female Figure

ofthe like-named river Two clans comprised

to the extent that the social dynamic

Kulango, Cote d'Ivoire


Wood; H. 55 cm.

of the snake. Chiefs were named under the

Kwele religious belijs were structured by the

control ofa secret male sociery, ottote.

ensemble ofbeete rites, adopted during cul-

that of the panther and that


Unfortunately, we possess but scant

was based on lineage rivalry.

tural contacts with the Kota, Mahongwe or Nepryes peoples. One may consider that the

information on this type of object. Kulango statuary is rare, and often pre-


bwete rites of the Mahongwe and those of

sented as derived from and strongly

Female Figure

the Kwele are related: the same importance

influenced by Lobi art. Only characteri-

Kuyu, Congo

accorded to the relics ofdeceased dignitaries

zations of the stylistic order allow such a

Wood, polychrome; H. 83 cm.

of the lineage; the same type ofdance with

hypothesis to be advanced, as informa-

spears or throwing-knives (osele); the same

tion pertaining to the context of its use

intervention of masks symbolizing the rap-

is wanting. The object here, nonethe-

port with nature (gorilla masks); the same

less, may have originated from the south


importance given to ceremonies and initiations related to the circumcision ofyoung

of Kulango country, an area of contact


with the Baule and the Senufo, and thus

The Kwele, whose true name is Beknyel,

being also influenced by the artistic tra-

occupy a greatforest region on the borders of

ditions of these two peoples. The gener-

Gabon, Cameroun and Congo, principally

al attitude of the figure is reminiscent of

in the Dja and Ivindo valleys.


Baule representations of spirits (asie usu)

According to oral tradition, the Kwele orig-

Face Mask: gon

or spouses from the beyond (blob bla).

inate from a region more to the north,

Kwele, Gabon

Tatuder, who was a colonial administra-

beyond the sources ofthe Ivindo. Their dis-

Wood; H. 37 cm.

tor, very briefly makes mention of this

persion into three now distinct groups, is

Sale at Loudmer, 27 June 1991, no. 25,

statuary, and relates it to the Kulango

said to be consequent to the so-called

p. 20.

divinities (spirits). It evokes, moreover,

"Poupou" war in the nineteenth century,

the existence ofcoupled representations

during the course of which the Nzem them-

The Kwele are said to have "borrowed"

(male/female), something which also

selves, disrupted by the migration of Fang

the masks that we know of from neigh-

suggests a point in common with Baule

groups, would have pushed the Kwele to

boring peoples they encountered in the

spirit figures. From a stylistic point of

both the northwest and the south—into

confines of present day Gabon during

view, this female figurette well corre-

regions traversed only by Pygmies.

their migrations in the eighteenth and

sponds to some known Kulango exam-

These village communities comprised a

nineteenth centuries. These masks

ples: eyes in the form of coffee beans,

number oflineages and were governed in the

intervene during particular sequences of

long neck, and waffled scarifications fig-

usual wayfor "headless" equatorial soci-

the bate rites and circumcision cere-

ured on hips or neck.

eties, that is in a dthruse and more or less

monies. One may divide them into two

informal manner. Ofcourse, certainfamilies

main groups: anthropomorphic masks

could, through various strategies, exercise

with antelope horns (kuk), which at the

power over the others: the warriors (gen),

same time symbolize "the spirits of the

the religious dignitaries and traditional

forest" and "the beete intitiates"(compa-

healers (gaa), the judges or "mediators"

rable to the pangwe and bulu masks, as




Kulongo / Kuyu / Kwele / Lobi


230 - 231


also with so antelope horns, allied to the

The Lobi are a largefarming people who

ngi cult and collected in the nearby

live in southwestern Burkina Faso, northern

Tcs Female Figure

regions of the Kwele in South

Cote d'Ivoire and northwestern Ghana.

Lobi, Burkina Faso

Cameroun by Zenker between 1901 and

Their current population can be estimated

Wood, H.93 cm.

1903— in the collection of the Berlin

to be about 300,000. Their land is well

Formerly in the Rasmussen collection

Museum); second, there are zoomor-

watered and sparselyforested, with enough

phic masks portraying the head of a

seasonal rainfall to grow grain such as

Lobi communities are formed around

gorilla, gon, whose terrifying counte-

sorghum, millet and maize, and root crops

nature spirits called thil (pl. wathil). If

nance corresponds to the violent role

such asyams. The agricultural season corre-

honored these thil provide their bless-

that he played as representation of the

sponds to the rainy season from April

ings in the form of abundant rainfall,

battles for power between the different

though October Lobi men clear the fields

good health, and numerous children, or


and break up the soilfor planting. Sowing

if ignored can withdraw their blessings

One will note that the Kota and

and harvest are done by the women. Men

leading to devastating disease, drought

Mahongwe also have emboli masks evok-

carve wooden objects,forge iron, and cast

and suffering. The spirits provide,

ing the gorilla's might, but the sculptural

brass, while women are famous for their

through the diviner (thildar) the rules

design is more stylized. Among the

beautifiil pottery. In the past the Lobi did

that its followers must obey to receive its

Kwele near Mekambo, in the Djaddie

not weave textiles. The Lobi are well-known

blessings, and these religious laws pro-

Valley, a mask known as pazoku or mwesa

for their total lack of centralized political

vide the social glue of the community

is a stylistic combination of gon and

authority. They have no system ofchi0 or

These spirits are represented by figures

emboli masks. It plays a determinant role

other rulers whatsoever The community is

made of wood or brass called boteba. The

in the pursuit of sorcerers and the neu-

formed around a spirit or thil, rather than a

boteba may be large or small, naturalistic

tralization of evil powers of the wilder-

political leader. These thil communicate reli-

or abstract, and assume a number of dis-


gious laws (zoser) to the community

tinctive poses, which reflect the particu-

through diviners (thildar), and these laws

lar power or skill the spirit uses to pro-

govern the community. Veryfew Lobi have

tect its owners. A figure such as this one,

converted to either Christianity or Islam.

standing frontal and symmetrical may be

Lobi architecture is spectacular They live in

a boteba phuwe or ordinary person. Its

large houses ofpuddled mud or adobe (not

function may be to provide for the fer-

mud brick), in which each course ofabout 1

tility of the owners wives and livestock

meter in height is completed around the

and fields and for the general well-being

entire circumference of the building before

of the community The figure has a

the next course is added. The roofs areflat

rather grim, determined expression,

and are used for sleeping and for drying

indicating that it is angry and about to

crops. Each Lobi home (tyor) is composed of

strike out at a supernatural enemy, a

a senior male tyordarkun who has complete

witch. It is large, indicating that it is

authority over all of the members of the

probably fairly old, dating from a time


when powerful diviners demanded large



figures of "hard," or "tough" thil. Such figures are placed on shrines in a dark corner of the owners house along with


Luba many other figures that embody other

Historically, the Luba Empire is said to


thil, for it requires many thil to deal with

have developedfrom a migration led by the

Stool, Fragment

the numerous threats of life in rural

Songye king Nkongolo. Rapidly turning

Luba-Hemba, Democratic

West Africa. The extensive damage to

ryrant, he was killed by his nephew Kalala

Republic of Congo

the legs was the result of its placement

Ilunga. His direct successor, Ilunga Lui,

Wood; H. 36 cm.

on an earthen shrine where it was

had as brother the famous Tshibinda


attacked by termites.

Ilunga, who was himselffounder of the

Chfft-d'oeuvres inedits de l'Afrique noire,

Chokwe Empire. This illustriousfamily is, in

Fondation Dapper 1987.

myths, at the origin ofkingdoms covering a


vast region. In the eighteenth century, the

— Chefi-d'oeuvres inedits de Pgrique noire,

Luba Empire—established in the savannas of

Bordas 1987, no. 232.


Shaba, in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo—was geographically very

Magnificent, though fragmentary, this

extensive and induded numerous provinces

stool comprises a feminine figure sup-

governed by members of the royal lineage.

porting the slightly curved circular seat

They were subject to attack by the Chokwe

upon the ends of her long, extended fin-

and the Yeke at the end of the nineteenth

gers. Unfortunately, the entire lower

century, attacks which in the end succeeded

part of the figure is missing below the

in dismantling Luba power. Thus the

hips, no doubt due to the ravages of ter-

Hemba, located in the northern region of

mites. The meditative face is totally clas-

the Luba Empire,for long came under this

sic of Luba-Hemba style: its broad fore-

yoke as well. They are primarilyfarmers and

head is marked by a band retaining the

hunters, and have kept their cultural and

elaborate coiffure, probably in a cross at

religious identify intact over several cen-

the back, all carved in chevrons and

turies. The Hemba chiO, holders ofauthor-

upon which rests the seat proper. The

over all members of their dan, are also

facial features are pure and resolute, and

the efficiants in charge of the ancestor cult

are highlighted by the wood's lovely dark

that relies on the use of these magnificent

patina that makes it shimmer like well-

hierarchicalfigures. These works, noted by

oiled, smooth skin. The head rests on a

their meditative appearance, have made the

long tubular neck. The entire body of

reputation of their art. Certain families of

the figure expresses the vigor of youth:

the royal lineage possess a great number of

round arms, thin torso and firm breasts,

these funerary effigies, which convey the

which appear small beneath well-devel-

legitimacy and venerabik of their origins.

oped shoulders, spread by the position

This painstakingly conserved ensemble sig-

of the arms. The prominent navel is a

nifies, moreover, the right to possession of

sign of fecundity and is emphasized by

the arable lands.

the large scarifications in relief that surH.J.

round it. Each wrist is adorned with a wide bracelet of different design, something that indicates a high social rank.


Lobi / Luba. 232 - 233

Here we certainly do not have a repre-

442, no. 1140.

sentation of a slave, reduced to the humiliating status of caryatid. To the

This small object, destined to support

contrary, this is an honored ancestress

the neck and to protect the sleeper's

who metaphorically supports the power

very sophisticated coiffure, comprises

above her head, and this with an assur-

the unexpected figure of a rider mount-

ance, a lightness and an elegance which

ed on what appears to be a long-horned

we can only admire.

antelope, or even a goat with curiously H.J.

angled legs. Both are decorated at the waist, and ankles and neck are bedecked

_ 169

with rows of multicolored glass beads.


The slightly curved rectangular rest

Luba-Shan kadi, Democratic

proper, poses directly on the head of the

Republic of Congo

figure. He stretches out his arms far

Wood, beads, fiber; H. 16 cm.

before him,to grasp a supplemental ele-


ment of support implanted in the ani-

Support de rives, Fondation Dapper 1989.

mal's neck, also sporting a carved neck-

Icons — Ideals and Power in the Art ofgrica,

lace. The ensemble presents an extraor-

National Museum of African Art

dinary refinement which is expressed


through detail, like the pedestal which is

Luba — Aux sources du Zaire, Musee

fully carved at the base. The art of the

Dapper 1993-1994.

Luba-Shankadi particularly differenti-

The Art of Collecting African An, New York

ates itself from that of the Luba proper


by the form of the split coffee-bean

African Art in American Collections, survey

eyes, the scarification motifs (largely

1989, New York 1989.

inspired by their ceramic decorative


arts) and, above all, by the very original

— J. Kerchache, J.L. Paudrat & L.

style of the coiffure— unfurling to the

Stephan, L'Art africain, Mazenod, Paris,

neck in successive waves on both sides of

1988, no. 710, p. 449.

the face. William Fagg was one of the

— C. Falgayrettes, Support de rives,

first to isolate this sub-style, which sub-

Fondation Dapper, 1989, p. 68.

tly plays on the geometry of oblique and

— M. Cole, Icons—Ideals and Power in the

horizontal lines. This type of "pagoda"

Art of Africa, Smithsonian Institution

coiffure is a reflection of the Luba art of

Press, Washington, 1989.

hairstyling: supported by a structure in

— F. Neyt, Luba—Aux sources du Zaire,

bamboo, this complex coiffure requires

Dapper, 1993, p. 186.

some fifty hours of work,and can last up

— W.M. Robbins & N.I. Nooter, African

to three months if the proper precau-

Art in American Collections, Smithsonian

tions are taken.

Institution Press, Washington, 1989, p.




Lulua They were called "Lulua" by the explorer

ties clearly apparent in this masculine

A population ofBantufarmers, the Makonde

Von Wissman at the end of the nineteenth

figurette. The head, comprising a third

live on the plateaus ofsouthern Tanzania and

century, after the name of the tributary of

of the figure's height, received the sculp-

northern Mozambique. They are said to have

the Kasai River that runs near their territo-

tor's utmost attention. The refined coif-

originatedfrom a region located to the south

ry. They emigrated more to the south in the

fure ends in a point at the head's sum-

of Lake Nyassa. Up until 1917, the year

eighteenth century, under pressurefrom the

mit and in a small tress at the level of the

when Portuguese colonial troops occupied the

Luba, andfound themselves in contact with

neck. The face is literally covered with

territory, the Makonde had been able to

peoples who dealt in products of European

elaborately designed scarifications, just

remain alooffrom practically all outside influ-

import. The Lulua did not organize into

as is the neck, embellished with a seed-

ence. At that time the Makonde originating

strong, well-structured states, but rather

like pattern carved in relief. This

from Mozambique migrated toward the north,

into relatively independent chiefdoms. Their

ensemble ofdesigns testifies to the many

in order tofind work on the sisal plantations

primary activities are centered around hunt-

migrations and cultural influences to

and clove treefarms of Tanzania. They made

ing, a pretextfor rituals where thefigurettes

which these populations—who trace

this movefirst as seasonal workers, and later

of hunters intervene. Theirfemale fertiliry

themselves back to the Luba— were sub-

as a permanent work force. Those who

figures, the mbulenga, covered with delicate-

mitted. The figure here stands firmly on

remained in Mozambique settled on the avail-

ly sculpted scarifications, are celebrated.

the wide, prominently toed feet of a

able arable land. Whatever their place ofset-

Worn by the pregnant woman, they protect

trekker through the bush, a feature that

tlement, the Makonde continued to practice

herfuture ?ffipring and facilitate delivery.

lends stability to the rangy body. The

their initiatory rites, among which figure

This body art, particularly developed among

navel juts out from the nude, erect

impressive masquerades. The Makonde are,for

the Lulua, is probably the sign ofa person-

torso. The hand of his right arm, with

this reason, mainly reputed for their face

aliry seeking to set itself apart, after too

biceps emphasized by its close position

masks, helmet masks and, to a lesser extent,

many contacts and inputsfrom outside. We

to the body, holds a short sword. The

for their ancestorfigures as well asfor their

should remark, however, that by the time of

angled position of the arms is a sign of

staffi and ritual axes. The traditional taste of

Wissman's visit, this tradition had already

virile force. This is the image of the war-

the Makondefor the aesthetic dimension of

died out. The numerousfigurettes that the

rior, weapon in hand, and striking a

their artistic production may be seen in the

Lulua sculpted would have essentially served

determined attitude that is nearly con-

way the more secular objects are often decorat-

to protect themfrom evil-doers and wicked

tradicted by the sad expression of the

ed with geometric mot* or sculptedfigures. In


half-closed eyes. An expression of har-

Tanzania, during the 1950s, interest shown

mony and delicacy emanates from this

by merchants, missionaries and British civil

small propitiatory object. This tradition

servantsfor Makonde wooden sculptures grew.


of sculpture died out at the end of the

This accountsfor the corresponding sizeable

Male Figure

nineteenth century, when a Lulua chief

increase in production oftheir sculptedfigures

Lulua, Democratic Republic of

tried to impose the hemp cult and

(particularly the "colonials"). This wasfol-


ordered the destruction of figurettes

lowed by the development of a newform of

Wood; H. 37 cm.

that used to bring luck, health and pros-

artistic expression for which ebony was used


instead of the traditional lighter and softer



Lulua statuary is astonishing in its qual-

woods. The Makonde owe a large measure of

ities of finesse, extreme sophistication,

their reputation in the West to this new ten-

and the complexity of the scarification

denry. Gustaaf Verswijver

designs that animate its surface—quali-


Lulua / Makonde / Mama. 234 - 235

Mama 178

very much insistence—that it is essential

Renamed as Katana, the Mama live on the

Helmet mask

that they respect this traditional secret,

plateaus of northern Nigeria, extending

Makonde, Tanzania

and that they maintain a strict silence

from the present-day state ofEbbi to those

Wood,skin; H. 26.7 cm.

about it in the presence of women and

of Taraba and Adamawa, on the Cameroun


the non-initiated. The initiation is also

Primitivism, New York 1984.

the occasion for the boys to wear their

border. Difficultly accessible, this extremely varied regionfrom an ethnic and linguistic


first masks. The identity of the wearer

point ofview, has in the past been the site of

Le Primitivisme dans l'art du XXe siede,

may never be divulged. The dancer

numerous migrations and invasions, indud-

1987, Flammarion, p. 39.

wears the lipiko helmet mask on the

ing those ofthe Fulani nomads in the nine-

head, and sees through the hole of the

teenth century which much disrupted many


mouth. Five large fabric skirts cover the

populated settlements. Still, this area has

Face Mask

body entirely, such that one can barely

also retained a large portion ofits traditions

Makonde (?), Tanzania

see the fingers and toes. The masks rep-

from the colonial era. The plateau region

Wood, teeth, fiber

resent both male and female figures and,

has a long artistic tradition behind it,for it

H. 32 cm.

with the latter, the traditional labret that

is here that the Nok civilization blos-

Sale at Rupalley, 18 March 1930, no.

the women wear in the upper lip is

somed—one that has given us the most


clearly reproduced. It is primarily the

ancient evidence of terracotta figuartive

Formerly in the Tristan Tzara Collection

Makonde of Mozambique who use the

sculpturefrom West Africa.

