African Masterpieces from the Musee de l'Homme This book presents a pictorial record of a magnificent exhibition: one hundred masterpieces chosen from the vast holdings of the Musee de l'Homme, France's premier national collection of African art, and the inaugural exhibition of the Center for African Art in New York City. Here in beautiful color photographs, usually fullpage, are some of the most famous African sculptures in the world, including many never before seen in the United States. Also in the exhibition and pictured in these pages are rare and beautiful works that lay undiscovered among the thousands of pieces in the Musee de l'Homme reserves, pieces collected by explorers and military men during France's colonial period and on scientific expeditions in the 1930s and 1940s. Two well-known and highly respected specialists in the field, Francine N'Diaye, head of the Black Africa section of the Musee de l'Homme, and Dr. Susan Vogel, since 1971 senior Africanist at the Metropolitan Museum and Director of the Center for African Art, selected this remarkable exhibition. In their lively and informative text, the co-curators have supplied astute artistic analysis for each object, enhanced by many fascinating details related to the uses and meanings of the objects and the customs and beliefs of the people for and by whom they were created. The scope and variety of the exhibition extend from Mali to Madagascar, from the Akan to the Zulu, embracing important objects such as a great delicately crafted gold masquette, the famous Dogon hermaphrodite, the Kongo nail-studded dog fetish, sixteenth-century Afro-Portuguese ivories,and a Malagasy carved grave post, portraying a couple. Dr. Jean Guiart, Director of the Musee de l'Homme, in his introduction gives us an insider's account of the beginnings of the museum's extensive collection from the earliest pioneer days of French explorers in West Africa, to the discovery of African art by the cubists and surrealists early this century. He says that artists "discovered the dead objects in the museum, and, like Pygmalion, transformed them into living art." They soon used African forms in their own art. For a time, things African captured the imagination of Paris. This popular interest led to scientifically organized expeditions, like the remarkable Dakar-Djibouti expedition (1931-1933) which crossed the entire
AFRICAN MASTERPIECES From The Musee de l'Homme
by Susan Vogel and Francine N'Diaye Introduction by Jean Guiart
. THE CENTER FOR AFRICAN ART, NEW YORK, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publisher, New York
Dedication for Jerry il miglior fabbro
C) 1985 The Center for African Art All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced without the written permission of The Center for African Art. This book is published in conjunction with the exhibition, African Masterpieces from the Musee de l'Homme, organized by The Center for African Art. September 17, 1984-January 6, 1985 Design: Doris Halle and Linda Florio Editor: John Anderson Index, Bibliography: Jeanne Mullin Photography: Musee de l'Homme Jose Oster: 4, 23, 27, 37, 43, 46, 48, 51, 52, 57, 59, 92, 98, 17 Dorine Destable: 22, 40, 50, 58, 86, 89, 96, 93 Daniel Ponsard: 5, 13, 70, 85 Christian Lemzaouda: 20, 24, 29, 49, 53, 71, 69 Maryse Delaplanche: 38 Michel Crouail: 6 Dorine Destable and Christian Lemzaoda: 8, 65, 77, 95, 99, 100 Exhibition design: Maureen Healy Printed and bound in Japan by DAI Nippon Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 84-71710 ISBN 0-8109-1825-0 (cloth) THE CENTER FOR AFRICAN ART 52 EAST 68 STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10021
Professor Jean Guiart, Director of the Laboratoire d'Ethnologie du Musee Nationale d'Histoire NatureIle (Musee de l'Homme), extends his warmest gratitude to la Societe des Amis du Musee de l'Homme and to its President, Mme. Jacques de Beaumarchais. He expresses his thanks to all the staff of the Musee de l'Homme who assisted with the preparation of the catalogue and of the exhibit, and in particular to the Department of Black Africa, of Musical Instruments, the Phototeque, the Photography Laboratory, the Restoration Laboratory, and the secretariat of the Laboratory of Ethnology. Susan Vogel and Francine N'Diaye join their thanks to Professor Guiart's, and wish in addition to express their gratitude to the many people whose swift and efficient cooperation made it possible to complete this book in a scant two months. Edna Bay, Francoise and Alain Chaffin, Roberto di Giacomo, Diane Farynyk, Margaret Kaplan,
Helene and Philippe Leloup, Lee Lorenz, Jean-Louis Paudrat, and William Rubin, the staffs of our two museums, especially Polly Nooter, who translated from the French and helped in every phase of the exhibition, Purissima Benitez, Joyce Hearst, and those who designed and edited the catalogue. The librarian, Alan Chapman, Virginia Webb, and the staff of the Goldwater Library at the Metropolitan Museum were extremely helpful and we are grateful to them.
The inaugural exhibition of the Center for African Art, African Masterpieces from the Musee de l'Homme, is presented under the official patronage of His Excellency Bernard Vernier-Pallez, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of France to the United States, The Cultural Services of the Embassy of France to the United Nations, and The Association Francaise d'Action Artistique.
The Center for African Art
Introduction Susan Vogel
Africa, the Arts, and the Musee de l'Homme Jean Guiart
Map of Africa
Catalogue Susan Vogel Francine N'Diaye
Bellows; Gabon, Fang; Wood, 53 cm. (not exhibited)
Reliquary Guardian; Gabon, Kota; Wood, metal, 51 cm. (not exhibited)
8 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
The Center for African Art
"A new museum calls for a word of explanation," wrote Nelson Rockefeller when the Museum of Primitive Art opened its doors in the spring of 1957. As the new Center for African Art opens its first exhibition, it too calls for a word of explanation, and in this as well as many other respects, it follows in the path of the Museum of Primitive Art. When the vast Rockefeller Wing opened at the Metropolitan Museum, New York gained a permanent exhibition of one of the great African collectionsâ€”but it lost a small and dynamic museum, the Museum of Primitive Art, which had assembled that collection and for years had presented special exhibitions that delighted the eye and enlightened the mind. It is our intention to continue the exhibitions and the educational functions of the Museum of Primitive Art. In the intervening quarter century, the field has become more mature and more specialized: whereas the. earlier museum dealt with the art of Oceania and the Americas as well as Africa, we address ourselves specifically to African art. When the Directors of the Center for African Art formulated its charter in early 1982, they stated, "The Center for African Art has been formed to increase the understanding and appreciation of Africa's ancient cultures. It will present three art exhibitions each year, publish catalogues and educational brochures to accompany the exhibitions, and sponsor related lecture and film programs. The exhibitions will be broad in scope, educational in subject, and of the highest aesthetic quality. The Center is founded in the belief that traditional African art, an eloquent testimony to the richness of Black culture, is one of mankind's highest achievements." The Center is proud to present as its opening exhibition African Masterpieces from the Musee de l'Homme and expresses its gratitude to the official patron of the exhibition, the Ambassador of the Republic of France to the United States, and to the Laboratoire d'Ethnologie du Musee de L'Homme for the loan of its magnificent collection. FOUNDING BOARD Lawrence Gussman Chairman Charles Benenson Marc Ginzberg Vice Chairmen Sidney Clyman Secretary Gordon Douglas Asst. Secretary
Bernice Clyman Deborah Last Jay Last Kathryn Roush Margit Rowell Sheldon Solow Donald Suggs Executive Director Susan Vogel 9 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
Drum; Ivory Coast, Akan; Wood, paint, hide, fiber, 230 cm. (not exhibited) 10 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
Introduction by Susan Vogel
No selection of masterpieces is definitive or objective. After the considerations of scholarship and connoisseurship, the final choice is inescapably personal, based on a purely subjective response to something about the workâ€”its particular beauty and eloquence, its indefinable emotional power, or perhaps its fame. To select masterpieces from an anthropological collection is to seek aesthetic satisfaction in objects orginally acquired for other purposes. However, the aesthetic-anthropological debate has been gradually stilled, and it is now accepted that among the thousands of ethnographic specimens in the Musee de l'Homme are many works of art, and among these a smaller number are masterpieces. This book is a selection of them. It reflects not only a personal choice but also the taste of a moment in time; a selection made ten years hence would surely be different from this one. Each successive selection canonizes certain objects and influences the choices that folloW. This made it difficult to take a fresh look at works widely known and admired. The shock of encountering the objects in person, in the daylight, and in the round gave new perspective to old favorites. Forays into the recesses of the fabled storerooms in the Musee de l'Homme uncovered new treasures. Some famous pieces had become boring, and these were passed over. Others, repeatedly published, are here again because they have not lost their power to surprise and move us. A few, hitherto unknown, seemed destined to become classics included in future anthologies. Other works, off-putting and difficult at first, held a special fascination, and are presented here in the hope that they will reward a careful look. A few masterpieces in the collection that could not be shown in the exhibition are illustrated in these opening Pages. Tastes have become more catholic in the past twenty years, and African art has become better known, more accepted. Those of us concerned with presenting African art to the public can now permit ourselves to choose less defensively than in the past. We do not have to try as hard any more to prove that the sculpture of Africa is real art, as potent and as worthy of respect as the art of any other time or place in history. We can exhibit rough and horrifying works as well as refined and lyrical ones. The way has been paved by Francis Bacon and Lucas Samaras, among many others. Western artists have become interested in making fetishes and magical objects, so we can now show the African ones, freighted with the Power of belief, and rely on our audience to regard them as works of art. As Western artists have opened our eyes, and widened our horizons, they have redefined the terms.