Sale at Loudmer (T Tzara Collection),

lipiko helmet mask, and up to the early

Geographically isolated, the peoples of the

24 Nov. 1988, no. 212, p. 92.

1950s the makomba (sing. likomba) face

northeast—Montol, Jukun, Koro, Goemai,


masks imported by the Makonde of

Kantana, etc.—have up to present been rel-

African Negro Art, New York 1935.

Tanzania were unknown to them. The

atively litde studied. Nonetheless, among


face masks appear in the same contexts

the majority ofthese peoples we dofind the

— African Negro Art, New York 1935, no.

as the helmet masks. There is a great

institution of a chiyipriest invested with

47, p. 33.

variety of these masks, since each cos-

sacred authoriry, one responsible for the

— W Fagg & M. Plass, African Sculpture,

tame refers to a particular person or

well-being of the entire communiry The

London, 1964, p. 133.

animal. In recent times the sacred char-

political organization of the Katana, how-

acter of these masks has fallen by the

ever, was quite varied. From an artistic view-

The midimu dances (sing. n'dimu) mainly

wayside, with—in certain regions—the

point, all are producers of rather abstract

take place when the young boys and girls

masks' appearances having become part

statuary, as well as masks that are associat-

leave their respective initiation camps.

of organized commercial events.

ed with the world of the ancestral

Both sexes undergo initiation during the


spirits—spirits who exercise an important

same period. During the course of this

function of social control. One finds the

rite of passage,the boys are circumcised,

image of the buffalo and the antelope

and instructed in the diverse dances,

throughout the whole valley of the

songs, tasks, traditions and customs.

Shemankar, among the Kantana as among

This is also the time when the secret of

the Goemai and the Jukun. These animals

the lipico (pl. mapiko) helmet mask is

are dosdy related to the material prosperiry

unveiled to them. Concerning this sub-

provided by good harvests.

ject, they are repeatedly told—and with



Mambila 64

lage occurs in connection with rites of

The Mambila,farmers and stockbreeders,

Headcrest Mask

passage, particularly funerals, and events

occupy the region bordering Cameroun and

Mama, Nigeria

of an exceptional nature, such as the

Nigeria, to the north of Grassland.

Wood; H. 40 cm.

enthronement of a chief.

Organized into villages without a centralH.J.

ized hierarchical structure, the Mambila

This zoomorphic mask represents the

practice the ancestor cult that gives rise to

stylized image of a buffalo, whose horns

sculptures in wood and terracotta. At regu-

form a circle that joins together atop the

lar intervals, they also practice agrarian rites

head. The wide-open muzzle of the ani-

with the intervention of masksfrom secret

mal is punctuated with a geometric dec-

societies, but in limited numbers. The chi0

oration that is repeated at the base of

of the lineage were buried in granaries,for

the horns. Buffalo masks are very

they are representative ofprosperity andlife,

widespread in West Africa and are seen

just as the grains ofmillet.

in an infinite variety of forms. The for-

Sculpture, in contrast to work of theforge,

mal audacity and spare style of Mama

was a commonplace aaiviry and devoid of

masks are renowned. Inspired on the

much customary importance. Thefigures of

living model of a dwarf buffalo, it

ancestors, generally ofsmall size, were oftwo

belongs to the exclusively male associa-

rypes: simple pieces of wood tied together by

tions which have inherited their power

fiber, or anthropomorphic figurettes (the

directly from the ancestors, and whose


purpose is to maintain social order and

These stylized representations, of resolutely

agricultural productivity. An animal of

geometric design, present an enormous head

the bush with a most dangerous reputa-

with heart-shapedface, a coiffure with tress-

tion, the buffalo is often the image for

es of minuscule tenons of wood—sculpted

potency and occult power. In this region

from the block, or attached—and a very mas-

of Nigeria, the horn motif—particularly

sive body. Certain of these works have an

developed in this sculpture—is generally

uncommon expressiveforce, issuingfrom a

interpreted as a reference to fertility

contrast offorms and volumes. Many, how-

The dances where the buffalo intervenes

ever, are relatively mediocre.

are often related to human and agricul-


tural fecundity Worn by a dancer whose 68

entire body is hidden beneath a costume

Human Figure

of raw fiber, the mask was supposed to

Mambila, Cameroun

spring right out of the bush when mak-

Wood, fiber, horn, cowrie shells, fabric;

ing an appearance. Kept well away from

H. 45 cm.

the village, it belonged to the world of the spirits and untamed natural forces incarnated by the bush, where only the diviner, the sorceror or the hunter roam with assurance. Its presence in the vil-


Mama / Mambila / Mau / Mayombe.


236 - 237

Mayombe (See Kongo)

The Mau, northern neighbors of the Dan,

mask appears, with the aim of tracking


are the southernmost of the Malinke; they

down and eliminating sorcerers who

Maternity Figure: pfemba

belong to the north Mande linguistic group.

disrupt village life. Hidden in their

Kongo-Mayombe, Democratic

According to oral tradition, they descend

houses, the women and children pru-

Republic of Congo

from the Diomande who migratedfrom Mali

dently keep well away from these pow-

Wood,leather, metal, mirror; H. 31 cm.

to ate d'Ivoire, pushing the Dan more to

erful and destructive manifestations of


the south. The koma, a poweOl sociery that

the spirit ofkoma. With a graceful dance,

Arts primitifi dans les ateliers d'artistes,

combats sorcery, is the institution around

the koma ba sings to attract the wicked

Musee de l'Hotrune, Paris 1967.

which all village life revolves. Probably stem-

spirits. During this time, the koma su

Masterpieces of the People's Republic of the

mingfrom the Bambara komo, this koma

encircles the village while launching stri-

Congo, Denver 1981.

association is also related to the poro ofthe

dent cries; its speed is so great that it


Senufo. Each male individual must at least

gives the impression of being every-

— Am priminft dans les ateliers d'artistes,

accede to thefirst echelon of the initiation

where at once; its screams coming from

Musee l'Homme, Paris, no. 103.

which includes two periods of instruction

seemingly all directions simultaneously.

— J. Kerchache, L'An afiicain, Mazenod,

directed by the master cfthe association, the

Armed with a spear and sword, in the

no. 236.

koma tiki. For the rest, the Mau lead a life

bush it hunts down and eliminates the

— Masterpieces ofthe People's Republic ofthe

quite similar to that ofDan and, like them,

spirits attracted by koma ba and

Congo, Denver 1981, no. 9.

practice slash-and-burn agriculture.

bewitched by its song. These two masks

— R. Lehuard, Le phemba du Mayombe,

are kept in secret in the sacred house of

1977, no. 26.

the koma initiates, where many sacrifices

— F. Willet,ffiican Art, 1971, no. 241, p.


are made to them. It is not rare that they


Hand-held Mask: koma ba

are covered with a thick coating of sac-

Mau, Cote d'Noire

rificial material. Especially in the case of

The Kongo maternity figures are some

Wood, brass; H. 118 cm.

koma su, this gives it a more rugged and

of the best known works of African art,

Sale at Sotheby's, New York, 20 Nov.

forbidding aspect. Koma ba is character-

and certainly among the most appreciat-

1991, no. 18.

ized more by its imposing and elegant

ed, no doubt because they correspond

comportment. The dog is the favorite

to a theme that finds recognition in the

Contrary to other masks from this

animal ofthese mask spirits; the initiates

West. The influence of Western mater-

region,the koma ba is not attached to the

ritually sacrifice and then eat them.

nity figures is, for that matter, probably


head of the wearer. Its considerable


at the origin of this nineteenth-century

weight and size necessitates its being

sculptural production seen among the

held in the hand, by the "beak," in front

Kongo of Mayombe and the coastal

of the face. The koma tiki, master of the

regions. Named pfemba, these sculptures

secret koma society and teacher of the

were covered with a red coating, a color

initiates, keeps charge of this mask as

that the Kongo associate with transitions

well as the koma su, its masculine equiv-

such as birth and death. Maternity fig-

alent also provided with an enormous

ures do not generally harbor power sub-

hornbill beak, with which he effectuates

stances, so one may thus not classify

all his appearances. It is in the presence

them in the category of minkisi; rather,

of the initiated males that this pair of

they are objects related to fertility cults,




and perhaps also to the powerful lemba


The Mbala live in the region of Kwango-

association. The highpoint of this soci-

Power Figure

Kwilu in the southwest of the Democratic

ety, which practiced the cult oflemba, an

Kongo-Mayombe, Democratic

Republic of Congo. Neighbors of the Yaka,

important nkisi, was between the eigh-

Republic of Congo

they have the same concept ofchidly power,

teenth and nineteenth century. It func-

Wood, copper, mirror; H. 34 cm.

associated with procreation. Provided with

tioned as an elite institution reuniting all

Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

many wives to assure him plentiful offipring,

people with power and money, and con-


the chidis the guarantor ofthe prosperity of

cerned itself with the regulation of


his subjects and the natural environment.

problems inherent to their spheres of

— R. Lehuard, Art bakongo, les centres de

He is also the favored mediator through

activity: commerce, healing, conflicts.

style, p. 469.

whom passes thefrui0.11force ofthe ances-

Celebrating the continuity ofsociety, the

— J. Kerchache, Art africain, Mazenod, p.

tors. The sculpture is the subject ofinvoca-

representation of the woman—and most

429, no. 601.

tions by the ritual specialist, the ngoombo

especially, the mother—is dear to the

diviner, destined to assure maternal prosper-

Kongo, and for that matter is found on

ity and the health of all, as well as to dis-

the emblematic staffs of the matrilinear

cover the cause ofcalamity, sickness and ill-

clans' foundation. The mother-and-

fortune. The mother-and-childfigurettes no

child image is familiar to us, but on the

doubt allude to thefertile wives ofthe chid:

other hand, the sculptural treatment of

C realist construction, it shows an attention

the infant and the vague gaze of the

to detail in the rendering of the coffure, a

mother do not correspond to our

hairstyle observed and photographed by E.

notions of maternal bliss. This incom-

Torday during his passage among the Mbala

prehension and lack of knowledge that

in 1907. Thefirst wife, upon the death of

underlies such statuary has led a number

her spouse, was sometimes buried alive at

of investigators to see these objects as

the bottom of the grave, holding her hus-

representing a mother with her dead

band's body on her knees. Nonetheless, it is

child, forgetting that in some examples

unlikely that the statuary is a direct reflec-

the infant is presented as nursing!

tion ofthis practice, even ffit does evoke it.

Moreover, according to kongo criteria of

This sculptural tradition died out in the

stylistic representation, legs bent at the

1920s when the Mbala, imitating their

knee clearly indicate that we are in the

neighbors, voluntarily destroyed their fig-

presence of a living person. The mitred

urettes to which they attributed an evilfunc-

hat and the scarification motifs are typi-

don during the great epidemics that deci-

cal for Yombe.

mated the population in this decade. H.J.



Mayornbe / Mbala / Mbembe. 238 - 239

Mbembe 152

name of gihalu

she was con-

In a region ofdry savanna situated between

Maternity Figure

served in the company of another fig-

the Cross River and the Ewayon River, the

Mbala, Democratic Republic of

urette, representing a musician. This

Mbembe live in and around their capital,


pair, called pindi, was solicited and con-

Obubra. They werefor long in conflict with

Wood; H. 30 cm.

sulted by the chief in times of difficul-

Sale at Sotheby's, New York, 10 May

ty—war, epidemic, conflicts, natural dis-

their Kalabari neighbors, a group established in a completely dfferent sort ofnatu-

1988, no. 98.

asters. Their precious nature kept them

ral environment, namely the marshy delta of


well away from general view and secular

the River Niger During the sixteenth centu-

Exposition universelle, Brussels 1958.

contacts. The chief alone had the right

ry this region was the settingfor incessant


to touch it and make the requisite offer-

raids tofirrnish slaves destinedfor the coast,

— Exposition universelle, Brussels 1958,fig.

ings to it, although this right could be

and then the New World. Comprising some


delegated by him to another. We might

40,000 individuals, this ethnic group is

— A.P Bourgeois, "La joueuse de tam-

also note that these figurettes could have

divided intofive sub-groups. Their political

bour mbala de Jerome L Joss, les oeu-

quite varied names and functions: cura-

structure has a chief/priest, the avat, at its

vres apparentees et leur signification",

tive charm, hunting charm, fertility

head, and he is responsiblefor the sanctuary

Arts d'Afrique noire, no. 65, Spring 1988,


and social order He oversees the agricultur-


p. 13-25, fig. 5.


al work and rendersjustice. Nonetheless, his power is counterbalanced by that of the

Holding her infant on her knees, she

men's associations which apportion the soci-

possesses the classic features delineated

ery's tasks, this according to the seasons and

by A.P Bourgeois, who studied Mbala

prescribed events. Their concept of the uni-

statuary through their representations of

verse is based on three spheres ofaction: that

maternity figures and drummers. She

ofthe creator-god who, as generally the case

wears a tri-lobate coiffure, that termi-

in Africa, is inaccessible to and disinterested

nates at the level of neck and shoulders.

in his creation; that of the all-poweul

The general body proportions are rangy,

ancestors, close to the diviniry, and who serve

including those of the infant who raises

as intercessor's; andfinally, that ofthe spir-

its head toward her and clings to her

its, who play an important role in Mbembe

elongated breast, stretched by numerous

magic. Their very spectacular drums were

previous offspring. She holds the baby's

related to men's role as warriors. Warriors

leg with a gesture very natural to keep-

could only approach them after having made

ing it on her knees. The long fingers of

a human sacrifice, andfor this reason the

her hands are clearly defined. She is pre-

drums were destroyed during the colonial

sented sitting on a base assembled from


overlapping pieces of wood, the model of which may often be found in Mbala statuary. She was the property of the chief of one of the principal lineages who possessed the land-rights, at times spread over several villages. Having the


Mbole 67

Volkerkunde. A certain number of

People of the forest of the east of the

Slit Drum, Fragment ikoro

sculptures, today in museums or private

Democratic Republic of Congo, the Mbole

Mbembe, Nigeria

European collections, were collected in

get their namefrom their position vis-a-vis

Wood; H. 77 cm.

the 1970s during the Biafran War.

the river In ffect, "mbole" means "the peo-

Appeared in a sale at Champin,

Unfortunately, they have frequently

plefrom downstream", as opposed to those

Lombrail, Gautier (Enghien), 23 June

been separated from the body of the

from upriver. They belong to a larger ethnic

1984, cover and no. 92.

drum to which it was attached.

ensemble that indudes the Lengola, the H.J.

Metoko and the Yela. The organization of

Incomplete though it is, this work is

the lineages is veryfragmented, something

remarkable by virtue of the quite eroded

that does notfacilitate attempts to sat4ic-

aspect of its wood—attesting to its great

torily dass6,them within an ethnic dOni-

antiquity—and the fullness of the vol-

don. The same problem occurs with regard

umes of this seated figure. Despite this

to objects of artistic production, with attri-

erosion, the fluidity of the arms'dynam-

bution given to one or another group based

ic describes an open movement,and the

on the place ofcollection, even though the

naturalism of the body as well as the

work sometimes presentsfeatures distinctive

roundness ofthe volumes are still appar-

ofexamplesfrom a neighboring group. One

ent. The oval face, whose features

must also admit the possibiliry of regional

remain a mystery, is coiffed with a sort

variants which are the reflection ofa culti-

of crest. Made from the wood of the apa

vated autonomy. However, the Mbole do

tree, it is sculpted in an unusual manner:

have certain widespread institutions, such as

transversely instead of longitudinally, as

the lilwa, and the bwami as well, which

the growth-rings attest to. This figure

dominate social and ritual life. The lilwa

might have decorated one of the ends of

initiation is accompanied by circumcision,

the large split drum,ikoro.

an operation carried out by the metalsmith.

With a length ofthree to five meters, the

Initiates receivefurther instruction in tech-

drum assumes the function of a sacrifi-

niques related tofishing andfarming, activ-

cial altar for one or a group of villages. It

ities that they have assimilatedfrom child-

may also have belonged to a men's asso-

hood. Furthermore, especially insisted upon

ciation, like that of the leopard spirit.

is the acquisition ofmoral qualities, such as

The instrument's exceptional size allows

virik, courage, discipline, respectfor the

its sound to be heard over a circumfer-

elders, and initiates are informed of the

ence ofseveral kilometers. It thus serves

inevitablefate reservedfor thieves, liars and

as a means of communication for

adulterers. At the condusion ofseveral weeks

imparting important news. In fact, we

of trials, the initiates are ritually purified:

know but little concerning these works

the ashes and paints that cover their bodies

partially destroyed through the action of

are then washed cif

time,or man. The only known complete surviving examples, are the two specimens






Mbenthe / Mbole / Mboye.

240 - 241

Mboye 175

Located on the Bauchi Plateau, in northeast


Male Figure

Nigeria between Shani and Gombe, the

Human Figure: kpaniya

Mbole, Democratic Republic of

Mboye remain quite enigmatic. They belong

Mboye, Nigeria


to one of the thirteen sub-groups of the

Wood; H. 133 cm.

Wood, polychrome; H. 44 cm.

Yungur ethnic group, and have a population


ofaround 25,000 individuals settled to the

Fragments ofthe Sublime, New York 1980.

The geometrized body ofthis figure lends

north of the Benue Rivet This steep region


it a sagging air, with hands at the hips and

has yielded findings of human occupation

— Fragments of the Sublime, New York

dangling, bent-kneed legs. This position

going back 37,000 B.C.E.. Known for

1980, no. S.

reflects that of the hanged criminal. It is

their portrait art in terracotta pottery, the

not, however, a portrait representing any

Yungur speak an Adamawa language which

Very slender, but nonetheless with full,

villain in particular. The kaolin-treated

connects them to the Benue-Congo group.

rounded volumes, this figure is attribut-

face in the shape of a heart—traced by the

They live in scattered villages, but all sub-

ed to the Mboye, a group living in the

arch of the eyebrows extending to the

sume to the greater authority of the larger

region of Bauchi on the Nigerian Middle

chin—is a form widely seen throughout

settlements. Here power rests with a chief

Belt plateau. The head does not con-

the area. Relatively inexpressive, it is

responsible for the cults upon which the

form to the usual canons of African stat-

topped by a sort of comb which repre-

prosperity ofthe entire group depends. He is

uary: one will note that the general pro-

sents a traditional hairstyle. Mbole statu-

assisted by a council ofelders that handles

portions are naturalistic. If the features

ary deals exclusively with this theme of

secular *firs. The cult place of the village

of the face remain schematic at the end

hanging, tied to various transgressions.

harbors a large number ofaltars consecrat-

of a long neck, the handling of the torso

These include crime, adultery, betraying

ed to the spirits ofdeceased chi0 and dig-

and the legs is completely different, and

the secret of the initiation led by the

nitaries. It is here that the relationship

testifies to a certain sensibility The right

powerful lilwa association, sorcery, trans-

between the living and the ancestors is cen-

arm and feet of the figure have vanished

gression of dietary prohibitions imposed

tered. Guardians ofsocial order and guar-

and the wood's surface attests to great

by lilwa, etc. It is during the initiation of

antors oftheir descendants' weyare, they are

age. As to dimensions and style, there

the young boys(aged between 7 and 12),

the mediators specially designated to inter-

are echoes here of Igbo ceremonial fig-

when they are taught the mastery oftech-

vene with the creator-god, Leura. In Yungur

ures. At present, we know of only very

niques, history, customs and the rules of

belief thefact ofhaving attained advanced

few examples worldwide of this power-

comportment in society that these fig-

age is in a way recompensefor correct con-

ful statuary. One such example has been

ures of the hanged are exhibited—to dis-

duct and a balanced lye. Ritual and social

dated to the fifteenth century, by Dr.

suade them from telling the secret of the

authority is a precondition for potentially

Bonani's team at Zurich University.

initiatory instruction, passed on in a

being able to act to help descendants ofthe

Thus, here we are in the presence ofone

secret language. During this period, the

same patrilineage in the world of the here-

ofthe oldest sculptural traditions known

initiates are the object of numerous mor-


to us. B. de Grunne, basing himself on

tifications, are whipped,forced to eat dis-


the scarce writings of L. Siroto, C.

gusting food—all to harden them and

Murdock and C. K. Meek, relates the

forge their character. Public hangings are

following information: these figurettes,

led by a member of the lilwa association,

named kpaniya, are the receptacle for

the yekama or lokulama, and are the ulti-

Yungar priests. They were kept in a

mate sanction for breaches of the peace

funerary grotto together with the chiefs'

and social order.


Mende osseous remains, only brought out for

The Mende have lived in Liberia, Sierra


ceremonies marking the passage of a

Leone and on the Guinea coast since the

Helmet Mask: bundu

leader into the ranks of venerated ances-

sixteenth or seventeenth century. Arriving

Mende, Sierra Leone

tors. Here, they would be clothed and

from the east, they speak a language of

would receive offerings from the whole

Mende root. Settling there, they came

village—a rite related to that rendered by

between the Sherbro and Kissi peoples.


the Igbo to their large figures.

Mende societyfunctions within theframe-

Helmet Mask: bundu

work ofa monarchy with exclusively political

Mende, Sierra Leone

power. Other powers, notably including the

Wood; H. 35 cm.


Wood; H. 36 cm.

allocation ofland, are held by the elders of the different lineages.


They are cultivators ofrice, cacao, palm oil,

Helmet Mask: bundu

peanuts, yams, etc.

Mende, Sierra Leone

The Mende believe in a creator-god, Ngewo,

Wood; H. 42 cm.

the representation ofwhose image is prohibited. Religious Iffe is directed by the societies


or associations. The men's poro society

Helmet Mask: bundu

(women are only exceptionally admitted),

Mende, Sierra Leone

that onefinds throughout this region, is the

Wood; H. 37 cm.

best known and responsiblefor the initiations. The principal women's society is the



Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende artists work in wood: the bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

masks and thefemalefigures are connected

Wood; H. 42 cm.

to rites of divination and healing. Other Mende masks, in leather and fir, and


belonging to the poro, have been noted.

Helmet Mask: bundu


Mende, Sierra Leone Wood; H. 42 cm.



Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 42 cm.

Wood; H. 45 cm.



Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 40 cm.

Wood; H. 41.5 cm.


Mboye / Mende. 242 - 243

the mask must hide the body complete-


Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

ly. These masks represent the spirits of

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone


Wood; H. 40 cm.

Wood, metal; H. 43 cm.

The masks here, all of the same type, are differentiated by their individual coif-



Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 45 cm.

Wood; H. 43 cm.

Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 39 cm.

Wood; H. 38 cm.



Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 39 cm.

Wood, metal; H. 34 cm.


47) Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 40 cm.

Wood, metal, bamboo, fiber; H. 41 cm.



Helmet Mask: bundu

Helmet Mask: bundu

Mende, Sierra Leone

Mende, Sierra Leone

Wood; H. 43 cm.

Wood; H. 40 cm.


The sowei helmet masks described here,

Helmet Mask: bundu

according to Marie-Louise Bastin belong

Mende, Sierra Leone

to the women's bundu society, some-

Wood; H. 38 cm.

times also called sande. Sculpted by men, they are worn by female dancers who have attained a certain rank in the sod-

Helmet Mask: bundu

ety. They appear during ceremonies

Mende, Sierra Leone-Liberia

involving the young girls who have

Wood; H. 40 cm.

undergone three months of seclusion in the forest. The costume that goes with



M ossi former's face. The red, white and black

The Mossi are the lone example in Burkina Faso of a people who were politically cen-

Headcrest Mask

geometric patterns are visual represen-

tralized, with extensive bureaucracy and a

Mossi, Burkina Faso

tations of the rules for the ethical and

well-organized system of chiefs and kings,

Wood, polychrome; H. 25 cm.

moral conduct of life passed down from

before the arrival ofthe French colonial army

Publications: P Guillaume & T Munro,La

the nature spirits that control peoples

in 1897. At the apex ofthe political system

Sculpture negre primitive, no. 38.

lives, through the diviner or ritual specialist, to the people of the community

is the Moro Naba, or Emperor ofthe Mossi, whose palace is in Ouagadougou. Beneath

This is the type of crest made by the

him are various officials in charge ofthe cav-

northern Mossi and called zazaigo (pl.

alry, the royal tombs, and otherjunctions,

zazaido). Such crests are carved in

as well as regional chid's, in which each

Burkina Faso, in the region between

local chijship is a microcosm ofthe court in

Yako northward into Yatenga near the

Ouagadougou. The Mossi are an amalga-

city of Ouahigouya and Kongoussi. The

mation of several peoples who were con-

largest and most active carving center is

quered in about 1500 by bands ofinvading

the town of Kwaltangen, west of Yako.

horsemenfrom what is now northern Ghana

The crests are worn to this day by

who imposed political power on those they

groups of young men who have joined

conquered, allowing them to continue to

cooperative associations based on age

farm the land and to honor nature spirits

that do good works in the community

through the use of masks, as they hadfor

and organize community development

centuries. The invaders didforce their sub-

efforts. They are very similar in concep-

jects to learn their language, to serve in the

tion to the chiwara kun crests of the

army, and to pay taxes. The result was a

Bamana, who live just to the west, and it

hierarchical system with the descendants of

is quite possible that their origin is the

the invaders serving as rulers or nakomse,

result of Bamana influence. This crest

while the descendants of the conquered

includes a small antelope Gazella rufifrons

farmers are in charge of the land, practice

on the front and a bush buffalo on the

their ancient religion, and are called

back. The animal may represent spirits

nyonyose. The rulers use woodenfigures to

of the wilderness that watch over the

validate political power, while the common-

group of young men and provide their

ers use masks to honor the spirits of the

supernatural protection. Among other

wilderness. The several Mossi mask styles

Mossi groups these same animal spirits

reflect the ancient origins ofthe many peo-

are represented by different masks. This

ples who were conquered in 1500 and uni-

crest mask was worn on top of the head by men who perform in groups ofsix to

fied under the rule ofthe nakomse. C.R.

a dozen men. They are put on in the community during the dry season which extends from October to May. The crest was worn with a thin veil oftwisted fiber that only partially covered the per-



Mossi / Mumuye. 244 - 245

Mumuye Situated in the region southeast of the


roundings and to welcome visitors.

Benue River, in the mountainous north

Human Figure

Used in divination, spreading her with

Nigerian province of Adamawa, the

Mumuye, Nigeria

the sap of a plant was said to enable her

Mumuye are growers ofyams and sorghum.

Wood; H. 133 cm.

to speak. Depository of truth and jus-

They have remained relatively isolated until


tice, she would be consulted during suits

recent times. Their statuary was long

— J. Kerchache, J.L. Paudrat & L.

with opposing litigants. But she would

ignored, and then confused with that of

Stephan, L'Art afrio9in, Mazenod, Paris

also stand as guarantor of the communi-

their Chamba neighbors. They speak an

1988, no. 940,P. 547.

ty's well-being and health, and thus

Adamawa language, which belongs to the

— Welt Kulturen und moderne Kunst,

intervene during curative rites.

Niger-Congo linguistic group. Also close to

Munich 1972, p. 431.

the Mambila and the Cameroun border, the Mumuye have undoubtedly undergone great

The sculptural construction of these fig-

movements ofpopulation brought on by the

ures issuing from the cylindrical volume

Fulanijihads at the beginning ofthe nine-

of a log of Wood is the mark of their

teenth century. To the north of the Benue,

originality. Seemingly static, they are

however, there exist many small population

animated in the upper plane by the

groups that have managed to avoid

dynamic play of their fluidly carved

Islamization, this owing to the mountain-

arms that hug the volume of the long,

ous nature of the terrain to which they

thin torso. The sculptor always places

retreated. Very isolated, the Mumuye have

the emphasis on the body's rangy line,

remained relatively aloof from either

with the lower portion of the figure

Christian or Islamic influence. Numbering

being often rendered in schematic vol-

some 400,000 individuals, they recognize

umes: short legs, whose articulations are

the pre-eminence of the village of Yoro,

marked by notches, feet rough-hewn,

home to the Master of the Rain. But it is

and no genitals. This remark also applies

possible that they originally camefrom a

to the summary treatment of the face,

region more to the south. The religion and

proportionally quite small and hidden

magic give rise to a varied production of

beneath a sizeable coiffure marked by a

objects: masks which intervene in initiation

small sagittal crest. The enormous ears

rites, andfigures that play a role in rituals

with lobes distending on both sides of

related to rain, healing and divination.

the neck, indicate that the individual

They acknowledge the existence of a sole

represented is female. Figured standing

god, La, who is identffied with the sun.

and with the arms close alongside the

Moreover, the Mumuye practice two essential

body, these objects first express order

cults, one ofwhich is symbolized by a horned

and stability The hardwood's surface is


not excessively polished and reveals H.J.

traces of the sculptor's adze. Tutelary guardian of the lineage, it might sometimes stand on the threshold of a house in order to keep an eye on the sur-



Nuna days and other public events. These

the Mossi call "Gurunsi": the others are the

i_ Face Mask

Winiama (Ko), the Lela, Sisala, and others

Nuna, Burkina Faso

sent spirits that took the form of wild

who live principally in Ghana. The word

Wood, fibers, bone; H. 80 cm.

animals that appeared to the elders. The

"gurunsi" is a Mossi word, which these peo-

Formerly in the Kerbourc'h collection

performance is intended to recreate and

ple consider a pejorative, and much prefer to

Exhibitions: Collection Kerbourc'h — Galerie

interpret the unique character of the

be called by their proper names. All ofthese

de Monbrison 1994.

spirit represented. The bush pig and

peoples speak Voltaic languages like the lan-

Publications: Collection Kerbourc'h, Galerie

hyena always perform in a cloud of dust

guages ofthe Bwa, Dogon, and Mossi. Like

de Monbrison, 1994, P. 38.

and filth, while the antelope and bush

The Nuna are one ofseveral people whom

the Bwa and most other Voltaic peoples the

buffalo toss their great horns in wild,

Nuna live in village communities in which a

This very fine old mask was made by the

large number ofdwellings are clustered close

southern Nuna in the region between

together, with the village surrounded byfarm

Leo, on the border with Ghana, and







Sapouy to the northeast. This is an old

"acephalous" or politically non-centralized,

mask, probably of the sacred type called

in that they have no 9/stem ofchiefs or other

wankr, which are revealed to their own-

political leaders, but each community is

ers as a result of encounters in the

instead organized by a council of the eldest

wilderness with supernatural beings.

representatives of each family who meet

They represent nature spirits that may

when need arises to make decisions on behalf

be ferocious and very effective in bat-

ofthe communi9/. These people are descen-

tling the forces of witchcraft and in cur-

dants of the ancient peoples who inhabited

ing affliction. These masks perform only

the area before the arrival of the Mossi

on sacred occasions, especially initia-

invadersfrom the south in the 15th centu-

tions, funerals, and annual purification

ry. They were able to resist the invasion of

of the community and never appear for

the Mossi cavalry through recourse to magic

public entertainment. When they are

tofight their enemies, especially with sleep-

not being worn they become altars to

ing sickness which killed the horses of the

the spirit they embody and sacrifices

invaders when they penetrated the brushy,

may be made directly on the masks. The

lightly forested areas in which the Nuna

masks are very abstract because they

live. The Nuna believe in a creator god

represent abstract ideas, the invisible,

named Yi, and in spirits of the wilderness

intangible supernatural spirits, and do

which are represented by masks, and which

not take forms that can be recognized by

have the power to provide supernatural pro-

humankind. They are covered with geo-

tection over theirfollowers.

metric patterns in red, white and black C.R.

masks are more naturalistic, and repre-

that, just like Bwa masks, communicate the religious laws by which their followers conduct their lives. Much less sacred masks are called wamu and may perform in large numbers to entertain on market


threatening gestures. C.R.