The term "ethnographic specimen" is still valid, but it covers a shrinking group of objects, and no longer blankets whole categories such as utensils, nonfigurative containers, or dance costumes. The collection from which the choice was to be made was, like all collections, weighted in favor of certain areas; the former French territories and colonies were best represented, while objects from the English-speaking areas were thin. Works in the exhibition fall into three groups. Earliest are those collected by explorers, adventurers, and military men before about 1906, which comprise about a third of this exhibition. Objects brought back by scientific expeditions account for another third. The last group is composed of gifts to the museum from art collectors, and in it we find a broad geographic representation. From the beginning we decided to make our selection on the aesthetic merits of the works of art, and to play from strengths. Thus we have included the whole splendid array of Dogon masks, and almost nothing from Nigeria. The deeper we searched in the Musee de l'Homme's files, the more often we encountered a subversive love of beautiful objects, a search for aesthetically pleasing works by members of the anthropological expeditions. The acquisition of the famous Dogon hermaphrodite (no. 14) inspired its finder to exclaim, "The museum will have here a unique piece that, I think, will quickly become famous." She continued this letter to the museum's director with a plea that this beautiful and moving sculpture not be exhibited with the "inevitable bric-a-brac of expeditions" but be shown apart as a work of art with the finest pieces already in the collection. The pamphlet prepared in 1931 by the old Musee d'Ethnographie called "Instructions Sommaires pour les Collecteurs d'Objets Ethnographiques" contained the brief directive (p. 18): "Collect all the objects possible, ordinary or not. All objects are aesthetic to a certain degree. There is no real difference between the potter when he manufactures, and the potter when he decorates. The dish I use, I chose." Leaving the building, I found further confirmation that the Musee de l'Homme has long recognized that works of art lurked among the ethnographic specimens in its galleries. Over the door is an epigram written by the poet Paul Valery for the opening of the Palais de Chaillot in 1933:
11 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
Choses rare ou choses belles Ici savemment assemblees Instruisent l'oeil a regarder Comme jamais encore vues Toutes choses qui sont au monde (Rare or beautiful things Wisely gathered here Teach the eye to see As never before All things in the world)
C131D3108d IHDI8AdOD ZI
(papqiuxa )ou) .wo oz '.1u!ed 'pow .'aued 'uoqeD '>/seini
The Musee de l'Homme, the Arts, and Africa by Jean Guiart The Musee de l'Homme, formerly known as the Trocadero Museum of Ethnography, was given its present name in 1937 in recognition of its ever widening and ever deepening study of the artifacts of the entire family of man. The museum had been created by decree of King Louis Philippe in the mid 1830s as France's first repository of ethnographic pieces. Forming the nucleus of the collection were objects from the former royal or princely Cabinets des Curiosites—collections of exotica brought back or sent back over the centuries by explorers and emissaries of the crown and of the succeeding Republics, and also by adventurous merchants and missionaries. These people had little interest in the meaning or purpose the objects had in their native cultures, but they had other reasons for choosing what to send. Missionaries, for example, selected objects which would show that the debased heathens were on the way to becoming good Christians, that they had abandoned their savage practices, and had relinquished or burned their idols; or, on the other hand, that they were living a barbarous kind of life, devoid of spirituality though not of superstition, and were full of strange ways which, God forbid, could never be considered a form of civilization. The sheer technical problems of shipping often determined what was sent or not sent, and thus contributed to the haphazard way in which collections were formed, as distinct from a well-controlled investigation into other cultures. Large pieces could be, and still are, a nuisance to prepare for travel. Good packing cases are difficult to make, and the meticulous packing techniques needed were not available. To get as far as Europe, an object had to be solid, sturdy, and resistant to the wear and tear of sailing a long and hazardous journey. Some artifacts were even thought to contain poison or to exude a miasma linked with leprosy or some other horrible tropical disease, and so were left behind. Information about the objects, such as the techniques of making them, were rarely recorded, unless an economic value was involved, as in the case of gold, or unless the object had to do with navigation or war. These areas were of special interest to early explorers because that kind of knowledge was useful at the beginning of the imperial age. During the nineteenth century these objects of picturesque curiosity gradually became items of commercial value as people took more and more interest in them. This brought pieces out of the halls and garrets of stately mansions and private houses, and before the eyes of a growing and appreciative public.
The cubists were the first of the artistic community in Paris in the 1910s, followed by the surrealists in the 1920s, to recognize that these exotic objects were indeed a form of art. The artists "discovered" the dead objects in a museum and, like Pygmalion, transformed them into a living art to which they gave the name "art negre," a term which encompassed objects from Oceania as well as Africa. Indeed, some artists of the cubist and surrealist schools used African forms in their own art. In a way, it was the artistic community's discovery of African and other native art that awoke the authorities of the Museum of Ethnography to the necessity of studying and systematically expanding their collection, which had developed in such an anarchic way over the decades. Two of the best French minds dedicated themselves to the task: Dr. Paul Rivet, director of the museum, and Professor Marcel Mauss, the "founding father" of anthropology in France. Dr. Rivet was the administrator, the organizer, and the one with political connections. Professor Mauss trained the first researchers in this new field, examined their findings, and offered his interpretations. The political environment of the 1920s was crucial to the success of the new enterprise, especially in acquiring new pieces. France had a colonial empire, the greater part of it in West Africa, which became a prime source for native art. Thinking kindly about Africans had become fashionable in Paris for a number of reasons. Black African soldiers had been of great help to France in World War I before U.S. armies arrived to help win the day, and the French public saw Africans with a new eye. Although the idea of making the colonial system more liberal was in the air, even the best and more liberal minds of the French Socialist Party—Dr. Rivet and Professor Mauss among them—did not dream for a minute that our colonies would ever become independent. Rather, a better knowledge of the African people and an improved method of colonial administration were the goals, in the interest of making the French Empire stronger and everlasting. It was believed too that the loyalty of our colonial subjects might be more secure if they were better treated, and that such a development would be a valuable counter to German and Italian ambitions in Africa. It was in this intellectual climate that in 1925 the Institute of Ethnology was created, within the Trocadero Museum, by Marcel Mauss, Paul Rivet, and Lucien LevyBruhl for the purpose of furthering understanding of the indigenous peoples in the colonies. The institute was financed from the budget of the various colonies. Courses in anthropology and exotic linguistics were introduced to the curriculum of the School of Colonial Administration. Georges Henri Riviere, assistant director of the Museum of Ethnography, influenced by Emile Durckheim's School of Sociology, became the link between this new scientific field and the very Parisian world of literature and art. Writers, poets, musicians, and painters considered the hill of Chaillot, where the Trocadero Museum was located, one of the intellectual centers of the French capital city.
13 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
• • 41
Throne; Republic of Benin, Fon, Abomey; Wood, paint, 125 cm. (not exhibited)
King Glele as a Lion; Republic of Benin, Fon, Abomey; Wood, paint, leather, 170 cm. (not exhibited) 14
Soon, new acquaintances and new friendships were made. Industrial families such as Lebaudy (beetroot sugar) and Schneider (ironworks) who had no direct link with colonial businesses, commercial firms, and banks acquired an interest in anthropology and gave help and money for the collection of ethnographic items. Thus, in the 1930s French ethnographic expeditions set out long after those of the British, the Dutch, the Germans, the Russians, or the Hungarians, most of which had taken place at the end of the nineteenth century. These French ethnographers resurrected the scientific and philosophical purposes that had motivated the Baudin expedition to Australia during the French Revolution. This time, however, it was no longer the unknown and the primitive antipodes that were sought, but knowledge. The work done in the preceding decades by geographical societies had to be prolonged and deepened to fill out important areas of insufficient knowledge. The French Parliament in 1931 authorized the museum to undertake a Dakar-Djibouti expedition, with Marcel Griaule as its head. The three-year expedition began in Dakar in Senegal on the Atlantic and traveled east, ending in Djibouti in French Somaliland on the Indian Ocean. There was no armed protection for the expedition; a group of native workers handled cases in the constant embarking and disembarking from ships, trains, lorries, and river boats. The researchers had guns, and used them to hunt, an activity which was beneficial to every member of the mission, black or white, as the meat was shared by all. The entire structure of the French colonial system had been ordered to assist the expedition, and the multitude of pieces collected were, sometimes grudgingly, packed and sent to Paris through the services of each territorial administration. Just as important as the artifacts themselves was the documented information painstakingly acquired by the expedition's researchers, including Michel Leiris, Andre Schaeffner, and Deborah Lifszyc. Michel Leiris in 1934 published a detailed account of the expedition under the title l'Afrique Fantorne. Griaule and his company bought a number of artifacts, especially masks, after having seen them at one of the festivals ordered by the district officers for their entertainment. They were apprehensive about the authenticity of these objects, possibly made in answer to the call of the representative of the dominant power. After weeks of journeying along a non-anthropologically determined route—the railway line and the Niger River— Griaule's party suddenly found themselves witnessing a real funerary rite among the Dogon people, one of the little-known groups of the Sahel area in Mali. One can understand the subsequent love affair between the Dogon and the Griaule expedition. The masks the researchers found here had not appeared through administrative fiat. The type of atmosphere that anthropologists always hope for, one devoid of tensions and wariness, had suddenly materialized. The researchers found themselves among
people who did not consider them a potentially dangerous type of superior being, and who therefore talked openly and agreeably, each day handing out just enough good, sound information to keep Griaule and his friends content. As a minority group, hard pressed on all sides and far away from official centers of decision, the Dogon badly needed sympathy and were looking for allies. The finest result of the entire Dakar-Djibouti enterprise was Marcel Griaule's excellent book Masques dogons, which was the first detailed scientific monograph on African art pieces, and for its author the beginning of a deeply felt personal relationship with the Dogon people. In the same way as Bronislaw Malinowski's books have long protected the Trobriand Islands from unwarranted administrative interference, Griaule's protection has been a boon for the Dogon, who through him got worldwide attention and renown, and today a constant flow of tourist curiosity and money. Even if the anthropologist dreams of having a privileged link to a human reservation closed to all others, the result of his exertions will be entirely contrary to his hopes and will usually accelerate the tempo of entry of "his people" into the hub of the modern world. Much later, in the spring of 1956, the Dogon people would honor Marcel Griaule at his untimely death by holding for him traditional funerary rites, never before done for a white man. The 1930s saw the coming of age of French anthropology. There would be no more richly financed royal explorations, which had brought back thousands of fine pieces but little or no information about them. The new expeditions after 1934 were organized to produce intensive monographic studies and to involve a number of researchers, each dealing with a specific subject. After a day in the field, the researchers would all meet together in late afternoon for a general discussion of the project. For easier relations, the head of the group was male—Marcel Griaule himself—and most of the subordinate researchers were female (among them were Solange de Ganay, Germaine Dieterlen, Deborah Lifszyc, and Denise Paulme), thus establishing one of the most talked-about methods of group relations in the French anthropological school. (In contrast, the Dakar-Djibouti expedition had been all male except for Miss Lifszyc.) These intensive scholarly expeditions were later abandoned as too expensive. The realization that African symbolic and religious systems not only existed, but had more than a fragile and transient coherence, came slowly to the new French Africanist anthropologists, who at first accepted the general European assumption that Africans had exotic customs and savage beliefs but little more. Griaule himself experienced a complete change of ideas during his studies of African cultures, and was one of the first to understand that there was no need to presuppose cannibalism and human sacrifice in order to be able to start thinking in African terms, and not only in European terms. Some specialists think Griaule went too far in this new direction; knowledgeable Africans should be the ones to judge.