Nuna / Ovimbundu / Owe / Pende / Punu.


246. 247



Speakers of the Umbundu language, the


To the south ofLambarene, several popula-

Ovimbundu live in the west of Angola, on

Male Figure

tions—known by the name of the "Sira

the Benguela Plateau that overlooks the

Owe (?), East Africa ,Tanzania (?)

group," occupy the whole of southwest

ocean. Their social structures (chiefdoms

Wood, metal; H. 73.5 cm.

Gabon, along the left bank of the Ngounie

with sacred power) were influenced by those

and in the coastal zone up to Mayoumba.

of Lunda conquerors, who camefrom the

These peoples comprise the Eshira, Punu,

Democratic Republic ofCongo to this region

Lombo, Vili and Voungou. Oral tradition

around the beginning of the sixteenth cen-

has it that all these groups camefrom the

tury. Contact with Europeans occurred quite

south, from present-day Congo, Cabinda


early on.

and northern Angola, well prior to the nine-

The an of the Ovimbundu (figures, staffs, figurines, masks) has traits in common with

teenth century. The Lumbo, notably, menOfAngolan origin, the Pende have since the

tion an ancient settlement toward Pointe-

the art ofthe Chokwe.

eighteenth century lived in the Democratic

Noire. It appears that the majority ofthese

The Ovimbundu possess a sacred treasure

Republic of Congo, in the Kwango and the

peoples were part of the Loango Kingdom

composed of "untouchable" objects which

Kasai, after a migration that we might have

when, during the sixteenth and seventeenth

are in the keeping ofa young girl, the nana

occurred in thefifteenth century.

centuries, theyformed the outposts of the

yakama, who is also guardian ofthe sacred

Their kinship system is matrilineal. Social

kingdom. These relatively recent displace-


organization is not centralized; the clan and

ments should not overshadow the more

the chiefdom are the basic units. The chijs

ancient sh!fts ofpopulationsfrom southern

(around sixty in number) have primarily a

Gabon. Archeological research carried out

religious authority. They are the mediators

over the last decade have succeeded in prov-

between the ancestors (fertility, fecundity)

ing ancient Neolithic migrations,from the

and the living.

west of Cameroun towards the southeast

The Pendefabricate many objects, and here

(between 3000 and 500 B.C.E.), contin-

I 39

Marie-Louise Bastin has dgerentiated three

uing during the iron age. Hypotheses con-

Face Mask

stylistic areas (10 bank of the Kwilu,

cerning the ancient chronology ofthe dffer-

Ovinibundu, Angola

Gatundo, Kasai). They mainly ;vork with


Wood; H. 21 cm.

ivory and wood, sculpting masks,figurines,

cultures—based on lexico-statistical analy-

Formerly in the Shesca Kotchouko

staffs, seats, whistles, pendants, boxes, etc.

sis—indicate that the Shira language

Collection (Hamburg).

The sculptors transmit their artfromfather

appeared around 100(that is, at the debut


to son.

of the Christian era) and the Punu around


African Art in American Collections, survey


1989, New York. Publications:





900. (B. Chst, Gabon: 10 000 ans d'hiswire, Ed. Sepia, 1995). The culture that we today see among the

— W.M. Robbins & N.I. Nooter, African

151 Face Mask

Punu and Lumbo peoples is the result ofa

An in American Collections, Smithsonian

Pende, Democratic Republic of

series ofacquisitions made over the course of

Institution Press, Washington 1989, no.


history, all ofBantu origin. Episodes main-

983, p. 385.

Wood,fiber; H. 38 cm.

tained in oral tradition do not contradict this, yone applies a long-term perspective. Organized into villages, clans and lineages,


with neither a centralized power structure


rattan fly-whisk with which he menaces

nor a strict political hierarchy, the Punu and

Face Mask

the spectators. The mukuji must perform

Lumbo groups have a culture based on the

Punu/Lumbo, Gabon

acrobatic movements across the village

cult of the ancestors, a general respectfor

Wood, kaolin; H. 32 cm.

courtyard, this accompanied by drums and the singing of its acolytes. The

the deceased, and afear ofthe spirits ofthe wilderness. The principal traditional sociery,


assembled public mimes apparent fear

ofinitiatory character, widespread through-

Face Mask

of the mask, throwing pebbles and

out the entire region, is called moukoudji or

Punu/Lumbo, Gabon

pieces of wood at it to chase it from the

moukouyi. It regulates communiry lye with

Wood, kaolin; H. 45 cm.


regards to social and judicial matters, and

Formerly in the A. Fourquet Collection.

From the stylistic viewpoint, these

mainly applies itseyto the neutralization of


"white" masks, all provided with a

evilforces and sorcerers. To this end, cifi-

— A. Fourquet, "Chefs-d'oeuvre de

serene and hieratic face, large eyes with

ciants of moukouyi utilize a cult kit that

l'Afrique: les masques pounou," L'Oeil,

lids half-closed and an ample coiffure

includes figurettes, human relics and

April 1982.

with quite elaborate crests, present a harmony of tones combining white, red

"white" masks, coated with kaolin. 132

and black. Though of similar general

Face Mask

form, each mukuji mask is nonetheless


Tsangui/Ndjabi, Gabon

different. Some ofthem rank among the

Face Mask

Wood; H. 29 cm.

masterpieces of African art.

Punu, Gabon

Sale at Francois de Ricqles, 5 Dec.

Several well-characterized sub-styles are

Wood, kaolin; H. 29.5 cm.

1994, no. 79.

known, and some are of relatively great


antiquity The oldest known white masks 128 Face

are bi-colored—ocher and white—with a





curious "visor" coiffure; some have a

Punu, Gabon

Tsangui/Ndjabi, Gabon

sort of collaret below the chin, serving

Wood, polychrome; H. 30.5 cm.

Wood, polychrome; H. 33 cm.

as a griphold. The "classic" white masks are those whose faces are whitened with

Formerly in the Tranpisch Collection. Formerly in the A. Fourquet Collection.

The most spectacular sculptural output

kaolin, with well-delineated reddened


of the southern region of Gabon, the

lips, a decorative motif in relief at the

— L Perrois, Arts du Gabon, 1979, no.

Ngunie and Nyanga valleys, from

middle of the forehead, and a high,


Fougamou to Tchibanga and Mayoumba,

combed coiffure (a central comb com-

— A. Fourquet, "Chefs-d'oeuvres de

are the masks of the traditional mukuji

plemented by two lateral "tresses" or

l'Afrique: les masques pounou," L'Oeil,

society Such masks are usually seen in

two combs in parallel).

April 1982.

connection with funerals and other cer-

The Ndjabi, a bit further to the east,

emonies of a funerary nature, including

have produced well-recognizable small


that to mark the lifting of the mourning

masks with a parted coiffure, full-lipped

Face Mask


mouth and streamlined chin. The

Punu, Gabon

These wooden masks are idealized por-

Tsangui, for their part, decorated their

Wood, polychrome; H. 30 cm.

traits ofancestors, male and female. The

masks with scarifications in light relief,

masked dancer conceals his body

forming horizontal bands on the cheeks

beneath a costume made of raffia or fab-

and forehead.

ric; he is mounted on stilts and holds a



Puna;/ Sokalard.

248 - 249

Sa kalava Sakalava-Menabe country extends along the

the nineteenth century toward a more elab-

camphor, a material that resists rotting

west coast of Madagascar, bordered to the

oratedform: a pallisade oflogs in rectangu-

and is not prone to termite attack. A

east by the high plateaus, to the south by

lar alignment, topped at each corner byfig-

woman is carrying an infant on her back

the Mangoky River, and to the north by the

urettes representing men, women or birds.

in the quite classic manner, and is

Manambolo River. It is a region offorested

The border of each pallisade was usually


savanna and has a dry tropical dimate. The

decorated byfriezes evoking elementsfrom

dokodoko—small balls obtained by rolling

Menabe Kingdom was founded at the

daily-lye—couples, houses, canoes, cattle,

pre-plaited strands of hair. Right on the

beginning of the seventeenth century, pro-

crocodiles, etc. Finally, afimerary post rises

top of the head, we see the remaining

gressively enlarging its territory toward the

from the long side ofthe rectangle to recall

base. This refers to one of the women's

north. They come into trading contact with

the lineage's power and wealth. This type of

principal tasks, the fetching of water.

the Europeans, primarily to obtainfirearms

architecture is specc to the Menabe

The slightly flexed legs, with arms hang-

with which to pursuefurther conquests. This


ing close to the body, are characteristic

territorial expansion, which lasted up to the

In this rectangle is also a representation of

for this type of sculpture. This figurette,

end of the nineteenth century, was accom-

principles of Madagascan astrology, which

still in good condition and not too

plished in five stages. These correspond to

locates the deceased in the cosmos at the

weather eroded, must be around sixty

five kingdoms, atfive points in the history of frontier ofthe visible and invisible worlds, so the dynasty in its alliances with the

also describing an impassable symbolic bor-

autochtonal populations, and to the five

der The man and the woman are opposed in

royalfimerary sites that symbolically orga-

the diagonal of the rectangle, and in the

nize the territory.

same way represent a barrier to separate the

Sakalava funerary architecture underwent

deceased from his living relatives. Usually

constant evolution. It was based on a royal

these sculptures are nude, with the man dis-

model instituted around the doublefunerals

playing an erect penis—signs exalting the

ofthe king and thefabrication ofreliquar-

love andfecundiry that will secure the lin-

ies which were thefocus ofa dynastic cult.

eage's survival in theface offorces that are

The coffin ofthe monarch was placed inside

a threat to its continuation.

the tomb, the trano vinta or "house ofdes-

Jacques Lombard

tiny", a sculpted wooden structure which represented his divine nature.

1 80

For common mortals there was burial in

Maternity Figure

necropolises. Aboutforty ofthem were spread

Sa kalava, Madagascar

over the territory ofthe ancient kingdom.

Wood; H.94 cm.

The tombs are organized into several paral-


lel rows. They run from east and west,

Fragments ofthe Sublime, New York 1980.

depending upon the place the deceased


occupied in the lineage. For those who were

— Fragments of the Sublime, New York

from a lineage related to the dynasty, the

1980, no. 7.

tombs runfrom north to south. The tombs, which originally were simple parellelepiped

This 94 cm.-high figure is carved from

ofpiled stones, evolved during the course of

the wood of the hazomalagny, or false







years old. J.L.

Salampasu The Salampasu live in Shaba Province

iii _

tax by each of the association's mem-

between the rivers Lulua and Lueta, tribu-

Face Mask


taries ofthe Kasai. Said to be Luba in ori-

Salampasu, Democratic Republic

gin, they would have originated from

of Congo

Kasongo Nyembo. Surrounded by the

Wood, polychrome, kaolin, fiber; H. 30

neighboring Lundu, Kete, Lwalwa and

cm.(excluding fibers)

Mbala, they have obstinately maintained their independence. Their name is said to

The Salampasu have many types of

mean "hunters of locusts," but they were

mask. This human-faced model is char-

widely viewed with terror by adjacent groups.

acterized by its large domed forehead,

At the beginning of the thirteenth century,

sizeable slit eyes, short broad nose with

the southern Lunda monarchs tried to make

rounded nostril openings, as well as the

them submit and pay tribute, but encoun-

aggressive open mouth, teeth sharpened

tered valiant resistance. In the nineteenth

and treated with kaolin, and fringe of

century, it would be the Chokwe's turn to

fiber tresses hanging like a beard from

infiltrate the territory and wage war. The

the jaw line and pointed chin. These

Salampasu, thus, allied themselves with the

examples differ according to the poly-

Lunda, and accepted to pay them tribute.

chromy applied to the surface of the

This brought an end to the isolation which

wood, passed through red powder. The

had been the mark oftheir individualism up

costume accompanying this type of

to that date. They are constituted by inde-

mask consists of a fiber net adapted to

pendent lineages, without a centralized sys-

the body, and a skirt of fiber or animal

tem of power. It is a person's own worth

fur. The wearer holds antelope horns or

which makes him eligible to attain the

a two-edged sword. Named mukinka,

highest rank: the chiefs are chosen from

these wooden masks are the particular

among those who have shown the most apti-

prerogative of two associations, who

tudefor leadership. They have developed a

reserve membership to those of certain

veritable ideology of murder through, for

favored lineages: the ibuku association,

example, a sociery ofassassins whose highest

who also possess a copper-covered

rank was obtained only after the commission

mask,and the idangani association. From

offour abominable and symbolic mur-

the latter group come masks made of

ders—often the killing of a close relative.

fiber, currently designated by the names

Moreover, killing is not considered a repre-

of "husband" and "wife". In the ibuku,

hensible act, but rather a particularly valued

an initiate advances to the heart of the

proofofone's courage. The masks dance on

association by performing various tasks

the occasion of a bereavement or an

in the service of a chief. Only the most

enthronement, as well as to pay homage to

capable warriors attain the upper ranks.


This mask, of impressive appearance, is H.J.

situated within this warrior hierarchy. Its acquisition requires the payment of a



Salomposu / Senufo. 250- 251

Senufo The Senufo have a population of around


monies. Entirely covered by a costume

one-and-a-haymillion, and they are divid-

Five Figures: kafigeledio

of fabric and a triangular hood, like the

ed over three countries: Mali, G5te d'Ivoire

Senufo, Cote d'Ivoire/Mali

kafigeledio, the duty of this mask is to

and, to a lesser extent, in Burkina Faso.

Wood, fabric, feathers, fiber; H: various

maintain order. With the small batons

They speak a language of the Gur group.


that they hold in hand, the kajigeledio

Constituted in matrilinear lineages, Senufo

African Sculpture: The Shade of Surprise,

may at any moment designate the per-

villages are under the authoriry of a chid'

New York 1980.

son who will fall victim to these terrible

descendedfrom the lineage'sfounder on the


occult powers.

maternal side. The poro secret men's sociery,

— African Sculpture: The Shade of Surprise,

based on age-classes and induding an ini-

New York 1980, p. 14, no. 26-28.

tiation and several echelons, is the link that



mutually unites the villages, sometimes even

This type of object is kept only by the

Helmet Mask: kponiugo

beyond the bounds of the Senufo cultural

kulebele sculptors, and represents a par-

Senufo, Cote d'Ivoire/Mali

area (since the nineteenth century, this soci-

ticularly powerful supernatural spirit.

Wood; L. 114 cm., W. 85 cm.

ery has spread through the entire region,

This spirit is capable of rendering a ver-


adopted with some variations by various eth-

dict, practicing divination, applying

Wild Spirits, Strong Medidnes—African Art

nic groups). The sandango, a women's

sanctions, and the setting in motion of

and the Wilderness, Center for African

association, assures—through divination—

the violent occult powers that range

Arts, New York 1989.

contact with the spirits ofthe wilderness, the

from positive magic to destructive sor-


ndabele. The sculptors and metalsmiths,

cery. The kafigeledio once again place us

— J. Kerchache, L'Art africain, Mazenod,

endogamous groups responsiblefor making

at the borderline between good and evil,

p. 512, no. 853.

the cult objects, are obliged to live on their

the effect depending on how they are

— Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine—African Art

own in a separate part of the village. The

employed and, above all, on the person-

and the Wilderness, Center for African

attitude shown toward them by other Senufo

al ethics of their possessors. Like any

Arts, New York 1989, p. 83, no. 5.

is ambiguous: a mixture offear and respect,

weapon, they can defend, avenge and

owing to their privileged relationship with

protect, but also may be used to attack,

The zoomorphic helmet masks belong

the supematuralforces that they are capable

from which follows their capacity to

to the kponiugo category, which includes

of channeling in a sculpture. The Senufo

generate disquiet and anxiety The per-

a number of different types: korobla,

system ofthought acknowledges a supernat-

sons, male or female, capable of using

waniugo, gbeligeniugu, gbodiugu, etc. The

ural world dominated by a supreme being,

them are the elders who have acquired

attribution ofa mask to any one or other

Koulotiolo, around whom gravitate the spir-

the most complex poro esoteric knowl-

of these types is particularly complex. In

its (ancestors and beings ofthe bush), inter-

edge of the kulebele. Without the mas-

some cases, the Senufo themselves must

mediaries between man and the supreme

tery of this secret science whose acqui-

know the context in which it is used

being. Indeed, the main religious preoccu-

sition requires years of training, no kule-

before being able to tell us with certain-

pations of the Senufo center around insur-

bele is capable of mobilizing the power

ty Some wanyugo, as the specimen pre-

ing thefavor and the benevolence of these

of the kafigeledio in his possession. These

sented here, are equipped with horns,

spirits ofchangeable moods.

small sculptures faithfully reproduce the

wart hog's tusks, and a jaw with sharp-

costume and equipment of the nyam-

ened teeth. These attributes may be

belege mask, the agent of social control

associated with the beneficial activities

used within the framework ofporo cere-

of the secret poro society or, on the other



hand, their supernatural power may be


this type of object according to the par-

used in the service of sorcery practiced

Female Figure: deble

ticular ethnic sub-group in question.

by individuals or smaller associations.

Senufo, Cate d'Ivoire/Mali

The central Senufo simply expose them

Wanyugo is the term applied to the

Wood; H. 91 cm.

in a static manner, while southern

wooden mask alone, while waho (pl.

Collected in the district of Sikasso by

groups have them participate in a ritual

wubele) refers to the entirety of the

EH. Lem.

march, during the course of which they

masked apparition, that is to say, the

Formerly in the Werner Muensterberger

are raised up, promenaded, rocked, and


Collection (London).

struck on the ground to the beat of

music—all the details that make the mask


drums and blare of horns. The partici-

a living and personalized manifestation.

Senufo—Sculpturefrom West Africa, Museum

pation of the sculpted figures in the

The hornbill, symbol of fecundity posi-

of Primitive Arts, New York 1964.

dynamic offuneral rituals, indeed,led to

tioned between the horns, and the small

Senoefo, Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal

the name of"rhythm pounder" that the

animal (a chameleon?) on the forehead,


ethnographic literature attributes to

are nonetheless elements that allow us


them. The young initiates, the "children

to suppose that here we have a wanyugo,

— R. Goldwater, Senufo—Sculpture from

of poro," are charged with this ritual

whose violent powers are put at the dis-

West Africa, Museum of Primitive Arts,

promenade with their homonyms, the

posal ofporo to the positive end of main-

New York 1964, no. 88.

representation of the spirits. This walk

taining social order. If such is the case,

— J. Kerchache, L'Art africain, Mazenod,

conducts them from the sacred enclo-

then this mask is certainly associated

no. 34.

sure where they are kept to the

with funerary rites; here, it would aid

— Senoefo, iyrika Museum, Berg en Dal

deceased's home. Often presented in a

the soul of the deceased to leave the

1980, p. 30, no. 40.

male/female couple, the pombibele refer

world of the living, and to attain the

— W Gillon, Collecting African Art, 1979,

directly to the primordial pair who were

realm of the ancestors. On the other

no. 38.

the originators of the founding poro lin-



hand, the wanyugo whose aggressive

eages, as well as the ancestral protectors

powers are associated with sorcery are

Deble is the generic name for the anthro-

of the society. The status of ancestor will

usually found placed in front of the

pomorphic sculptures which represent

only be acquired by the deceased if the

small receptacles intended to receive

the spirits of the wilderness (madebele).

funerary ceremonies and the interven-



These figures, associated with the ritual

tion of the pombibele succeed in guiding

Without these magical substances, for

practices of the poro secret association,

his soul on the correct path.

that matter, these masks are rendered

are the work of thefonobele metalsmiths.

ineffective. Here we have a system of

More precisely, the example here

thought which considers that all super-

belongs to the category of the pombibele

natural powers may be used for good or

(sing. pombia), the "children of poro," a

evil aims. In any case, viewing a mask of

term that makes reference to the soci-

this type engenders terror and fear, for,

ety's young initiates, as well as to the

beneficial or not, its means of action are

sculpted figures which intervene during


the course of the rituals. The pombibele



primarily appear for the funerals of important poro members. One notes a marked difference in the use made of



Senufo / Songye. 252 - 253

Songye The Songye, who in the Democratic


depends on the ingredients (bishima),

Republic of Congo occupy a territory span-

Power Figure

most often hidden in the stomach or

ning the borders between the provinces of

Songye, Democratic Republic of

within a horn affixed to the head. The

Kasai, Shaba and Kivu, are culturally and


ritual specialist prepares these ingredi-

linguistically related to the Luba. These two

Wood, nails, leather; H. 71 cm.

ents from animal, vegetable and mineral

populations both localize the origin oftheir

Sale at Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1989,

material, then integrates them within

culture to the lake region ofShaba Province.

no. 171, p. 98.

the sculpted image. Only he is fit to add

The Kalebwe, today the most important

these substances, and he is the only one

group, in all probability comprise the socio-


privy to their secret composition.

political core of the Songye cultural area.

Power Figure

Generally the figures are decorated with

Although never having a large united king-

Songye, Democratic Republic of

a series of composite ornaments and

dom endowed with a ruling monarch, as the


objects, whose purpose is to augment

casefor the Luba, the Songye have chiffr

Wood; H. 20 cm.

their power. The frequent utilization of

who undergo a ritual investiture and must

Formerly in the J. Hautelet Collection

metal nails suggests the penetrating

observe a series ofprohibitions that endows


effect of the nkishi's magical force. The

them with a status homologous to that of


bands of copper often covering the face

sacred king. One oftheir creation myths tells

Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine, Center for

are attributed with the faculty of con-

that the primordial ancestor, Mukungu,

African Art, New York 1989.

centrating the energy of lightning bolts,

gave birth to the sun, the moon, the wind


in order to then direct them against a

and the rain, as well as to Mukulu, who in

— Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine—African Art

malevolent aggressor. The magical fig-

turn brought forth human beings. The

and the Wilderness, Center for African Art,

ures of smallest size are destined a priori

Songye distinguish two ryes ofevil powers:

New York 1989, p. 128, no. 94.

for individual or family use. The large

buci, innate sorcery (witchcraft) is an inter-

— F. Neyt, Arts traditionnels et histoire du

examples, on the other hand, often

nalforce, localized in the heart or the stom-

Zaire, 1981, p. 260, fig. XIV.2, New

remain for generations in the service of

ach, and transmissible through mother's


village society as a whole. They are not removed from the small case in which

milk; and masende, an external power which is acquired through the appropriation of

Songe figures are personal aides related

they are conserved until the beneficial

supematuralforcesfrom the ancestors or the

to protection, healing and therapy.

force of the spirits is solicited. When it

deceased. These twoforms ofevil magic are

These power objects, called minkishi

is bestowed with its magical potential,

theforces made use of by members of the

(sing. nkishi), are thought of as protec-

the sculpture,intended for society's use,

bwadi bwa kifwebe association. Political

tors against physical ailments and

may only be manipulated with the use of

power resides with this association which, by

aggression from outside. They are

long batons stuck under its arms.

way of thefear engendered by the masked

notably venerated at the appearance of

initiates, exercises a coercivefunction, one of

the new moon. The sculptor is respon-


social control. Moreover, this duahry allows

sible only for the making of the figura-

Power Figure

the chijs to preserve their benevolent image

tive receptacle, and this will then be

Songye, Democratic Republic of

in the eyes oftheir people.

activated by the ritual specialist (ngan-


ga). The sculptures are not appreciated

Wood, metal, copper; H. 48 cm.


for their outward appearance, but rather for their magical potential, which



Ta bwa 166

The Tabwa are located in the southeast of

Boldly constructed, this double figurette

Face Mask: kifwebe

the Democratic Republic of Congo and the

presents a male figure in an almost seat-

Songye, Democratic Republic of

northeast ofZambia. They live on the west-

ed position, on his shoulders carrying


ern banks of Lake Tanganyika and the

another person who grips him by the

Wood, kaolin; H. 34.5 cm.

north bank of Lake Mweru, and are orga-

ears. Both are coiffed with the same sort

nized in independent chijdoms. During the

of skullcap, distinctly delimiting the oval

Among the Songye, the bwadi bwo lrifwebe

second-ha,of the nineteenth century these

face with protruding, almond-shaped

society functions as the organ of control

small political units enjoyed a period of

eyes, encircled by the line of the eyelids

in the service of the ruling elite. It helps

commercial prosperiry, this largely based on

in relief. The open mouth with seeming-

the authorities maintain their economic

the slave trade and ivory dealing. An indi-

ly blunted teeth are similarly carved.

and political power. The rulers have no

rect consequence of this was the blossoming

The figures' bodies, thin and naturalis-

scruples when it comes to calling on

ofa ioned sculptural art, marking afresh-

tic, are maintained in equilibrium

supernatural forces in the form of magic

ly acquired royal legitimary. Colonial con-

through the angle formed by the promi-

or sorcery. The bifivebe masks (sing.

quest brought a sudden end to this creative

nently kneecapped legs, extending to the

kifwebe) count as some of this society's

ardor: the corpus of Tabwa art today

feet founded on independent socles.

most powerful collaborators. The faces

remains limited to afew pieces ofvery great

The figure quite certainly represents a

of these masks are covered with parallel

qualiry. The northern and western Tabwa

particular episode in a legend concern-

striae inspired by the coats of certain

groups were in contact with Luba groups,

ing an ancestor. Noted by the first

animals, for example, the zebra or the

borrowing elements of culture from them,

European explorers for the care taken

bushbuck, to which the Songye accord

like circumcision. For that matter, their

with their body adornment, the Tabwa

great mythological importance. It is said

model and hero, Kakenda, isfounder ofthe

wear their hair long. They practice a

of the bifwebe masks that their place is

Luba Kingdom. The study of Tabwa art,

complex art of hairstyling, including

beyond the normal order of the uni-

that we owe to Allen E Roberts, is recent

motifs that are related to philosophical

verse. Male examples are distinguished

(1985). Roberts studied their methods of

beliefs. Like their scarifications, this

from female by the crest that surmounts

body adornment and embellishment, and

ensemble of signs is in fact a form of

the face. The size of this projection has

clarified the capillary motif constituted by

language, beyond the aesthetic aspect

hierarchical significance: the larger it is,

bands ofplaited bark consolidated by a mix-

which serves to augment the power of

the greater the magical potential and

ture ofoil and padouk-wood sawdust, and

seduction. The northern Tabwa sharpen

mystical power of the masked figure.

takes the name of"rising ofthe new moon."

their upper incisors, giving them a nee-

During their dances (in circumcision

Formedfrom isosceles triangles, it expresses

dle-like quality. This custom expresses

rites, for example), the male masks

courage and renewal. Beyond this, it also

their attachment to the errant hero,

adopt a capricious comportment and

remains a metaphorical image of the male

Kakenda,founder of the Luba Kingdom.

assume a role of social control. The

human condition, where the husband is

Lip, nose and ear piercing were com-

female masks, on the other hand, are

continually tugged between his many wives.

mon: this did not, however, prevent the

more associated with the physical world


Tabwa from being caught up—by thou-

and reproduction. Their movements are

sands—in the Swahili slave traffic at the

calmer,for they must activate the benev-

end of the nineteenth century.

olent spirits, guarantors of many off-


spring. They are also related to the


moon and appear during monthly ritu-

Double Figure

als, funerals and name-giving cere-

Tabwa, Democratic Republic of


Congo G.V.


Songye / Tabwa / Teke / Tetela / Tome.


254 - 255


The Teke have lived in the Democratic

The Tetela-Hamba of northern Kasai,


Republic ofCongo since the eighth century,

among whom I visited in 1953 and

Face Mask

on the right bank ofthe Congo River. Their

1954, do not possess masks. This per-

Tetela, Democratic Republic of

social structures are based on an elected king

tains both to the forest groups and


of a non-centralized state. His power is

those of the savanna, contrary to the

Wood, polychrome, feathers, fur, fiber;

essentially religious and he retains the

received opinion of historians of art. I

H. 79 cm.

emblems of dice including sacred objects,

have explained at some length, in

such as a cock-feathered headdress, a sheath

Objets-Signes d'Afrique (Luc de Heusch

dress, a necklace and a std: He is sur-

1995), the reasons leading to the

rounded by three dignitaries and priest-

belief that the so-called Tetela objects

physicians. Each village has a religious

collected at the beginning of the cen-

chief guardian ofthe sacred objects.

tury by Torday among the Sungu—to

Familial structure rests on the chid"of the

the south of the Lubefu River, in the

The Toma live in theforests thatform the

extreme southern part of Tetela-

border between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra

The Teke believe in a god, creator of the

Hamba country—must be attributed to

Leone. Their social organization is based on

universe, and der devotion to the spirits of

their neighbors, the Songye. Dunja

the large poro association, which directs


Hersak has carried out field research

political and religious life. The masks repre-

among the central Songye, and A. P

sent the ancestors, and are their terrestrial

Merriam has visited the small north-

places ofresidence.


ern sub-group, the Bala. But no work

The Toma artists work

Male Power Figure

has yet been undertaken among the

and wood.

Teke, Democratic Republic of

Tempa, the Songye group bordering


the Sungu, in the northwest confines

Wood, power substances; H. 80 cm.

of this area. Three masks, registered at

family, whose power is very extensive.


Formerly in



the Tervuren Museum in 1910, were


formally attributed to the Tempa by

Formerly in the A. Fourquet Collection.

the territorial administrator, Muller,

Generally of small size, the mussassi

who collected them. They differ visibly

power figures were used to protect or

from those of the Arman Collection,

grant favor to certain activities, like

whose structure more recalls that of

hunting. Other power objects were

the celebrated three-horned mask in

kept by the chiefs in baskets, together

the British Museum, collected by

with the bones of ancestors. They carry

Torday. But in a recent study Dunja

a magical charge, the bongo (medicine),

Hersak has well demonstrated that

made from a varied plant, mineral and

Songye art is very variable according to

animal mixture.

date and place of manufacture (D. A.N.

Hersak 1995). Luc de Heusch



primarily in stone

A.N. 15

Headcrest Mask Toma, Liberia Wood, leather, packets of power substances; H. 76 cm.

Tsogho The Mitsogho are a small population of

ing with politics, social affairs, the law, reli-

Collections, survey 1989, Smithsonian

central Gabon and live in the high valley of

gion, medicine and artistic pursuits.

Institution Press, no. 914.

the Ngounie River, a mountainous andfor-

Each ofthese societies, more or less secret in

est covered terrain. A region criss-crossed

character, controls a particular aspect oftra-

Tsogho caryatids (movenga) decorate the

with rivers, and cut with many deep-sided

ditional knowledge, the transmission of

bwete ritual hut, the temple called

valleys and dfficultly accessible ridges,

which was, and remains, very confidential.

ebandza. Male and female, these posts

Tsogho country is also knownfor its humid-

The Tsogho's seven initiatory societies devel-


ity and its tenacious mists in the dry season.

op their activities in ongoing interrelation-

ancestors, Nzambe-Kana, the father, and

Counting some 13,000 to 15,000 indi-

ship. The foremost among them is the

Disumba, the mother. Made from okuka

viduals, the Mitsogho live in autonomous

bwete. The women participate in the rites of

wood, these sculptures were painted

village communities, and practice a rudi-

boo (charged with enforcing public order

with white kaolin clay (pemba), charcoal

mentary slash-and-burn agriculture which

and respectfor customs) and omboudi (a

(mbii) and ocher-red (mondo).

they today supplement with hunting and

possession cult ofdivinatory nature).

In the anthropomorphic conception of

fishing as well.