15 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
Griaule later tried to establish that, in the Sahel at least, ideas about a world system existed before similar ideas in ancient Egyptian religion. This might very well be, but it is impossible to prove. Perhaps his previous ethnographic work in Ethiopia influenced his conclusions in this regard. Curiously, the Musee de l'Homme staff members, strongly linked to the Parisian artistic establishment (Michel Leiris married the daughter of the owner of the celebrated Kahnweiler Gallery), did not believe that art was a scientific subject per se, but that it should be studied as a facet of society and culture at large. Nevertheless, it was second nature to these staff members to follow their own aesthetic judgments on the artifacts they were buying on the road, and to seize upon the most beautiful and most visually striking pieces. This tendency to rely on their aesthetic appreciation was no guarantee of the authenticity of a piece. To this day, the problem has not been solved as to how to determine whether an object was made and used for specific rites or whether it was carved for sale to the white man. Westerners' craving for African artifacts (which centuries earlier had led to the carving of the Afro-Portuguese ivories) was incomprehensible to the Africans and brought about curious behavior on their part. To them, a mask taken away by a white man was as good as destroyed; it could always be replaced. The money obtained in exchange was deemed worth the loss of the mask, as long as the necessary precautions were taken to keep the buyer ignorant about the precise significant knowledge belonging to the object, which was potentially dangerous knowledge in a foreigner's possession. Thus, the Africans rarely gave the white man correct information. One answer to this problem is to work in the local language. Marcel Mauss, recognizing this necessity, had asked the linguist Marcel Cohen to teach his field of expertise to the students at the Institut d'Ethnologie. A linguist was a member of the Dakar-Djibouti expedition, and the rule was to try to discover terms from the Africans and to use these vernacular concepts at all stages of the work, including publication. This rule was followed for the published studies of later expeditions. It was found to be a better policy than trying to seek out the best possible French word, which could only be approximate and perhaps misleading; it was also better than using predetermined words which were thought to fit all exotic surroundings, such as "totemism," "fetishism," "animism," etc.—categories which are the fruit of a methodological mistake. Even if an expedition member could converse with Africans in the vernacular, however, the problem still remained whether the information obtained was true. Claims tended to be accepted if they appeared consistent with the little information previously known about the area, and if they jibed with the researcher's preconceptions. Later Griaule, in his Fieldwork Manual, published from notes taken by his daughter, tried to establish rules of thumb to find out whether an informant was telling the
truth or not. This is a very difficult and subtle issue. How does one understand a culture if the role of deciding what is truth or untruth is entrusted to the white man only? This seems to me to be the same as the fallacy of the missionary who believes himself armed with all the forces of right against those of wrong. We must overcome the basic temptation to think this way, and must recognize that no man or woman who is taken out of his or her normal social context will behave in anything but a self-protective way. When questioned about themselves or their culture, people will not actually lie; rather, they will respond in the terms of their own social and cultural identity, the meaning of which—or all the different and implicit meanings—may take years to become entirely clear to the outsider. One problem that persists today is the way objects were obtained in the course of the expeditions. Most of the objects were purchased, after some haggling, but some were taken by sheer force of will, and others were simply stolen. For men of Christian and "civilized" upbringing, these methods were simply a way of waging war against superstition, and demonstrating to the untutored masses the superiority of civilization. Griaule and Leiris in Kemeni and Dyabougou surreptitiously spirited away so-called "fetishes" which were more or less naturalistic representations covered with the blood of sacrificed fowl, and Leiris and Schaeffner went at night to fetch carvings in the Bandiagara caves, with unknown eyes all around them. These acts are reminiscent of those of many Catholic and Protestant missionaries acting in the name of God—except that the above acquisitions were carried out in the name of science. One must remember that during this period other collectors such as navy and army officers and colonial administrators used their influence and authority to obtain pieces. Some colonial authorities protested about such abuses, and obliged the expedition leaders to return the "requisitioned" pieces. This was the period when Andre Malraux had gone briefly to jail in Cambodia for the same type of high-handed action. In a matter of a few years, Griaule himself and others in the expedition parties had a complete change of mind on this point. It must be said that the concept of respect for other people's cultural values is a new one even for the twentieth century. It was popularized by Unesco after 1945, in great part through the work of the International Committee on Museums, in which Georges Henri Riviere and Yvonne Oddon, former librarian of the Mu6ee de l'Homme, played important roles in changing public opinion. The view that Marcel Griaule gives us—to put him in perspective today—is that works of art are the material translation, in many ways, of a vernacular concept, which fits in a global system of concepts dealing with life within and about us. The concept is never unique, but each of its variations is pregnant with meanings at different levels of understanding. Griaule's position is thus not so far from that of the structuralists. Whereas for the latter the differ16
ence is between the obvious signification of things and institutions and the meanings held in the collective unconscious, for Griaule the difference is between that which is common knowledge and the esoteric science of a few initiates. What both views lack is a more detailed and complete understanding of how different levels of meaning and knowledge interact, and of how people (more than we had thought) go from one to the other. The dialectics of how people live happily through what appear to us as contradictions have still to be examined. The information is there, but the thread has not been picked up. The reader may have noticed that I have not once used the word "primitive." In my opinion, this word should always have been, and should remain, anathema in discussing the art and artifacts and culture of human races. Marcel Griaule decided to drop the word as methodologically unsound. Westerners still tend to cling to the concept of the primitive, which allows them to maintain a sense of superiority over someone, somewhere. But no culture or society can truly be called primitive, since every single one is today the result of thousands of years of change, and none has proved static over long periods. Neither the Australian aborigine, so finely specialized in surviving the desert environment where the white man shut him in for two centuries, nor any African group extending its lineage over the horizon, is anything but the result of a lengthy development. Our own development—although now at a different rhythm—remained somewhat drowsy itself not so long ago. I would like to propose in conclusion the following thoughts. One real methodological problem, in anthropology as well as in history of art, is that of recognizing the relative value of the words we use, instead of putting ourselves endlessly in situations where we are manipulated by them. There is no way out. If we speak Dogon with the Dogon, the conceptual problem is solved; we have recourse to their conceptual system, which fits the situation. But we must teach, write, and publish in a Western environment and language, the words of which only deal with our own culture and traditions. Their use is convenient and dangerous at the same time. Keeping strictly to vernacular terms would render our speech unintelligible. Let us speak, then, as we can, but carefully explain that the practical reality imposes great methodological dangers—that our words must be understood in another context, with other meanings, and that replacing them with a hypothetically constructed numerical code would be scientifically more satisfying. What we need are neutral words which can fit the local signification, all of it, and not add it to our twenty centuries or so of building rigid conceptual systems. Using the words "god," "priest," "king," "noble," "chief," "peasant," "sacrifice," "belief," "magic," "witchcraft" is in fact not very helpful. Taking the words from the Bible or the Greek classic tradition or a vague knowledge of Scottish or German ancient societies is no better. The word "clan" has had a wonderful career, but what does it really mean?