According to oral tradition, linguistic cross-



the ebandza, each architectural element corresponds to a part of the human

referencing and noted cultural concordances,

126 a

body: the central pillar at the front of

the Mitsogho are said to have come long ago

Male Pole Figure: ebandza

the edifice represents the neck, the

from the eastern regions of Gabon, along

Tsogho, Gabon

small side columns (movenga) are the

the Invindo up to the Ogowe, before spread-

Wood, polychrome, glass; H. 113 cm.

arms, the ridgepole decorated with

ing into the valleys of the Ofowe, the Ika,


canoe motif, also symbolizing female

and finally of the upper Ngounie. Recent

Formerly in

linguistic and archeological studies tend to


ture is gendered, either directly through

show that the Mitsogho form part of the


the representation of genitalia, or via

more extensive Myene-Galwa ensemble,

— L. Perrois, Arts du Gabon, 1979, no.

allusion and location in the temple: male

whose antiquity in the Atlantic equatorial

221 a.

pillars on the right of the entrance,

region dates back to 4000 BP The Tsogho

— W.M. Robbins, African Art in American

female pillars on the left.

language is thought to have become distinct

Collections, survey 1989, Smithsonian

The ebandza is the venue for the princi-

from the Myene around 3200 BR From the

Institution Press, no. 913.

pal bwete ceremonies. Completely deco-


Herbert Baker

cultural viewpoint, these present ethnic

genitalia, is the backbone. Each sculp-

rated, it contains an ensemble of ritual

groups trace theirfoundations to the late

126 b

furnishings, of which many are sculpted

Neolithic and then the Iron Age (3200

Female Pole Figure: ebandza

and embellished: seats, musical instru-

B.P. to the end cy thefifteenth century).

Tsogho, Gabon

ments, staffs and fly-whisks, recipients,

The Mitsogho are organized into six exoga-

Wood, polychrome, glass; H. 120 cm.


mous and matrilineal dans. Each individu-


From a stylistic point of view, Tsogho

al is envolved within a very complex socio-

Formerly in

religious system comprised ofa whole series


defined, with a volumetric scheme of

oftraditional initiatory societies.


the human body that forward projects

These societies, separate for males and

— L. Perrois, Arts du Gabon, 1979, no.

the mass of the shoulders with respect

221 b.

to the chest and trunk.

— W. M. Robbins, African Art in American

As for the face, it is concave, ofan angu-

females, concern themselves with the education ofthe young, as well as activities deal-


Herbert Baker


sculpted works are quite typically

Tsogho / Urhobo. 256 - 257

Urhobo lar, geometric design, with a recurring

Settled in the eastern region of the Niger

With a fine-featured face, apparently

inverted-omega motif, and a stylization

Delta, the Urhobo speak an Edo language,

surmounted by an elegant pair of horns,

of the eyebrows' arch and the nose.

just like their Bini neighbors in the

this mask possesses stylistic characteris-

The art of the Tsogho is essential sym-

Kingdom of Benin. Diverse population

tics of Urhobo sculpture. The domed

bolist, with respect both to its forms and

groups in this area practicefishing and salt

forehead is divided by a median ridge

volumes, always stylized, as well as to its

production. Geographically situated between

extending to the bridge of the nose. The

use of colors.

the Kwale and the Warn Rivers, they also

small, open mouth bulges forward, and

share certain features of culture with the

teeth as well as the wide almond-shaped

Igbo (from whom they take themselves to be

eyes are treated with kaolin. Its heart-

originated), notably the absence of a cen-

shaped coiffure, set off from the large

tralized political structure. They also have

forehead, is completed by a small pyra-

the ekepo men's association, very widespread

midal outgrowth between the two

among the Ibibio. One's position in the

"horns." Among southern Urhobo vil-

membership ofthis socieg is indicative ofan

lage groups, this type of mask is a repre-

individual's hierarchical status. Having the

sentation of the descendants of the

name ekpeko among the Urhobo, this soci-

aquatic spirit, Ohworu. It has been bor-

eg's highest echelons participate in common

rowed from the western Ijo by the fish-

decision making together with the elders and

ing families of this delta region, who in

the war chiO. The ancestor cult is practiced

turn transmitted it northwards. It is

on two levels: the village level, where it is

considered as one of the children of the

conducted by a designated priest, and on the

water spirits who brings the village

individual level, within the domesticfamily

blessings from the great depths, when

setting. In both cases, mediation occurs

the Niger River's tributaries attain their

through a sacred figure in wood. The

highest level. Certain groups also relate

Urhobo also have a masking institution,

it to the young girls who are placed

closely connected with the poweOrl spirits of

under the benevolent and protective

earth and water. It is utilized in masquer-

surveillance of Ohworu, and from which

ades to appease the spirits ofthe waters and

derive the mask's feminine and delicate

forests which may be dangerous. Ifproperly

features. According to one interpreta-

honored, on the other hand, they can act to

tion, the emblems on the forehead and

man's benOt by(lording their protection.

the curved accessories above the face of



the mask are not at all the representation of antelope horns, but rather the


painstakenly elaborated hairpieces fash-

Face Mask

ioned by the unmarried girls of the vil-

Urhobo, Nigeria

lage for appearances at public festivities.

Wood, kaolin, fiber; H. 53 cm. Formerly in the Schesca Kotchouko Collection.






Established in the region ofKwango-Kwilu,



the Yaka number some 300,000 individu-

Power Figure

Wongo (?), Democratic Republic

als. They find their roots in the ancient

Yaka, Democratic Republic of

of Congo

Kongo Kingdom,just like the Suku, whose


Wood; H. 26.5 cm.

dialect and culture are quite closely related.

Wood; H. 27.5 cm.

Originally lacking political cohesion, the conquest by the Luwa, a branch of the

The Yaka power objects have the name

Lunda, in the eighteenth century, influenced

biteki, and are generally small in size. As

their political organization, although cer-

is the case for other peoples of this vast

tain ancient groups were able to retain their

region of the Zaire Basin, the Yaka too

matrilinear structure and their status as

employ a magical kit, comprising a

chiefi of the land. The men traditionally

sculpture to which has been added a

practiced hunting with bow or ryle, while

magical "charge," composed from

the women cultivated manioc, yams, peas,

diverse ingredients, which serves to acti-

pineapples and peanuts. It is through the

vate its protective or aggressive powers.

ritual activities of the n'khanda, that the

This small figure, solidly planted on

male youngsters attain the status of adult

geometrized legs and wide notch-toed

men. Organized by the village elders, the

feet, belongs to this category of magical

nakhanda brings together a number ofado-

charms. Its sizeable head and well-delin-

lescents to receive instruction, within the

eated forehead show typical traits of

seclusion of the initiation enclosure, that

Yaka statuary, especially seen with the

may last up to threeyears. At the condusion

quite voluminous, caricatural upturned

of this period, the initiates wear the masks

nose of the male initiation kholuka

and passfrom village to village to dance and

masks. Its prognathous mouth termi-

receive recompense for their pey-ormance.

nates in a small beard,indicating the fig-

The masks divide intofive main categories:

ure's male gender. The trunk, widening

large wooden masks with bloatedfaces, hel-

to a line at the waist before then nar-

met masks, zoomorphic masks, masks with a

rowing, is another stylistic feature

painted raffia superstructure and, finally,

shared by both Yaka and Suku statuary.

anthropomorphic masks. The majority

The small, thin arms—here unfortunate-

intervene before, during or after the male

ly broken off—sketch a movement that

initiation. The masks are the work of a

would have them come together at the

sculptor who carries out his art well away

chin, so expressing meditation or even

from the initiation endosure, also separated

sadness. Bereft of its magical charge, it

from the view ofother villagers.

no longer possesses any value in the eyes H.J.

of its user. This charge may be affixed directly to the figure's body, or hung within a small packet. Certain of these objects, called phuungu, are enveloped in


Wongo / Yaka / Yaoure 258 - 259

Yaure a sack of magical ingredients ofspherical

satyrical songs which mark the conclu-

Located in the center of Cote d'Ivoire, the

form,others are loaded with many small

sion of male initiation. Here, the com-

Yaure inhabit the zone between the White


plementarity of the sexes is exalted, and

and Red Bandama Rivers, to the east ofthe

asocial behavior condemned. The dance

dry of Bouafie. Practically absorbed by the

of kholuka is a signal marking the end of

Baule (to the east), they have often been

the series of performances, carried out

confined with this population, with whom

in succession from the time that the

they nonetheless share less traditional ties

Yaka, Democratic Republic of

newly circumcised leave their enclosure.

than with the Guro (to the west). One dis-


The ensemble ofactivities finds its refer-

tinguishes three Yaure groups: the Maman,

Wood, polychrome, fiber; H. 60 cm.

ence in the powers transferred by the

who seem to be the oldest residents of the

(including fibers)

ancestors through the stages of human

region and whose language belongs, as that

Formerly in the Baltimore Museum of

life, one of those being procreation. The

of the Guro, to the south Mande linguistic


colors of the mask, the white of kaolin

group; the Yaure-Baule, who speak Baule;

Sale at Sotheby's, New York, 29 Nov.

and the red of tukula powder, are the

and the Asanfwe, who express themselves

1984, no. 580.

colors of the rites of passage, while the

equally well in Baule and Guro. The history


raffia fiber connotes the palm's fertility

ofthe population ofthis region is very*-


150 Mask:


— U. Klever, Bruckmann's Handbuch der


Afrikanischen Kunst, Munich 1975, p. 65.

cult to trace. This region was the site of numerous mixtures of various groups, attracted by the environment cf hills and

Its kaolin whitened face is inscribed

forested savanna, as well as by the presence of

within a border decorated with a geo-

gold. The Maman are probably not

metric, polychromed frieze. The sculp-

autoduhonous—as mentioned above, their

tural composition of the wooden face of

language is dose to that of the Guro, and

this mask is very typical of Yaka works.

this makes us suppose that they both com-

The eyes are fashioned by two project-

prised parts of the same migratory waves.

ing cylinders on either side of the large

This said, they do live in a region where there

upturned nose, exaggeratedly curved

have been many vestiges ofancient Neolithic

atop a realistic, toothed mouth. This

populations which they "incorporated" into

nose is perhaps representative of an ele-

their mythology, presenting them as benevo-

phant's trunk, or even a phallic allusion.

lent half-pygmy/hay-spirits. The Yaure thus

The eyebrows, cheeks, teeth and eyes

conserve these ancient polished stones with

are painted with bright colors. The

particular attention. They arefound in their

ensemble is framed by the sizeable mass

fields and are used during the course ofritu-

of a coiffure in raffia fiber, this sur-

als related to healing or protection. Villages

mounted by a double-leveled hat made

are generally associated with one dan. They

from an armature of branches covered

are governed by a leader who is assisted by a

with a resin-coated tissue of raffia. The

council of elders who represent each family

coiffures of the kholuka mask are often

holding. Each family lineage of the village

topped by figures depicting animals or

traces his roots to a particular ancestor

scenes from daily life that illustrate the



c\Yo Yoruba 48

lage's purification rituals related to a

The Yoruba, a people ofaround 25 million

Face Mask

death, for prudence sake the women are

individuals, live mainly in the southwest of

Yaure, Cote d'Ivoire

gotten out of the way. In addition to this

Nigeria and the south of Benin. Moreover,

Wood; H. 29 cm.

purifying function, the masks are also

Yoruba traditions live on asfar ?field as

used to guide the deceased's soul to the

Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and the Americas in the

If indeed Yaure, then this mask, some-

world of the dead,and to assure him the

descendants of Yoruba slaves. The term

what troubling in its style (notably in the

status as an ancestor protective of his

"Yoruba" is said to derivefrom "Yarbanci,"

angular treatment of the face and scari-

descendants. This is of the utmost

a nickname given by the Hausa or the

fications), must belong to the category

importance, for there is nothing as dan-

Fulani to the inhabitants of the Oyo

of the lo masks which appear during

gerous or disquieting as an errant soul

Kingdom. This name was in turn intro-

funeral ceremonies. Among the Yaure,

loose in the village.

duced by missionariesfrom the middle ofthe A.M.B.

the masks are representations of the yu

nineteenth century, who were the first to

spirits, intermediators between Bali, the

study the Yoruba language. Prior to that,

supreme creator, and humankind.

the Yoruba-speaking peoples referred to itseff

Although there are some rare, more sec-

by the names oftheir different sub-groups.

ular examples (but sacred, nonetheless),

Earlier, the Yoruba organized themselves

the majority of Yaure masks play a fun-

into a large number ofcity-states, tradition-

damental role in restoring order to a

ally administered by kings (oba), who held

society deeply distressed by a bereave-

political as well as religious power Among

ment. Indeed, a death throws the village

the various autonomous city-stater, the

out of balance and, moveover, is an

leading place was primarily occupied by Ile-

indelible stain that only the intervention

ffe and Old Oyo. The city of ffe, probably

of the yu—by way of their lo masks—can

founded around 800, expanded between the

counter. In order for theyu to be able to

eleventh andfifteenth century into a blos-

liberate their purifying powers, it is nec-

soming metropolis and is described as the

essary for man to court their favor. The

cradle of the Yoruba culture. According to

yu are ambiguous and versatile spirits.

oral tradition, the city is the center of the

They belong to two worlds: that of

world, the place where the deity Odudua

humans and that of the bush—a duality

descended to earth from the supernatural

evoked in the masks by the addition of

world, to impart civilization. The creation

zoomorphic elements to a human face.

myth tells that Odudua was thefirst sacred

Their powers may be benevolent or,

king (oba) offfe, and that his descendants

conversely, extremely dangerous; thus, it

established the different dynasties of the

is necessary to appease them via sacri-

other Yoruba kingdoms. Although the spiri-

fices offered to their masks. Women

tual power position of ffe was maintained,

may not participate in funeral cere-

the city's political power began to wanefiom

monies, neither may they look at the

the start ofthefifteenth century, under pres-

masks, for fear that this encounter with

sure from the northwards lying Oyo

death might jeopardize their fecundity.

Kingdom, the mightiest kingdom in Yoruba

This means that before starting the vil-



Yaoure / Yoruba

260 - 261

The Yoruba conceive the cosmos as con-

The Epa/Eljon mask types of the north-

This difference possibly explains why a

structed of two realms, symbolized in the

eastern Yoruba sub-groups are helmet-

functional element such as the broad,

upper and lower halves ofa spherical gourd:

shaped masks which completely cover

rectangular opening of the mouth

Own, the supernatural, invisible world

whole of the wearer's head. They are

(through which the wearer sees) that

inhabited by spirits, ancestors and deities,

commissioned by a particular lineage to

one has in Epa masks from the northern

and Aye, the visible, tangible world that is

commemorate important events and

region, has been replaced, as in this

tantamount to the orderly administrated

persons of their community, and are

example from the southern region by an

city-state, lands surrounding the city

kept in the shrine of a family patriarch

only slightly opened mouth groove.

included. The Yoruba have an elaborate

or town chief. Although Epa/Elefon

Additionally, the difference in style

pantheon of orisa (gods, exalted powers

masks show a variety of form, they are

between the abstract helmet portion and

which human beings call upon for protec-

usually composed oftwo parts: ikoko, the

the rather naturalistic superstructure is

tion and blessing) whose hierarchical struc-

mask proper with a stereotypically

less pronounced in Epa masks from

ture dthrersfrom region to region.

abstracted face with bulging eyes, and

north Ekiti.

Yoruba economy is based on sedentary agri-

igi, the superstructure with fully sculpt-

Epa/Eldan masks with a mother-and-

culture (maize, beans, yams, cassava,

ed anthropomorphic or zoomorphic

child figure honor the deities that pro-

peanuts, coffee and bananas). Their craft


mote fertility and assure a safe delivery.

specialties—making use of textiles, leather,

The highpoint of an Epa festival is always

The threefold connection between the

beads, gourds, metal and day—have led to

the appearance of masqueraders during

ancestral world, the mother, and her

the development ofintensive commerce and

a parade through the city and/or during

child, is reflected by the same sculptural

the creation ofan extensive market economy.

dance performances at a predetermined

treatment accorded the eyes. The mask

Els De Palmenaer

venue. During their rituals, the ikoko

is an idealization ofthe essential role ful-

refer to the supernatural and ancestral

filled by women in Yoruba society. As is

world. The igi, on the other hand, sum-

the habitual custom, here too the

mon up humankind's tangible world,

woman carries her child on her back, in

and is a reflection of the various role

a sling that is knotted around her


patterns upon which Yoruba society is

abdomen. She has a plug affixed to the

Helmet Mask: Epa/Elefon

based. An anthropomorphic superstruc-

lower lip, and her high status is indicat-

Yoruba, Nigeria

ture may bear the representation of a

ed by the necklace of tubular coral beads

Wood, pigment; H.96 cm.

king, medicine man, warrior, or moth-

and the handgrip of a fly-whisk held in


er-and-child sculpted in the typical

her right hand.

Icons: Ideals and Power in the Art of Africa,

Yoruba style. The presented figures are

National Museum of African Art,

often historical personages or putative

Washington 1989.

ancestors who serve as examples for the

Mother and Child in African Sculpture, New

community. In contrast to the spectacu-

York 1987.

lar festivals of northern Ekiti region


where the masqueraders jump on to a

— H. M. Cole, Icons: Ideals and Power in

flat-topped mound that stand for "the

the Art ofAfrica, 1989, fig. 92.

land of the ancestors," in southern Ekiti

— Mother and Child in


New York, 1987, no. 26.


region the festivals have died out and the masks are conserved as "shrine figures."



57 Cap Mask: ge/ede

tive manifestation, women such as these

56 _

are termed aye ("witches"). They are

Bowl Figure: arugba

Yoruba, Benin/Nigeria

particularly feared, for they can engen-

Yoruba, Nigeria

Wood,kaolin; H. 25 cm.

der sterility, impotence and infant mor-

Wood; H. 87.5 cm., W. 40 cm.

Formerly in the Jacques Kerchache

tality The "mothers" who apply their


powers positively are seen as procreators

In Yoruba sculpture, the woman is pre-

Sale at Sotheby's New York, 29 Nov.

and providers of protection. During the

sented in various positions: kneeling,

1984, no. 261.

Gelede festival, the masqueraders' song

sitting, standing, and also—exceptional-


and dance is intended to placate the

ly—stride a horse. Oftentimes the

Masquesyorouba,iyrique, Paris, May 1973.

"mothers", and to encourage them to

woman is nude, but even when wearing

Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals,

use their hidden powers-of-life for the

clothing, the breasts are left exposed.

The Museum for African Art, New York

community's well-being.

Abiodun (1975:446) writes,"The nudi-


A Gelede costume consists ofa mask worn

ty of a kneeling woman is proof of the


flat on top of the head, a cloth veil and

solemnity and sacredness ofthe moment

— J. ICerchache, Masques yorouba, fyrique,

leg rattles (iku), which protect the mas-

of creation. For nudity among adult

Paris, May 1973. Cover and p. 35.

querader from the negative forces of the

Yoruba is not normal except on very rare

— Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and



occasions." Thompson (1974:70, 80)

Reveals, The Museum for African Art,

Membership in the Gelede society is open

notes that a kneeling position evokes a

New York, 1993, cat. no. 45.

to both men and women. Traditionally,

relationship to higher powers and indi-

the masks that appear in couples are

cates a greeting and respect. Similarly,

The Gelede society exists among Yoruba

worn exclusively by men, who borrow

young people kneel before their elders,

sub-groups living in the southwest of

women's clothing for the occasion. The

as do subjects before their king. A per-

Nigeria and the border area of Benin. It

composition ofthe costume makes refer-

son bringing an offering also kneels in

probably arose during the eighteenth

ence to the women's contribution during

the presence of the invisible ancestors

century in Ketu. The masquerades of

the Gelede festival and to the complemen-

and deities. The Yoruba designate a

Eft/Gelede are held annually between

tarity of the two sexes in community.

kneeling figure holding a ceremonial

March and May. Additional festivals are

In addition to its aesthetic value, the

bowl on her head with her hands, as

held when the community is affected by

painting of a Gelede mask also has a sym-

arugba—"he who carries a bowl."

disease and drought. The primary pur-

bolic significance, making particular ref-

The amgba may refer to rituals for Osun,

pose of the Efe/Gelede festival is to pay

erence to orisa. The white kaolin of this

the kind orisa of the medicinal waters.

homage to the life bestowing powers of

weather beaten Gelede mask with serene

The initiates would collect water from

women (those now alive, ancestors and

facial features, suggests that it once had

the river using a ceremonial bowl which

orisa), who are known collectively as

danced in honor of one of the cool,

is decorated with leaves and carried on

"our mothers"(awon iya wa).

moderate and symbolically "white"

the head. Standing or kneeling arugba

These "mothers" possess ase, a spiritual

deities (orisafiznfim).

figures are also found in Sango shrines,


force which in itself is neither positive


where they serve as recipients for offer-

nor negative, but which can be activated

ings and the so-called thunder stones

in both directions. The women can,

(dun ara)—in reality, neolithic celts that

thus, use their powers to the society's

the farmers find in their fields. Likewise,

betterment or detriment. In their nega-

the example is known ofan arugba figure



262 - 263

within which were kept the tools of the

evenly divided. The child on her back

Esu/Elegba sculptures are placed in a

artist Areogun of Osi (1880-1954).

has its face turned to the side. The head,

shrine, and the devotees wear them

Before commencing work on an object,

with conical coiffure, eye detail and

around the neck with a leather belt, or

the artist would anoint the arugba—found

scarifications, is sculpted in more detail

utilize them as dance wands.

in the shrine of Ogun, deity of warfare

than the rest of the body.

and metal—with blood and feathers of a sacrificed chicken.




Female Figure: ose Sango

Male and Female Staff

Yoruba, Nigeria

_ i .

Figures: Esu/Elegba

Wood, metal; H.61 cm.

Maternity Figure

Yoruba, Nigeria

Yoruba, Nigeria

Wood,leather; H. 38 cm.

The Sango dance wand (ose Sango) is

Wood; H. 100 cm.

Sale at Sotheby's New York, 14 Nov.

one ofthe ritual objects used in the wor-

The mother-and-child motif is popular

1980, n° 163.

ship of the thunder-and-lightning deity,

in Yoruba art, and symbolizes the wish

Although Esu/Elegba is a male deity in

Sango. The Sango cult is thought to have

for many offspring. Children are neces-

Yoruba sculpture he is often represented

been founded in Old Oyo, the former

sary because they help determine the

as a couple. Here, the male and female

capital city of the Oyo Kingdom, and

status of the parents and participate in

figures are placed next to each other,

extended over large areas of Yoruba

domestic and agricultural chores.

both provided with a typical phallic

country during the period of the king-

Moreover, children are charged with

hairstyle. The phallic coiffure symbolizes

dom's expansion. Additionally, the cult

conducting the funerary rites of parents.

the relationship between the visible and

spread to the former Dahomey and the

According to Drewal (1977:5), Yoruba

invisible worlds, and likewise also refers

American continent consequent to the

mother-and-child figures are not only

to the medicines (oogun ase) hidden in

involvement of Oyo rulers in the slave

associated with fertility, but also refer to

the head. The phallic coiffure or point-

trade. As legendary figure, Sango is said

the ritual purity of the woman. While

ed bonnet are a frequently seen motif in

have been the fourth king of Oyo. A

the mother carries her child on her back

Yoruba art and, more particularly, is the

myth recounts how he discovered a

during the long nursing period (two to

fundamental sign of Esu/EJegba. Esu is

magical mixture (oogun ase), with which

three years), she abstains from sexual

the orisa who takes pleasure in brewing

he was able to influence the force of

intercourse and her menstruations are

trouble. He is the spoilsport, the trick-

lightning. In testing out of this magical

suppressed. For the Yoruba, menstrua-

ster god, and is described as the force

force, he inadvertently caused a great

tion cleanses the body, but the blood

that destabilizes the world's harmony.

storm that destroyed the entire city

itself is seen as impure. During this peri-

Despite his unpredictable nature, he is

along with the royal family. When the

od, women may neither take part in rit-

nevertheless of essential importance.

anger of this deity is aroused, he inflicts



His worshippers see him as a friend who

man with a rain of thunder bolts (edun

Consequently, mother-and-child figures

protects them and bestows them with

ara), and further punishes them with

are more than simply fertility symbols.

children. Moreover, above all he is the

lightning strikes on their houses. With

They are also the expression of sexual

messenger between humankind and the

his temperamental character, Sango

abstinence, inner and ritual purity,

supernatural world. By creating chaos,

belongs to the fiery orisa gbigbona. These

female power and spirituality As is the

Esu generates the need among humans

are the uncontrollable, demanding

case for most freestanding Yoruba sculp-

to communicate with the other deities

deities, who are distinguished from the

tures, she stands upright with weight

by way of the !fa divination system. The

orisa fiznfizn, the rather calm "white






Zulu deities" of reassuring nature. The

The term "Zulu" comesfrom the name ofa

emblem of Sango is the stylized double

small human group originatingfrom Natal

axe that this sculpted female figure car-

who, at the beginning of the nineteenth

ries on her head. The devotees of Sango

century, federated several other southern

receive the dance staff after their initia-

African groups under the authority of a

tion. They dance with it during the

chief Chaka, nicknamed "the African

annual festivals in honor of their Master,

Napoleon" by Westerners. Chaka organized

who—despite his very demanding char-

the Zulu into a paramilitary state composed

acter—is well-disposed toward his fol-

of "regiments", its ranks filled with boys

lowers and blesses them with many chil-

who received three years training. Each clan


had its chid; pledged to the king/priest, E.D.R

whose power was counterbalanced by the guild ofmagicians. The Zulu were djeated in 1884 by the English and the Boers, in a battle that remains celebrated. The art ofthe Zulu is employed infrom tanning, metalwork and earthenware, to the making ofarms, jewelry and other domestic objects. They alsofabricatefecundity dolls. The large statuary is rare. A.N. 179

Headrest Zulu, South Africa Wood; H. 18 cm., L. 31 cm. Exhibitions: Supports de rives, Fondation Dapper 1989. African Art in American Collections, survey 1989, New York; Publications: — C. Falgayrettes, Supports de dyes, Fondation Dapper, 1989, p. 62. — W M. Robbins, African Art in American Collections, survey 1989, New York, no. 1370.





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LOUIS PERROIS Ethnologist, Director O.R.S.T.O.M.



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Biography of Arman 1928 Armand Fernandez is born the 17th of November in Nice. 1934-1940 Studies at a private school for young girls, in Nice. 1936 Arman discovers chess, the start of a long passion. He begins to paint and play the cello under his father's tutelage. 1940-1946 Secondary studies in various schools in Nice; after the Baccalaureat, he enrolls in the Ecole nationale d'Arts decoratifs in Nice. 1947 After meeting Yves Klein and Claude Pascal in Paris, all three decide to leave on a long hitchhiking trip across Europe. 1949 Arman leaves school in Nice to enroll at the Ecole du Louvre, where he studies archeology and Oriental arts for two years. He then wished to become an auctioneer. 1951 Leaves the Ecole du Louvre to become a judo teacher in Madrid. 1952 French military service in the marines. Short tour of duty in Indochina.

1953 Arman begins his interest in abstract painting: he participates in a series of happenings with Yves Klein.

1959 Makes his first and „poubelles".


Among his collections, he develops his purchases of African art.

Participates in several exhibitions, notably „Le Plein", Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, counterpoint to Klein's exhibition on „Le Vide".

He marries Eliane Radigue, with whom he is to have three children.

Establishment of the Nouveaux Realistes group, with Pierre Restany, Klein, Tinguely...

1954 After having visited the Kurt Schwitters exhibition in Paris, Arman commences his first cachets": prints made with tampons of inked or painted rubber. He lives in Nice, doing some underwater fishing to break up his day and to earn a little extra.

1961 First one-man show in New York.

1956 First one-man show in Paris, Galerie du Haut-Pave. 1957 Arman undertakes a long journey together with his wife, participating in an archeological mission to Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, and discovers cuneiform writing. Second one-man show in Paris, Galerie La Roue. Start of his „allures d'objets" period. 1958 Arman definitively opts for the name of Arman, without the „d".


Arman makes his first „Coupes" and „Coleres". 1962 The sudden death of Yves Klein. 1963 Arman travels more and more frequently to New York and exhibits widely. 1964 Appearance of Arman's first inclusions"; polyester takes on a growing importance in his work. First exhibition of Arman in a museum setting: Minneapolis. First retrospective: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 1965 Arman retrospective at Krefeld (Germany).

1966 Arman retrospective: Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. 1967 Arman collaborates with Renault for „Art-Industrie": „accumulations" of automobiles. 1968 Arman is one of France's four representatives at the Venice Biennial. In this period, he is living and teaching in Los Angeles. 1969 Traveling exhibition of his Renault automobile „accumulations". Arman divides his life between France (Paris, Vence) and the U.S.A. (Soho, in New York). He exhibits around the world. 1971 Arman receives the „Ordre national du Write". On July 13th, he marries Corice Canton, in Nice. They devote much time to practicing the art of kung-fu. 1972 Arman obtains American citizenship, as a second nationality. 1973 First large American retrospective at the Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York.

1975 Exhibition „Objets armee", at the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris. Retrospective in Arles (France). For two months Arman stays in Vence practicing the game of go with the Japanese master Isamu Haruyama, and will again later play host to him in New York. Large Arman retrospectives in American museums: La Jolla, Seattle, Buffalo, Fort Worth. 1979 Arman undertakes a long studytrip to archeological sites in China, later to Moscow. Several international exhibitions of his new bronze sculptures. 1980 Arman works in Japan and Germany. 1982 Large retrospective: La Parade des Objets" (1955-1982), appearing successively in Hanover, Tel Aviv, Tubingen, Antibes, Dunkirk. 2nd December: birth of his daughter Yasmine. Arman makes a series of monumental pieces, notably an accumulation of sixty automobiles in concrete, eighteen meters high, for the park of the Fondation Cartier (Jouy-en-Josas), entitled Long Term Parking." Various museum commissions.


Commissioned for a monument to commemorate the bicentennial of the French Revolution. 1984 Arman is named „Commandeur des Arts et Lettres". 1984-1996 Numerous travels, exhibitions and retrospectives around the world. Numerous public commissions, notably for the Gare Saint-I -27-are in Paris: accumulations of valises - „Consigne a vie" - and watches - „L'Heure de tous." Arman works on the slicing up and reassembly of many statues. 1987 Start of his „trans-sculptures." President Francois Mitterand decorates Arman with the „Legion d'honneur." 1988 „Colere d'instruments de musique" (first happening in China, in the Palace of the People, Peking. 1989 Large sculpture (20 meters) in Korea (Arrirang). 1991 Publication of the first volume of the catalogue raisonne of Arman's oeuvre, by Durand-Ruel, (Ed. de la Difference).

Biography 271 - 273

1991-1992 Retrospectives in Houston, Detroit and New York. 1993-1996 Exhibitions: Ileana Sonnabend Gallery, Sidney Janis, Marisa Del Re. Beaubourg. Slali Foundation. 1994 Armand is named officer in the Ordre national de Write. 1995 "Espoir de Paix", monument thirty-two meters high and weighing six-thousand tons, erected in Beirut. Arman is decorated with the "Merite libanais". 1996 "Captain Nemo" accumulation of stills on the Champs-Elysee in Paris.