We have to accept that no Western author would be able to translate to an interested people's satisfaction the elements of what their culture is made of. The best specialized papers are only honest approximations, but form and design can convey meaning untranslatable into words. To the different levels of signification with which Africans play through their artistic expression, we can add our own. Why not if we are candid about the whole operation? Appreciation of art is universal, as is knowledge, and by art we communicate more easily. It is an accepted fact today that the African sculptor carving a mask is the equal of our most talented artists. Let us keep it that way. Jean Guiart PROFESSOR, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY DIRECTOR, MUSEE DE L'HOMME (ETHNOLOGY)
Reliquary Guardian; Cameroon, Bulu; Wood, 68 cm. (not exhibited) 17
19 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
8 4.,..,. 1". r
16 DOGON 17 DOGON
27 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
-101mommonlIMMMI 28 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
35 AFRO-PORTUGUESE 39 AKAN
30 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
31 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
32 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
33 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
35 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
38 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
57 FANG 58 FANG 59 SANGA RIVER
46 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
47 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
48 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
95 SAO 99 ZULU
50 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
52 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
4 MALINKE 5 BOZO
6 BOZO 9 BAMANA
54 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
10 BAMANA 11 BAMANA
57 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
58 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
18 DOGON 19 DOGON
61 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
20 DOGON 21 DOGON
22 DOGON 23 DOGON
67 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
4 . 116i 7,
006 . 444040
b44 - -A_
- * v.* ik
-ItIm. 0 1 1111110Q4•-• itt,-40.4611.011t—stelt.."4/1" -14"-*.11111*-;it-It. A
69 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
71 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
72 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
32 POMDO STYLE 33 MAHEN YAFE STYLE
73 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
74 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
0 tX 0 C.7
0 CC = CD
r.... co en cY)
77 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
40 BAULE 43 ASANTE
79 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
80 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
82 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
46 YORUBA 47 YORUBA 48 YORUBA
50 BINI-PORTUGUESE 51 BENIN
84 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FANG NGUNIE RIVER
86 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
COPYRIGH f P1.-', LIECTED
61 NGUNIE RIVER 62 NGUNIE RIVER
- COPYRIGHT 'OT
63 KOTA 64
91 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
:04 I I WE RIVE •
93 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
70 TEKE 71 KONGO
96 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
97 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
98 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
75 KONGO 76 KONGO
99 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
101 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
87 ZAMBEZI RIVER 88 ZANDE
104 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
105 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
106 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
107 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
108 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
90 BANDA 91 AZANDE
109 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
92 SAO 93 SAO
110 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
19 20 21
Abomey Benue 10 • 8 9 11 „1516 12"14 17 I° • Benin 24 23
od, 25 co., n 26
22 97 30 28 Ogo
31 ,632 49 / 1„)
(-) 0 37
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Baga Bamana Manding Bozo Dogon Bwa
Senufo 8 Sherbro 9 Kissi 10 Mende 11 Dan 12 Guro 13 Baule 14 Anyi 15 Akan 16 Asante 17 Fon 18 Yoruba 19 Sao 20 Fulbe
21 22 23 24 25 26
Kotoko Azande Bini Bamileke Banda Yangere 27 Fang 39
28 Kota 29 Mahongwe 30 Aduma 31 Lumbo 32 Teke 33 Kongo 34 Chokwe 35 Pende 36 Lulua 37 Kuba 38 Ziba 39 Zulu 40 Sakalava
YOKE MASK: NIMBA Guinea, Baga Wood, fiber, leather, fabric, metal H. 220 cm. Henri Labouret expedition 1933 (illus. page 19) INFORMATION on the use and meaning of the nimba describes the persona of the mask as the "goddess of fertility" who protects pregnant women and helps sterile women to conceive. She is invoked during the rice harvest. The form alone would suggest that the nimba was associated with the abundance of the harvest, and with mature maternity. The monumental sculpture with its long flattened breastsâ€” the breasts of a woman who has nourished many infantsâ€”suggests female power and seniority. An 1886 engraving shows an enormous costumed nimba figure surrounded by young boys wearing little clothing in attitudes of excitement and fear. In the background are a few adult onlookers, all men. Women are conspicuously absent. Very likely, the scene depicted is the performance of a nimba during a Simo society occasion. Sirno initiation for boys involved three years of training, the learning of a secret language, and absolute secrecy from women. The dance disguise here is complete with its costume which conceals the four long "legs" grasped by the dancer to steady and steer the heavy mask (many nimba weigh about eighty pounds). A clothcovered amulet hanging from the nose is Islamic. The majestic, falling curves and audacious forward thrust of the head and breasts conspire to create a form both vital and at rest. The stylization of the nimba is so extreme that it can tolerate little exaggeration without degenerating into parody. The oldest examples project less than this one, and have less curve to the chin. Collected in the 1930s, this one is close to perfect, combining the dignity of the earliest ones with the excitement of newer ones. Published: Elisofon and Fagg 1958. p. 68; Gnaule 1947, p. 20, fig. 11; Laude 1966, fig. 134; Leiris and Delange 1967. fig. 144; Pans. Musee de l'Homme 1965. p 56; Sydow 1954. fig. 2A
FIGURE Guinea, Baga Wood H. 72.5 cm. Inventory 1958, probably collected before 1906 (illus. page 51) THIS figure is so close in style to three figures supporting a Baga drum in the museum that it is likely the two were carved by the same artist. M.A. Chevrier, the donor of the drum, published an article on the Baga in 1906 that sheds some light on this figure. He describes a cult of minor spirits that live in nature who may be good or evil in their dealings with human beings. Shrines are established to them near the village under a tree. This shrine becomes, as he says, the official abode of the nature spirits, the place where offerings may be left, and spirits contacted and in some measure controlled. In the rare villages he visited that had not recently converted to Islam, he saw under these sacred trees "a round house which may be entered only by old initiates or Simo society officials, where they lock up wood statuettes representing men and women. These are always in the same poseâ€”one which seems to have been borrowed from some ancient forgotten liturgy. These statuettes represent spirits that live near the village. The figures do not have any power in themselves, but great care must be taken, for any sign of lack of respect Ito the figure) is believed to irritate the spirits they represent; furthermore, not everybody can see them" (translation from Chevrier 1906, p. 362). The standard pose he mentions is the hands-tothe-chin one held by this figure. The arms here and those of the figures on the drum are strangely angular, the elbows articulated, the arm bent at a fairly acute angle (most such figures show the arm as a single sweeping curve). The fatness of the figure makes it seem both androgynous and infantile, both ideas consonant with a fertility cult. The head duplicates in miniature the enormous cantilevered head of the nimba dance disguise (no. 1).
116 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK (KIWARANI) Mali, Bozo, Kita region Wood, shells, mirror, seeds, beads H. 73 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 20)
IN the journal of the Dakar-Djibouti expedition, published in 1934 under the title l'Afrique FantOrne, Michel Leiris stated that this mask and two others were bought at a dance organized by the colonial administration for the celebration of Bastille Day on July 14,1931. "Men wearing antelope masks having five horns and six mirrored eyes danced with others who were entirely costumed and whose hoods had a long tuft of porcupine quills in place of a nose." Leiris was told that this type of mask was invented by a blacksmith (noumou) named Tamba who lived in the village of Kolena. According to a tradition relating to the Emperor Soundyata Keyta, this mask would first have been carved in the image of a woman, who then changed herself into an antelope, and then into a porcupine. Elsewhere, Leiris was told that these Malinke masks, like Bamana antelope crests, were linked to agricultural rites and were worn to encourage farmers in their work. To our knowledge, the Musee de l'Homme is the only museum that owns masks such as these from the eastern border of Mali, a region from which very few sculptures are known. This scarcity is explained by the almost total Islamization of the region at the end of the nineteenth century. The users of these masks never mentioned their functions to the expedition members, except for a vague entertainment purpose. If the masking societies still existed in 1931, their activity was kept secret. The sophistication and richness of the colored decoration leads one to think that the blacksmithsculptor who made them worked for a society that was still very active and which took care to call upon a renowned sculptor. In spite of Leiris' efforts, he F.N. never succeeded in meeting Tamba. _
LOCK Mali, Manding, Malinke, Circle of Bafulabe, Samba village Wood H. 46 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 52) SCULPTED wooden locks used on the doors of Bamana and Malinke dwellings, granaries, cookhouses, and sanctuaries are made of two pieces of wood placed crosswise, with an internal mechanism consisting of a ratchet and pawl activated by a serrated wooden or metal key. Though made to be affixed to a door jamb by iron pegs, the locks are also conceived as autonomous figures. Each lock is given a name in accordance with the message, personage, myth, or anecdote referred to. Wooden locks are a prized gift for young brides as a token of love, since the vertical female box and the horizontal male bolt suggest the sexual act. The personal style of the artist who made a lock is often recognizable. Most of the wooden locks in the Musee de l'Homme come from Dogon and Bamana country. In comparison to the more naturalistic style of those locks, this Malinke lock exhibits a more coldly geometric transfiguration of the human body. The schematic figureâ€”the head with its immense crested coiffure, the trapezoid body, and the tab-like legsâ€”are as geometricized as the nonfigurative bolt. F.N. Published: Atkins 1972, p_ 22.