List of Objects Face Mask: genkele Bobo Burkina Faso Wood, polydwome H: 116.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Annan Cat. 1, p. 52, 207

Male Figure: niongom Dogon Mali Wood H: 130 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 9, p. 60, 212

Half Figure: iran Bijogo Guinea Bissau Wood, metal H: 47 cm Collection cf Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 17, p. 68, 206

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 25, p. 73, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 43 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 33, p. 75, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 41, p. 76, 243

Face Mask Nuna Burkina Faso Wood, fiber, bone H: 80 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 2, p. 53, 246

Female Figure Lobi Burkina Faso Wood H: 93 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 10, P. 61, 231

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 18, p. 69, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 45 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 26, P. 74, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 38 cm Collection of Armand and Corke Arman Cat. 34, p. 75, 243

Hand-held Mask: koma ha Mau Cote d'Ivoire Wood, brass H: 118 cm Collection of Annand and Corice Arman Cat. 42, P. 77, 237

Plank Mask: nwantantay Bwa Burkina Faso Wood, polychrome, fiber H: 235 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 3, p. 54, 208

Female Figure Kulango Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 55 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 11, p. 62, 230

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 an Collection of Armond and Conte Amman Cat. 19, P. 70, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 41.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 27, P. 74, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone, Liberia Wood H: 40 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 35, p. 75, 243

Female Figure: debk Senufo C,Ote d'Ivoire, Mali Wood H: 91 an Collection of Armand and Corice Armin Cat. 12, p. 63, 252

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 36 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 20, p. 71, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm Collection of Annand and Corice Arman Cat. 28, p. 74, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood, metal H: 43 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Armin Cat. 36, p. 76, 243

Headcrest Mask: chiwara Barnana Mali Wood H: 54 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 5, p. 56, 198

Five Figures: kafigeledio Senufo COte d'Ivoire, Mali Wood, fabric, feathers, fiber H: various Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 13, p. 64, 251

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 35 cm Collection of Armand and Corke Armen Cat. 21, P. 72, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 45 cm Collection of Armand and Corky Arman Cat. 29, p. 74, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 38 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Annan Cat. 37, p. 76, 243

Face Mask Bamana Mali Wood H: 48 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arm= Cat. 6, p. 57, 199

Helmet Mask: kponiugo Senufo Ccite d'Ivoire, Mali Wood L: 114 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 14, P. 65, 251

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 22, p. 73, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 39 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 30, p. 74, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 38 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 38, p. 76, 243

Cap Mask: komo Samaria Mali Wood, fibers H: 89 an Armin Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 7, p. 58, 199

Headcrest Mask Toma Liberia Wood, leather, packets of power substances H: 76 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. IS, p. 66, 255

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 37 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 23, p. 73, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 39 cm Collection of Armand and Conte Arman Cat. 31, p. 74, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood, metal H: 34 an Collection of Armand and Corky Arman Cat. 39, p. 76, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 42 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 24, p. 73, 242

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood H: 40 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Armin Cat. 32, p. 75, 243

Helmet Mask: bundu Mende Sierra Leone Wood, metal, bamboo, fiber H: 41 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 40, p. 76, 243

Headcrest Mask Mossi Burkina Faso Wood, polychrome H: 25 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 4, p. SS, 244

Female Figure Bamana Mali Wood, metal H: 37.5 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 8, p. 59, 198

Shoulder Mask: nimba or d'inba Baga Guinea Wood H: 129 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 16, P. 67, 197


Face Mask Dan C,Ote d'Ivoire Wood 1-1: 23 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 43, p. 78, 212 Face Mask Dan Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 25 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 44, p. 79, 211 Face Mask Dan Cote d'Ivoire Wood, fabric H: 20.5 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 45, p. 80, 211 Face Mask Bete Cote d'Ivoire Wood, metal H: 40 cm Collection of Armand and Cortex Arman Cat. 46, P. 81, 205 Face Mask Guro Cate d'Ivoire Wood, hair H: 28 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 47, p. 82, 217 Face Mask Yaure Cote d'Ivoire Wood H: 29 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Amman Cat. 48, P. 83, 260

Face Mask Baule Cate d'Ivoire Wood H: 31 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 49, p. 84, 202

Cap Mask: gekde Yoruba Benin, Nigeria Wood, kaolin H: 25 cm Collection of Armand and Come Arman Cat. 57, p. 92, 262

Human Figure Mumuyc Nigeria Wood H: 133 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 65, p. 100, 245

Reliquary Figure: bym Fang•Ntumu Gabon Wood H: S2 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 72, p. 107, 214

Reliquary Figure: byen Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood, copper, fiber H: 41 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 80, p. 115, 213

Seated Figure Baule Cate d'Ivoire Wood, metal H: 42.5 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. SO, p. 85, 202

Face Mask Urhobo Nigeria Wood, pigment, fiber H: 53 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 58, p. 93, 257

Human Figure: kpaniya Mboye Nigeria Wood H: 133 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 66, p. 101, 241

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood, metal H: 42.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 73, p. 108, 214

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood, metal H: 53 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 81, p. 116, 214

Monkey Figure: gbekre Baule Cate d'Ivoire Wood, fiber H: 63 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. SI, p. 86, 202

Face Mask: Agbogho monnwu Igbo Nigeria Wood, polychrome H: 33.5 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 59, p. 94, 219

Slit Drum, Fragment: ikoro Mbembe Nigeria Wood H: 77 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 67, p. 102, 240

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood, metal H: 48.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 74, p. 109, 214

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood H: 38 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 82, p. 117, 214

Face Mask: Agbogho monnwu Igbo Nigeria Wood, kaolin, skin, fiber, fabric, metal H: 32.5 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 60, p. 95, 219

Human Figure Mambila Cameroun Wood, fiber, horn, cowrie shells, fabric H: 45 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 68, p. 103, 236

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 42.5 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 75, p. 110, 214

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood, metal H: 42 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 83, p. 118, 214

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 39.5 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 76, p. III, 214

Reliquary Head Fang (Okano Valley school) Gabon Wood H: 20.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 84, p. 119, 216

Female Figure: ate Sango Yoruba Nigeria Wood, metal H: 61 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 52 , p. 87, 263 Male and Female Staff Figures: EsulElegba Yoruba Nigeria Wood, leather H: 38 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 53, p. 88, 263

Face Mask lbibio Nigeria Wood, kaolin, metal H: 35 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 61, p. 96, 218

Helmet Mask: Epa/Elcion Yoruba Nigeria Wood H: 96 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 54, p. 89, 261

Face Mask ldoma Nigeria Wood H: 27 cm Collection of Armand and Omer Arman Cat. 62, p. 97, 220

Materity Figure Yoruba Nigeria Wood H: 100 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. SS, p. 90, 263

Helmet Mask Anang Nigeria Wood, skin H: 38 cm Collection of Armond and Corice Arman Cat. 63, p. 98, 196

Bowl Figure: arugba Yoruba Nigeria Wood H: 87.5 cm, D: 40 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 56, p. 91, 262

Headcrest Mask Mama Nigeria Wood H: 40 cm Collection of Armand and Come Arman Cat. 64, p. 99, 236

Female Figure Bamileke, Western Bangwa Cameroun Wood H: 106 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 69a, p. 104, 200 Male Figure Bamileke, Western Bangwa Cameroun Wood H: 101 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 6913, p. 104, 200 Headcrest Mask Bamileke Cameroun Wood, metal H: 70 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 70, p. 105, 200 Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Mabea South Cameroun Wood, mirror, metal H: 43.8 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 71, p. 106, 214

Six-Headed Reliquary Figure Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood H: 27 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 77, p. 112, 216

Reliquary Head Fang Gabon Wood, metal H: 25 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 85, p. 120, 216

Reliquary Head Fang-Ntumu Gabon Wood, metal H: 26 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 78, p. 113, 216

Reliquary Head Fang Gabon Wood, copper H: 18.5 cm Collection of Armand and Conte Arman Cat. 86, p. 121, 216

Reliquary Figure: byeri Fang-Betsi Gabon Wood H: 45.5 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 79, p. 114, 213

Face Mask: ngo mans Fang Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 63 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 87, p. 122, 216


Face Mask Fang-Gaola Gabon Wood, polychrome, fiber, metal H: 64 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 88, p. 123, 216 Face Mask Fang Gabon Wood, polychrome, fiber H: 73 cm (including fiber beard) Collection of Armond and Corice Arman Cat. 89, p. 124, 216 Face Mask: gon Kvvele Gabon Wood H: 37 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 90, p. 125, 230 Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 25 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 91, p. 126, 227 Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon (Mckambo Region) Wood, copper H: 45 cm Collection of Armand and Conce Arman Cat. 92, p. 127, 227 Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 36 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 93, p. 127, 227 Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 28 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 94, p. 127, 227 Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper, iron H: I S cm Collection of Armand and Conte Amman Cat. 95, p. 127, 227

List of Objects 276 - 277

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 43.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 96, p. 127, 227

Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon, Congo Wood, copper H: 69.3 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 104, p. 132, 224

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 54 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 112, p. 134, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 68.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 120, p. 135, 225

Face Mask Punu Gabon Wood, kaolin H: 29.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 127, p. 138, 248

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 50 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 97, p. 128, 228

Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 46.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 105, p. 133, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota. Mindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 39.8 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 113, p. 134, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 45.7 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 121, p. 135, 225

Face Mask Punu Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 30.5 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 128, p. 139, 248

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 37 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 98, p. 128, 228

Reliquary Janus Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 58.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 106, p. 133, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: S4 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 122, p. 136, 225

Face Mask Punu Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 30 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 129, p. 140, 248

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 33 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 99, p. 128, 228

Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 48 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Artisan Cat. 107, p. 133, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 64.2 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional An Cat. 123, p. 136, 226

Face Mask Pi.mu/Lumbo Gabon Wood, kaolin H: 32 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 130, p. 141, 248

Reliquary Figure Mahongwe Gabon Wood, copper H: 41 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Artisan Cat. 100, p. 128, 228

Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon, Congo Wood, copper H: 46 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 108, p. 133, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 58 cm Collection of Annand and Conte Amon Cat. 124, p. 136, 226

Face Mask Punu/Lumbo Gabon Wood, kaolin H: 45 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 131, p. 142, 248

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper, bone H: 49 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 101, p. 129, 224

Reliquary Figure Southern Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 46.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 109, p. 133, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 42.7 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 125, p. 136, 226

Face Mask Tsangui/Ndjabi Gabon Wood H: 29 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 132, p. 143, 248

Reliquary Janus Figure Kota Gabon Wood, copper H: 56.2 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Artisan Cat. 102, p. 130, 225

Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon, Congo Wood, copper H: 37 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 110, p. 133, 225

Face Mask Tsangui/Ndjabi Gabon Wood, polychrome H: 33 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 133, P. 144, 248

Reliquary Janus Figure Southern Kota Gabon, Congo Wood, copper H: 61.8 cm Artisan Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 103, p. 131, 224

Reliquary Figure Fragment Kota-Shamaye Gabon (North of Okoudja) Wood, copper H: 24 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. Ill, p. 134, 225

Male Pole Figure: ebandza Tsogho Gabon Wood, polychrome, glass H: 113 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 126a, p. 137, 256

Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 33.7 cm Collection of Armand and Conte Arman Cat. 114, p. 134, 225 Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 42.6 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 115, p. 134, 225 Reliquary Figure KotaMindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 42 cm Collection of Armand and Conce Artisan Cat. 116, p. 134, 225 Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 58.9 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 117, p. /35, 225 Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 62 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 118, p. 135, 225 Reliquary Figure Kota Gabon (Upper Ogowe) Wood, copper H: 44.5 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 119, P. 135, 225

Female Pole Figure: ebandza Tsogho Gabon Wood, polychrome, glass H: 120 cm Artisan Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 126b, p. 137, 256


Female Figure Kuyu Congo Wood, polychrome H: 83 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 134, p. 145, 230

Male Figure: kiteki Bembe Congo Wood, power substances, fiber H: 21 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 135, p. 146, 204 Male Power Figure Teke Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, power substances H: 80 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 136, p. 147, 255 Face Mask Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, fiber H: 40 cm (including fiber) Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 137, p. 148, 223 Maternity Figure: Efernba Kongo-Mayombe Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, leather, metal, mirror H: 31 cm Arman Foundation for Traditional Art Cat. 138, p. 149, 237 Power Figure Kongo-Mayombe Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, copper, mirror H: 34 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 139, p. ISO, 238 Power Figure: nisi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, copper, mirror, power substances, glass H: 25 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 140, p. 151, 221

Power Figure: nkin Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, cowries shells, fiber H: 42 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 141, p. 152, 221

Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, cowrie shells, etc. H: 75 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 148, p. 159, 222

Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, etc. H: 42 cm Collection of Armand and Corke Annan Cat. 142, p. 153, 222

Power Figure Yalta Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 27.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 149, p. 160, 258

Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, organic material H: 46 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 143, p. 154, 222

Mask: kholuka Yalta Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polydsrome, fiber H: 60 cm (including fibers) Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 150, p. 161, 259

Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal H: 63 cm Collection of Armand and Corke Annan Cat. 144, P. /55, 222 Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, fiber, etc. H: 65 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 145, p. 156, 222 Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, fabric, fiber, glass, etc. H: 67 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 146, p. 157, 222 Power Figure: nkondi Kongo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, glass, fabric, fiber, cowrie shells H: 72 cm Collection of Armand and Cork, Arman Cat. 147, p. 158, 222

Face Mask Pende Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, fiber H: 38 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 151, p. 162, 247 Maternity Figure Mbala Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 30 cm Collection of Armand and Cork, Arman Cat. 152, P. 163, 239 Cup Wongo(?) Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 26.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Ammo Cat. 153, p. 164, 258 Janus-faced Scepter Chokwe Angola Wood H: 46 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 154, p. 165, 210

Stool Chokwe Angola Wood, metal H: 23 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 155, p. /66, 210 Face Mask: cihongo Chokwe Angola Wood H: 20 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 156, p. 167, 209 Face Mask: p'wo Chokwe Angola Wood, fibers, metal H: 21 an Collection of Armand and Cork. Arman Cat. 157, p. 168, 209 Face Mask: p'wo Chokwe Angola Wood, fibers, metal H: 23 cm (without coiffure) Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 158, p. /69, 209 Face Mask Ovimbundu Angola Wood H: 21 cm Collection of Armand and Conte Arman Cat. 159, p. /70, 247 Face Mask Salampasu Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, pigments, fiber H: 30 an (without fiber) Collection af Armand and Cork, Annan Cat. 160, p. 171, 250 Helmet Mask Kuba Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, fiber, fabric, copper, metal H: 46 an Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 161, p. 172, 228

Helmet Mask Kuba-Kete Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome H: 50 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 162, p. 173, 229

Headrest Luba-Shankadi Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, beads, fiber H: 16 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 169, p. 180, 233

Power Figure Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal, leather H: 71 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 163, p. 174, 253

Stool, Fragment Luba-Hemba Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 36 cm Annan Foundationfor Traditional An Cat. 170, P. 181, 232

Power Figure Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 20 cm Collection of Armand and Corice kman Cat. 164, p. 175, 253

Male Figure Hemba-Bembe Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 83 cm Collection of Armand and Ceram Arman Cat. 171, p. 182, 217

Power Figure Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal H: 48 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Annan Cat. 165, P. 176, 253

Human Figure Hemba Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, copper H: 26.2 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Almon Cat. 172, p. 183, 217

Face Mask: kifirebe Songye Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, kaolin H: 34.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 166, P. 177, 254

Male Figure Basikasingo Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 71 an Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 173, P. 184, 203

Face Mask Tetela Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polychrome, feathers, fur, fiber H: 79 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 167, p. 178, 255

Double Figure Tabwa Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 20.5 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 174, P. 185, 254

Male Figure Lulua Democratic Republic of Congo Wood H: 37 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Annan Cat. 168, p. 179, 234


Male Figure Mbole Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, polydsrome H: 44 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 175, p. /86, 241

Male Figure Owe (?) East Africa, Tanzania(?) Wood, metal H: 73.5 cm Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 176, p. 187, 247 Face Mask Makonde(?) Tanzania Wood, teeth, fiber H: 32 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 177, P. 188, 235 Helmet Mask Makonde Tanzania Wood, skin H: 26.7 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 178, P. /89, 235 Headrest Zulu South Africa Wood H: 18 cm, L: 31 an Collection of Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 179, P. 190, 264 Maternity Figure Sakalava Madagascar Wood H: 94 cm Arman Foundationfor Traditional Art Cat. 180, p. 191, 249 Male Figure Konso-Gato Ethiopia Wood H: 176 cm Collection af Armand and Corice Arman Cat. 181, P. 192, 224

278 - 279

Objects not catalogued Helmet Mask: bundu Mende, Sierra Leone Wood Collection Armand and Corice Annan p. 27 Helmet Mask: bundu Mende, Sierra Loene Wood Collection Armand and Corice Arman p. 27 Reliquary Janus Figure Kota, Gabon Wood, copper H: 62.5 cm Collection Armand and Corice Arman p. 37 Mask Kwelc, Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) Wood, polychrome H. 30.5 cm Annan Foundationfor Traditional Art p. 39

,ocilkwt 444e-Zuf.4,, CD-ROM Conceived and directed by Pierre-L. Jordan in collaboration with Bo Valsted, Eric Laporte, Francois Landriot, Patrice Afanou, Carine Couton. Co-production HyperVision - ARTE Editions - MAAOA Office Regional de la Culture Region Provence-Alpes-C8te d'Azur. With the support of The Traditional Art Foundation, New York Centre Europeen de Recherche et Developpement Multimedia, Marseille

Documentary Film Arman, Portrait of the Artist, Collector of African Art Length : 26 minutes Director : Benedicte Sire Co-production : Paris-Premiere, HyperVision, Les Films d'ici. With the participation of CNC, de la Procirep, du MAAOA and the Ministry of Cooperation




Profile for The Africa Center

African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection  

African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection is an extraordinary collection of more than 180 visually provocative objects from diver...

African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection  

African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection is an extraordinary collection of more than 180 visually provocative objects from diver...