Published: Brest 1978, p. 15; Marcq-en-Baroeul 1979, fig. 16; Paris. Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris 1983. pl. 4; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, P. 98. fig. 244; Saint Priest 1982. cat; 19; Toulon 1980. fig. 9
117 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FEMALE FIGURE Mali, Bozo Wood, metal, cloth, beads H.81 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 53) THE ethnographic and linguistic expedition of 19311933, conceived and directed by Marcel Griaule and of which Michel Leiris was the secretary/archivist, made intensive investigations only among the Dogon of Mali and the Abyssinians of Ethiopia. Everywhere, the collection of objects and anthropological evidence—the latter being one of the goals of the mission—was usually done too rapidly (Leiris speaks of purchases made "at full speed") for Griaule and his colleagues to assemble the notes, drawings, and photographs necessary to provide precise information about the artists, the techniques of manufacture, and the functions of the objects. Thus we can only speculate about the meaning of this female figure, whose horns must be a symbol of fecundity. The theme of the young woman with full breasts is very frequent in Bozo statuary, as it is among their neighbors the Bamana. Certain Bozo marionettes in the Musee de l'Homme and in the Museum of Marionettes in Munich have the same treatment of the flat torso from which conical breasts project, and the small spherical face with a high convex forehead. The horns which recall those of the kob antelope, often represented in Bozo sculpture, accent the verticality of this object; its elegant lightness is not in any way compromised by the billowing volume of the buttocks—also an unequivocally feminine F.N. symbol.
HEADDRESS Mali, Bozo, Mopti region Wood, metal, fiber H. 90 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 54) THIS dance mask is sculpted in the form of a female head whose crested coiffure terminates in six braids. The whole piece, carved out of a single block of wood, owes its lightness and elegance to the voids between the sculpted parts. This crest was conceived to be seen from all angles, and in movement, worn vertically as well as leaning horizontally. In the horizontal position, the mask evokes certain elements of the aquatic fauna familiar to the Bozo. The crest was attached to the dancer's head by a cotton headband hidden by the network of braids whose ends lay upon the dancer's shoulders. It is only in the past twenty years that the artistic production of the Bozo, a small group of fishermen and hunters along the Niger and Bani Rivers, has become known in Europe. The most frequently studied and exhibited objects are the dance headdresses and the marionettes. Z. Ligers was the first observer of the masked dances performed in celebration of the harvest of fonio (the only plant the Bozo cultivate and which is reserved for sacrifices offered to the spirits of the water) performed during the festivities attending the group fishing. It was on the latter occasion that Ligers (1966, Vol. 2, pp. 190-93) saw, in the river village of Hamuhujoma, a mask just like this one worn by the most famous dancer of the Niger, from Nouhoun, whose dance was accompanied by no less than eight drummers. He writes: "Ke Fangare Jeri dances all alone. He accomplished several circles around the dance arena dancing on his knees: the mask was seen almost level with the ground, thereby concealing the dancer. Spectators watching the unique movements of the mask had the impression that the mask danced all by itself." Another dancer, wearing the same type of dance crest, presented it to the public explaining that he had sculpted it himself in the imF.N. age of his lover.
118 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MARIONETTE: ANTELOPE Mali, Bozo Wood, metal L. 80 cm. Mannogo-Griaule expedition 1959 (illus. page 21) MARCEL GRIAULE collected this marionette during his last expedition in Mali, the purpose of which was to descend the Niger River by boat; the boat was named Manogo, from which the expedition took its name. Z. Ligers was in the party, and he published an ethnographic study on the Bozo in 1966. The expedition collected a large number of archaeological pieces, mostly ceramics, but also some Bozo objects including this antelope and other marionettes which represented the head of a crocodile in white wood covered with lively colored paper, and the head of a lion covered with skin. Other finds included a dance crest surmounted by a female seated on a chair, and sculpted wooden rattles decorated with geometric incisions of highly esoteric signification. The majority of these objects have not been published. This antelope was originally mounted on a handle which permitted it to be brandished by a dancer whose body was hidden under an armature of vegetable fiber and covered by a black and white checkered fabric or with bright-colored material. It was exhibited with other masks in celebrations held for the harvest and for the great collective fishing. While this Bozo sculpture and the dance crest no. 6 share certain formal characteristics with Bamana sculpture, this marionette is unique, to our knowledge, and its attribution to the Bozo is indisputable. Its bold construction, notably the loop of the horns, its elegance, the judicious use of polychrome (the red of the colored wood, the brilliant white of the tin attachments), and the glass eyes that would sparkle in the sunlight make this sculpture a masterpiece created by a professional artist who had perfectly imagined the movement of his object in space. F.N.
ANIMAL (BOLI) Mali, Bamana, San district, Dyabougou Wood, clay, organic substances H. 43 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. pages 22, 23) AMONG the most mysterious and evocative of African objects are boli, which function as altars of the Komo society, the most widespread association of the Bamana people of Mali. Boli are not carved, but are rather built up and molded from such materials as earth, sacrificial blood, wood, bark, honey, chewed kola nuts, millet, and beer. The mass is shaped into a heavy, rounded form, which sometimes may suggest an animal such as a hippopotamus, and sometimes remains unidentifiable. The bulging, handmodeled surfaces recall the forms of Bamana shrines and buildings. The indefinite forms imply a secret that only the initiated can penetrate. Never seen by the uninitiated, boli are kept in shrines or in the house of the priest. They are renewed and enlarged by ritual applications of the blood of sacrificial animals, and the dark, encrusted sacrificial surfaces inspire fear or awe. Sacred objects with deep esoteric religious significance, they are also often powerful works of art. Their looming, undifferentiated forms may arouse a disquieting emotion in us, even though our experience of a boli is superficial compared to that of an initiated Bamana. Published: Goldwater 1965, p. 54; Griaule 1947. p. 60; Laude 1966, fig. 163; Leiris 1934. pp. 48-49, fig. 5; Minotaure 1933, p. 12; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965. p. 54
Published: Levis and Delenge 1967, p. 69. fig. 63; Marcq-en-Baroeul 1979. fig. 15; Paris. Orangene des Tuileries 1972. p. 86. fig. 204; Toulon 1980. fig. 10
119 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FEMALE FIGURE Mali, Bamana, Bougouni region Wood, beads, cloth 62 cm. Georges Henri Riviere gift 1935 (illus. page 55)
ANTELOPE HEADDRESS (CHI WARA) Mali, Bamana, Koutiala region Wood, metal H. 104 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 56) BAMANA mythology recounts how an antelope named Chi Wara taught agriculture to man; an initiation society and the dance headpieces that represent the mythical farming beast are both known by the name Chi Wara. Pairs of headpieces, representing a male and female antelope, are worn by vigorous young farmers in dances that take place in the fields, and that celebrate the virtues of farming. Women participate in the dance performances forming a chorus to sing the praises of the ideal farmer, and contributing jewelry to decorate the antelope sculptures. During the dance, each mask-wearer is accompanied by a woman who dances behind him. In this way the Chi Wara performance alludes to the fruitful union of male and female analogous to the union of the sun (considered a male power) with the earth (considered female), which leads to the fruitfulness of the fields. This headpiece depicts a roan antelope. The body of the animal is said to represent the aardvark, whose habit of burrowing in the earth is seen as mimicking farming. The zigzag of the mane parallels the zigzag path of the sun between the two solstices; the horns stand for the millet stalk (the Bamana staple); the phallus symbolizes the rooting of the plant in the earth. The headdress is worn with a long flowing raffia fringe which represents water, the third element necessary for the growth of plants. Thus is the fertility of the land evoked by the contributing elements of earth, sun, and water, as the fertility of the human group is saluted in the pair of male and female dance headpieces, and by the presence of women in the men's Chi Wara celebration.
BAMANA sculpture presents a vast array of forms which are still difficult to assign to regional substyles. Primarily female, the representations are marked by the schematization and geometrization of natural volumes (cylindrical, clearly distinct limbs; large breasts indicating the importance of the female element; shovel-shaped hands touching the lower stomach; and spherical heads surmounted by domed or crested coiffures). Some thirty sculptures in a style perceptibly more naturalistic than this one appeared on the art market in the 1950s. Known as "Bamana queens," they were said to come from the region of Bougouni and were associated with a cult formed to help sterile women conceive. There is no information that connects them to this figure whose style, morphology, and important geometric incisions differentiate it catF.N. egorically from the others. Published: Goldwater 1960, p. 49; Laude 1966 p. 164
Published: Griaule 1947, pl. 14; Lem 1949, pl. 27; Marcq-en-Baroeul 1980, fig. 12; Paulme 1956, pl. 1; Toulon 1980, fig. 6
120 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
HORNED HEAD (BOLO Mali, Bamana, San district, Dyabougou village Gourd, clay, organic matter Diam. 14.9 cm. Dakar-Djibouti Expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 57)
HERMAPHRODITE RIDER Mali, Dogon, Nini village Wood H. 36.5 cm. Paulme-Lifszyc expedition 1935 (illus. page 58) THE collection of the Musee de l'Homme is particularly rich in documented pieces of Dogon sculpture because of the many research expeditions made to this area by museum staff. After his first stay among the Dogon in 1931, Marcel Griaule made two more intensive investigations of this rich archaeological and anthropological areaâ€”in 1935 in the Bandiagara cliffs and the Sanga region with Denise Paulme and Deborah Lifszyc, and in 1937 with Solange de Ganay and Germaine Dieterlen. After World War II, the investigations were resumed under Miss Dieterlen's direction. Studies published by her and by Genevieve Calame Griaule are particularly complete sources of information on the culture and the religious life of the Dogon people. According to J. Delange, the patina that covers this hermaphrodite figure suggests that it served as a shrine for numerous sacrifices. The raised arms recall the gesture of a mythical ancestor who was sacrificed following a serious ritual crime. The figure rides a quadruped (whose four legs are broken), which may be a horse, an animal that played an important role in Sudanese cosmogony. The horse was the first animal to be hurtled to earth when the ark containing the world system descended from the skies onto the earth filling it with animals and plants, and spreading diverse cultural techniques. The hermaphrodite recalls the ambivalence of the human being conceived as male and female in one body and in one psyche. F.N.
THE Bamana have remained loyal to pre-Islamic religious traditions for much longer than other peoples of the Manding area. With the exception of the dance crests of the Chi Wara society which represent antelopes and which dance to accompany men working in the fields, most of the objects linked to other societies, Kono, Komo, Nama Kore, and N'tomo, were not known in the 1930s except to the members of the societies themselves. In l'Afrique Fantorne (1934, 1981, pp. 82-83) Michel Leiris tells how the members of the DakarDjibouti expedition were so enthralled by certain cult objects, whose mystery and the prohibitions surrounding them only exacerbated their curiosity, that they sank to the most reprehensible means of acquiring them, by stealing or threats. Heeding complaints of the village chief, the expedition leaders ultimately returned some of these "sacra." This bolt, along with the preceding one, no. 8, the famous "pig" of the sanctuary of Dyabougou, and an enormous mask covered with coagulated blood, was brought back to the Musee d'Ethnographie. Michel Leiris wrote this about it: One places this object in a millet granary, in fact, we know that it was a sanctuary. This object, along with others (a wooden stick and a built-in jar in which millet is soaked before sowing it), carries the same name. Usually, a calabash which represents a great bird is suspended in a goat skin. To sacrifice, all the objects are put in the jar and a white chicken is killed.
Published: Adam 1959. p. 10; Elisofon and Fagg 1958, fig. 13; Griaule 1947, p. 44, fig. 34; Laude 1966. fig. 17; Leiris 1936. p. 199, figs. 6. 7; Malraux 1952, vol. 1. fig. 393; Muensterberger 1955, p. 3; Nice 1980, p. 39. fig. 15; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 49; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 164; Paulme 1962, vol. 1. fig. 2; Trowel! 1954. fig. 28a; Trowell and Nevermann 1968, p. 101; Wassing 1968. p. 187; Wingert 1970, fig. N9
The bird that the calabash is supposed to represent is without a doubt the Kono, which is also F.N. the secret name of the closed society. Published: Goldwater 1960. fig. 18; Minoteure 1933. p. 22
121 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK: CROCODILE Mali, Dogon, Ibi village Wood H. 45 cm. Third Griaule expedition 1935 (illus. page 59) FOR the great ceremonies that mark the essential moments of life in Dogon villages, members of the men's society, owners of the masks, come out to dance. During these ceremonies for the end of mourning or dama, and for the ritual of sigi, celebrated only once every sixty years, the masks are danced before initiates, and their movements are said to imitate the movement of the world itself. In Masques dogons (1938, p. 509) Griaule recounts the myth of the creation of this mask, which is worn horizontally in Ibi village: "As they were placing the fibers in the mud of a swamp to blacken them, the men of Touyogou caught sight of the crocodile who came habitually to dig up the fibers and eat them. The men killed the crocodile and carried it away. Later, they carved a mask in the image of the head, to protect the slayer and his lineage from the crocodile's spirit." This account reflects the reasons for the invention of all masks: to provide material support for the soul of any living being that dies, to protect it from injury. Other versions of this crocodile mask exist, though they are dramatically different: the accent is placed on the jawbones and the teeth made of porcupine quills, and the eyes are executed not as yawning cavities but as projecting cones. This mask, however, is unlike any other, and is a perfect example of the freedom with which the creator of a mask may interpret the myth, unless the artist presents the mask dancers with a sculpted object, and the dancers then name it and integrate it into the myth. F.N. Published: Brest 1978, fig. 2; Griaule 1938. p. 508; Marcq-en-Baroeul 1979. fig. 7; Toulon 1980. fig. 13
HERMAPHRODITE FIGURE Mali, Dogon, Yaya village Wood H. 132 cm. Paulme-Lifszyc expedition 1935 (illus. page 24) JUST last year, the researcher Jean Jamin discovered a letter about this figure, written to the museum dated "Sanga, 30 May 1935." It begins (in translation)"We have the statue—the famous statue that you asked for—and I'll take everyone to dinner at Carette if Ratton doesn't turn green with envy. It is a meter 30 cm. high, and fairly heavy. We dug it out of the ground ourselves with our hands; only the head was above ground and no one dared touch it. It is a hermaphrodite with a narrow body, very long .. The head is splendid—the statue intact. The inhabitants claim that this piece is earlier than the arrival of the Dogon invaders. It doesn't at all resemble the usual Dogon sculpture, but expresses an incredible emotion!' This letter offers fascinating glimpses of acquisition methods (discussed by Jean Guiart on page 16), the sense of rivalry with art dealers, and the expedition leaders' concern with the aesthetic qualities of their specimens. The documentation, though scanty, is intriguing. Why and how was the figure buried? Was it under the ground, or above in an earthen cone? Does the inhabitants' claim of early origin reflect tradition, or a desire to evade questions? Whatever its origins, this famous figure is unique. Its great size and stooped posture, its moving face and age-worn wood, are all elements found in Dogon art, but never with this intensity. Much has been made of the artist's use of the natural shape of the tree. The undulating, almost serpentine body, the curving, boneless limbs are the vision of a highly individual artist. Published: Elisofon and Fagg 1958. p.31; Griaule 1947, p. 43. fig. 33; Levis 1936, p. 192. figs. 6-7; Leiris and Delange 1967. p. 218, figs. 247-48; Maquet 1962. p. 196; Nice 1980. p. 37. fig. 10; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 47. fig. 4; Paulme 1962. v. 1, figs. 3-4; Trowell and Nevermann 1968. p. 102
122 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK: BEARDED STRANGER Mali, Dogon, Kounou Guine village Wood H. 45 cm. Third Griaule expedition 1935 (illus. page 25) WHILE the majority of animal masks (mammals, birds, fish) were executed in wood in the 1930s when Marcel Griaule and his colleagues researched Dogon country, masks representing Dogon people or foreigners were almost all executed with woven fibers. Among the number of exceptions are the various versions of the Saman mask. This one, collected in the village of Kounou Guine, is the most realistic of them. The large convex face, almond eyes, open mouth between broad lips, the little triangular goatee, and the scarifications which circle around the cheeks give the impression of truth and of life, quite rare in the representation of the human face as usually conceived by Dogon artists. According to the Dogon, who by the 1930s were on good terms with them, the Saman had a reputation as bandits and in the past had made forays into Dogon villages to take captives. Undoubtedly it is in reference to these events that the Dogon dancer disguised as a Saman is armed with a spear and a sword with which he mimics combat against an imaginary enemy, who moreover has the advantage since the dancer collapses exhausted. Through the interposition of a mask, the Dogon take their revenge each time the Saman mask appears. Griaule noted that no songs or words of encouragement F.N. ever accompanied these performances.
MASK: BLACK MONKEY Mali, Dogon Wood H. 37 cm. Paulme-Lifszyc expedition 1935 (illus. page 26) ON the occasion of dama, a ceremony marking the end of mourning, Griaule took a photograph of a dancer wearing a mask depicting a black monkey, very similar to the one in the Musee de l'Homme collection. The dancer, leaning on a staff, stands apart from the other dancers in a melancholy pose. His costume includes, besides the black raffia neck covering attached to the mask, trousers, bracelets, and ankle ornaments of braided fibers. Even though it is referred to by the Dogon in the initiates' secret language as the ugly male from the bush, its appearance during the masked dancing is accompanied by encouragement in the sigi language: Ugly male of the bush sitting at the top of a tall tree Your stomach full of fruit all eyes are on you ... the drum plays for you ... The small iron hook attached to the front of the mask is intended to be a receptacle for sacrificial blood. The libations of blood and millet beer, with which it is saturated, have given it a crusty patina similar to that of certain figures. F.N. Published: Elisofon and Fagg 1958. fig. 20; Griaule 1947. fig. 19; Leiris 1936. p. 195. figs. 6. 7; Leiris and Delange 1967. fig. 304; Paris. Musee de l'Homme 1965. p. 53, fig. 7; Radin and Sweeney 1952. fig. 1; Wingert 1970, fig. N12
Published: Griaule 1938, pp. 576. 581; Griaule 1947. fig. 23.
123 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
LIDDED BOX Mali, Dogon, Lower Ogol village, Tabda quarter Wood H. 31 cm. Third Griaule expedition 1935 (illus. page 27) DOGON culture is extremely rich in decorated utilitarian objects such as pulleys, tobacco containers, and neckrests. This box was made to store shea butter, a creamy pomade made from the fruit of a tree which grows in the savannah areas of Mali. Shea butter was prized by many people in the area as a sweet-smelling lotion to be rubbed on the skin. It is also used as a base in European cosmetics. While the head shape and facial treatment on this box, are distinctly Dogon in style, the torso is softer, more rounded, and more sensuous than usual in the normally austere Dogon art. The massive circular breasts and the projecting stomach are far from the abstract, linear treatment of the satimbe mask (no. 18). Even the box has gently swelling curved sides which give a soft feeling to the work as a whole. The artist has simply omitted the lower part of the body, whose inclusion would necessarily have made the torso longer and more angular. As it is, the body flows gently into the top of the box and is visually integrated with it. A small sOrprise is the fact that the tiny figure on the door to the box is upside down in relation to the main figure. While this was explained to Griaule as an error, this sort of reversal is so common in African art, and works so well visually in this case, that it is tempting to see it as an intriguing sculptural joke.
MASK (SATIMBE) Mali, Dogon, Sanga village Wood H. 115 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 60) THE satimbe mask supports between its horns the figure of a woman representing Yasiguini, who discovered the fibers used to construct masks and gave them to the "Andoumboulou"â€”spirits created by the god Amma which were believed to have been the predecessors of the Tellem and of the Dogon in the cliffs. The myth related to this mask and its figure recounts that the Andoumboulou carved the satimbe with the image of this woman standing on top and consecrated it as the Yasiguini. This mask is the Dogon replication of the original mythic one. In the myth, Yasiguini, the twin sister of Yurugu, the fox, fomenter of evil, married three of the four mythic ancestors of the Dogon. Yasiguini means "wife of sigi;" she is also "sister of the masks," and the only woman admitted to the society of masks. The sigi is a dance festival celebrated only once in every sixty years to assure the renewal of the world. At this great festival all of the masks of the Dogon dance. Participation in the sigi entitles a man after his death for the special dama, the post-funeral ceremony signifying the end of mourning. During the dama, masked men dance on the rooftops of the deceased person's house; the number of masks appearing is in proportion to the social status of the deceased. The face of the satimbe mask resembles those of several other Dogon masks such as singe in that it is made up of three vertical ridges with two hollows between them. The austere figure standing on it is extremely elongated in the trunk, the chest is reduced to a flattened square with two conical breasts, and the head and neck are strongly phallic. In its simplification and its abstract geometry, both figure and mask summarize Dogon artistic tendencies. F.N.
Published: Griaule 1947. pl. 83; Nice 1980, p. 61, fig. 54; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 172
Published: Griaule 1938. p. 531; Laude 1966, p. 248; Leiris and Delenge 1967. p. 47; Minotaure 1933. p. 49; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 84. fig. 198; Wingert 1970, fig. 12
124 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK: ANTELOPE Mali, Dogon, Tolowi valley Wood H. 114 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 61) THIS mask was discovered by the Dakar-Djibouti expedition in a cave in the valley of Tolowi near old Sanga. It represents the kob antelope, which the Dogon refer to as the "bush horse." The distinctive features of this mask and others of its type are the hornlike ears enclosing the long, narrow central horns which spring from a common base. The antelope mask was danced with a whole series of others representing both animals and humans at a ceremony called dama, a second funeral celebration which persuaded the deceased to depart the world of the living. The man who wore the mask danced from side to side, like a hunted animal trying to hide. He carried a horsetail in one hand and an arrow or stick in the other; the arrow is a reference to the myth of origin of the mask. According to the myth, a kob antelope was pursued by three hunters, one with a dog, one with a gun, and one with a bow and arrow. After all had shot, the antelope fell. When the hunters examined it to determine who had killed it, they found no external marks at all. A passerby suggested cutting the antelope open, and when this was done, they found an arrow. The bowman, the successful hunter, distributed the meat to which he was thus entitled, and a member of his family had an antelope mask carved to commemorate the event. This mask is striking for its verticality and for the delicately wavering, irregular lines of the horns, which resemble natural branches. Like many Dogon masks, this one is based on a series of triangles, the eyes and the shape of the face echoing each other, while the horns are an inverted triangle. Spare and economical of means, this mask is both elegant and expressive.
MASK: STRANGER Mali, Dogon Wood, paint H. 42 cm. Third Griaule expedition 1935 (illus. page 62) THE Dogon make a number of different types of face masks: a series representing their own people, such as hogon (chiefs), and masks that portray various neighboring peoples: Fulani men and women, Saman, Djula, Tuareg, and even Europeans, such as a mask of a doctor and one called "madame." Those representing non-Dogon peoples are referred to as "stranger" masks. This mask, collected in lbi Damma, portrays a Saman, one of the Dogon's neighbors, a group who had the reputation of being conceited, strong, and warlike, and who had at one time fought the Dogon and made them captives. The dance in which the mask was worn was essentially comic. It consisted of a whole scenarioâ€”a mock battle of threatening movements with invisible weapons toward invisible enemies, half danced, half mimed. After a prolonged and hilarious performance, the dancer would collapse on the ground as if dead, much to the delight of the crowd. The mixture of the comic with the serious is often seen in African masquerades. Entertainment is an important function of masked dances, even at funerals. This mask is aesthetically complex and satisfying with its theme of triangles and V's as seen in the shape of the eyes, the nose, and the face itself. The somewhat ludicrous uneven ears and loose-lipped mouth express the Dogon's mockery of the Saman. Like most traditional Africans, the Dogon wasted no admiration on strangers. Published: Gnaule 1938. p. 576; Griaule 1947. p. 23; Paulme 1956. pl. 2
Published: Griaule 1938, p. 425; Gnaule 1947. p. 17; Leiris and Delange 1967, p. 46; Minotaure 1933. p. 48; Propylaen Kunstgeschichte 1978. pl. 9b
125 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FIGURE Mali, Dogon, Yaya village Wood H. 40 cm. Paulme-Lifszyc expedition 1935 (illus. page 63) DOGON figure sculpture remains poorly understood. Dogon or Tellem figures did not begin to appear in large numbers until after World War II. They had been guarded until then even more closely than the masks. In 1931 the Dakar-Djibouti expedition saw several figures in the sanctuaries, but the Dogon refused avec effroi to give them away. We also know little of their meaning, except for the reference to the creation myth and nommo ancestors described by Griaule's disciples. For some time, figures morphologically similar to this one—carved out of a grayish hard wood, unfinished, rough, blurred, with blunted facial features— were attributed to the Tellem, said to have preceded the Dogon in their present habitat. The Dogon were thought, rather, to have been the artists of the sculptures depicting seated couples carved in a softer wood with more abrupt contours and clear articulations, all possessing the same bullet-shaped heads, long straight noses, and horseshoe-shaped ears. A recent Dutch archaeological expedition entered the most inaccessible caves of the Dogon cliffs, which had been used as cemeteries and contained sanctuaries attributed to the Tellem, but the sculptures they expected to find there had been removed. Skeletons found in the cemeteries along with ceramics and wooden neckrests confirm that the Tellem had in fact been there; however, there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that these sculptures were made by the Tellem, and we provisionally attribute them to the Dogon. According to myth, this figure represents Dyougou Serou, the first human being created by the god Amma; not having a wife, Dyougou committed the sin of incest with his own mother, the Earth. DyF.N. ougou here hides his face in shame.
MASK: WHITE MONKEY Mali, Dogon, lreli village Wood, fiber, paint H. 40 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 64) WHILE other white-monkey masks exist in collections, this mask is by far the most famous, most beautiful, and best documented example known. It was collected in the village of Ireli by the Dakar-Djibouti expedition. We are extremely fortunate to have a photograph of it being worn in its place of origin which gives us a sense of how it was meant to look (Griaule 1938, p. 46). The Dogon have a vast array of animal masks which include different kinds of antelopes, rabbits, hyenas, lions, leopards, crocodiles, and three kinds of monkeys—white, red, and black. In the early years of the century three to four hundred masks might dance during an important dama (see no. 18). At the time of Griaule's visit in the 1930s, more than a hundred masks still participated in a great dama. The Griaule expedition collected numerous animal masks from different Dogon villages, so that we can compare several examples of the same kind of mask and begin to understand both the elements which define the type and the differences in aesthetic quality. This particular mask is the work of a most sophisticated artist. He has reduced the lower face to a slightly concave plane on which the only features are two holes which are the eyes. Curving forward above this face is the monkey figure, basically a round form atop an oval one. The arms and back encircle a hollow to create a composition both tense and strong. No details intrude on the minimal and simple but tremendously three-dimensional sculpture in which the holes and hollows are almost more important than the solid forms. Published: Efisofon and Fagg 1958, fig. 19; Griaule 1938. pp. 460-61; Griaule 1947. p. 29. fig. 20: Minotaure 1933. pp. 45-46; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. fig. 169
Published: Elisofon and Fagg 1958, fig. 12
126 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
SHUTTER Mali, Dogon Wood H. 46.5 cm. Louis Desplagnes gift 1906 (illus. page 65) WITH its two vertical posts inserted into sockets, this panel served as a shutter on an earthen granary, one of the most conspicuous and essential architectural features of villages throughout the African savannah. Staple grain crops such as millet, rice, fonio, corn, and even groundnuts, are stored in granaries which are often sculptural in form. In societies where people spend most of their time and effort on the production and preparation of food, numerous granaries represent success, abundance, and security. Small wonder that they often have symbolic connotations (see no. 97) and are elaborated with relief decoration, paint, and carved shutters. The Dogon make tall cylindrical granaries capped with a conical straw roof. In some places the roof is removed when the granary is being filled or drawn from. Dogon granaries often have small shutters like this one that may be adorned with carved figures or small sculptural locks (see no. 4). This granary shutter, one of the first to reach Europe, is unlike any other, its eight undecorated figures carved in a very personal style. Eyeless and half-formed, they seem to be emerging from the wood of the surface, perhaps in reference to the creation myth in which eight primordial ancestors became the progenitors of the human race. The irregularity of the figures, and the differences in their sizes, are clearly intentional, since the evenly shaped edges of the shutter demonstrate the artist's ability to make them identical had he so desired. Published: Elisofon and Fagg 1958, fig. 23; Lem 1949, pl. 8
UNFINISHED MASK Mali, Dogon Wood H. 34 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 66) THE museum owns a series of Dogon masks in various states of completion which were commissioned by the Griaule expedition (1931-1933) to study the way African artists work. We cannot consider it a sketch or a study since African sculptors work directly on the wood, rarely making preliminary models or sketches of any kind. They often speak in almost Michelangelesque terms of "seeing" the work within the uncarved wood and freeing it. They block out the main masses with a machete, do finer work with adzes, and finish the details with small knives. Traditionally, they did not use saws, chisels, drills, or files. This bold monkey mask shows the deftness with which the broad outlines of a work are defined by an experienced carver. The even scoops on the surface of the wood are the regular cuts of the adze窶馬o knife-work has been done yet. Typically, the artist brings the entire work to the same state before proceeding to the next stage; rarely do African artists complete one part of a sculpture leaving other parts to work on later. Dogon artists, like other Africans, almost always use green wood because it is softer and easier to carve than seasoned wood. This involves some risk that the wood will split as it dries, so Dogon artists coat the unfinished sculpture with oil or shea butter; artists in other areas take care to prevent the wood from drying too quickly. An African artist's household always has a few partly finished sculptures lying about abandoned because the wood began to split. Finishing this sculpture would hardly improve it. The austere simplicity of the lines and the strong, clean forms might only be confused by paint or incised decoration. This mask has all the subtle details it needs: the slightly raised ribs on the top of the head, the facet above the eyes, and the gradual widening of the dividing bar between the eyes to suggest a nose.
127 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FIGURE Mali, Dogon Wood 48 cm. Paulme-Lifszyc expedition 1935 (illus. page 67) IN 1931 the members of the Dakar-Djibouti expedition saw figures being used to "make the rain fall," some of which were attached to an earthen cone as their shrine. Helene Gordon, a correspondent for l'Intransigeant and a member of the third Griaule expedition, confirmed in an article of May 10, 1935, that these figures were still the focus of a highly respected ancestral cult. They were kept in sanctuaries where a priest and a young assistant made annual blood offerings. To remove these figures from a village was "to take away the souls of the ancestors." Dogon sculpture has never been systematically examined. The attempted distinction between Dogon and Tellem figures based on a formal analysis remains controversial. The works of the Tellem would be classed in the "tactile order," works with undefined contours, coated with sacrificial elements that mask any decoration. The work of Dogon artists would belong to a contrasting "visual order," emphasizing significant details (bracelets, scarifications, facial features) and defining the neatly isolated volumes in full relief. In fact, it is only by convention that all the pieces from sanctuaries that are covered with sacrificial coating are attributed to the Tellem. The identification by the Dogon themselves of certain objects as Tellem work is, unfortunately, not reliable. Our experience is that the Dogon today indicate as Tellem any piece that they do not recognize, especially when the identification is done with photos. The iconographic theme of this figure refers to several episodes from the mythical creation. It depicts a nommo, one of the primordial ancestors, who by his gesture appeals to the sky for needed rain to fall. One might also see in his upraised arms a representation of a sacrificed nommo crucified on a tree. F.N.
SHUTTER Mali, Dogon, Bandiagara Wood H. 48 cm. Louis Desplagnes gift 1906 (illus. page 68) THESE figures, which represent ancestors, are often found in groups of two, four, or eight on ritual objects such as stools and coffers. Their arms raised, they call the protection of the primordial ancestors upon the millet in the granary. The double broken line that surrounds the door suggests water, without which seeds cannot sprout. Only the religious and political chiefs known as the hogon were formerly allowed to own such highly decorated shutters. This shutter and its companion piece (no. 23) were the earliest works of Dogon art to be brought to Europe, and formed part of the Desplagnes gift to the museum. It remains an unparalleled object, significantly different in style from any other Dogon objects we know. The figures have the verticality and the upraised arms which we associate with Dogon art. They are, however, in such exceptionally high relief that they are almost three-dimensional sculptures. Their importance is increased by their large size in relation to the space they fill. Particularly masterful is the way the sculptor has used the diagonal rays of the background to contrast with the smooth bodies and the vertical lines of the fingers; he then tied the whole composition together with the horizontal striation on the hats. The border with its zigzag decoration encloses and intensifies the play of pattern. The central figure, whose chest is square, is male, while the flanking figures show by their breasts that they are female. All three figures have beards, and the male figure has no visible genitals. As in a number of other Dogon pieces in the exhibition, hermaphroditism is being indicated for cosmological reasons. Published: Adam 1959. fig. 11; Elisofon and Fagg 1958. p.38, fig. 22; Griaule 1947. p. 65, fig. 53; Maquet 1962. p. 29; New York 1935. fig. 35; Nice 1980. p. 40, fig. 17; Parts, Musee de l'Homme 1965. p. 51. fig. 6; PauIme 1962, vol. 1. fig. 5; Raclin and Sweeney 1952. fig. 22
Published: Griaule 1947. p. 54
128 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
HEDDLE PULLEY Mali, Dogon Wood H. 24 cm. Purchase 1963, ex-collection Tristan Tzara (illus. page 69) FORMERLY in Tristan Tzara's important collection of African art, this pulley (spool missing) is a fine example of what the French avant-garde saw in African art early in this century. The way in which the Dogon sculptor daringly simplified and restructured physical reality clearly must have appealed to the founder of Dada. Viewed from the side, this pulley plays fast and loose with human anatomy. The joined heads and the extended, triangular buttocks frame an empty space that is almost a perfect square. The elongated legs enclose and define a dramatic pentagon. The bodies become slender, linear shapes that function mainly to frame voids. As the pulley was meant to hang in the air above a loom, the sculptor would have clearly seen its limbs as defining space almost more than as solid objects. As is often the case in Dogon art, the subject is a human couple—the male with a square chest and the female with a pointed one. Often this is a reference to the original couple from whom the eight primordial ancestors descended. Underlying the audacious formal qualities of this pulley are references to a complicated cosmology which give an esoteric significance to many of its details. The zigzag line on the front, for example, is a reference to water in the creation myth. Comparing the austere and abstract style of this pulley to the gentle, curvaceous, naturalistic forms of the Guro pulley( no. 37)gives a good idea of the characteristic styles of these two areas.
MASK: RABBIT Mali, Dogon Wood, paint, fiber H. 35 cm.(mask only) Colonial Exposition 1931 (illus. page 28) ON the night of July 7, 1931, a gala soirée was held as part of the Colonial Exposition that had opened earlier that year. According to the evening's program, which survives in the archives of the Musee de l'Homme, before midnight when the audience took to the dance floor, there was a series of African performances more entertaining than ethnographic. Dogon dancers brought to Paris for the occasion performed "La danse de betes qu'on appelle sauvages" presumably using animal masks. After the soirée the masks that had been used were acquired by the museum—this rabbit mask among them. Despite its unconventional source, the mask is traditional in form and shows a sprightly invention. Because the mask had been used recently, its fiber hood was still intact, permitting us to imagine how all Dogon masks once looked. The color and texture of the hood combine with those of the mask to give it animation and spirit. The classical Dogon face is here topped by a large pair of rabbit ears which also serve as the ears of a much smaller and more naturalistic rabbit face emerging over the forehead of the first. The carefully applied paint acts almost like camouflage, disguising the shift from plane to plane, and creating a unified, vibrating surface. Published: Gnaule 1947 pl. 21; Leins and Delange.1967, fig. 286
Published Delange 1964
129 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK Upper Volta, Bwa,Bobo Nienege Wood, paint, fiber H. 118 cm.(mask only) Labouret expedition 1930 (illus. page 29)
MASK Upper Volta, Bwa, Bobo Dioulasso region Wood, paint, fiber H.175 cm.(mask only Labouret expedition 1930 (illus. page 70) ONE of the most spectacular masked dances of western Africa is the appearance of several dozen towering, painted Bwa masks with their huge fiber costumes. The top of one of these masks, when worn by a fairly tall man, reaches twelve feet above the ground. The Bwa country during the hot, dry season when masks dance is a monotonous rust color of the earth, with earthen houses of the same color and everything covered with a heavy layer of dust. The procession of masks with their bright black, white, and red paint gleaming in the tropical sunlight is truly dazzling. The Bwa live in a savannah region where, to people who depend entirely on agriculture for their subsistence, maintaining the harmony of nature is essential. Drought in particular is a greatly feared and ever-present danger. The Bwa see their masks as mediators between the realms of men and God, as a force that restores the harmony between man and nature which is essential to the proper functioning of the seasons and of the agricultural cycle. The performance of the masks has a purifying function, cleansing the village of evil and disharmony, and making the rains come and crops grow because the human sphere is no longer sullied by a year's accumulation of evil. This mask contains a number of elements from nature. A bird beak curves down over the abstract face, while the crescent at the top suggests the moon. Pattern is played against pattern, straight horizontal lines against diagonals and circles. The zigzag motif and the "X" appear regularly on the masks (as they do in the art of neighboring groups like the Dogon) and clearly have a symbolic meaning.
FACE masks surmounted by tall decorated planks are found throughout Upper Volta, but the significance of the various motifs they bear has remained unknown. Each mask is given a name, usually taken from a popular saying or proverb chosen by the man who created the mask (Skougstad 1978, p. 23). They are said not to represent particular beings or spirits. During his 1930 expedition Labouret collected a number of Bwa plank masks, including this one and no. 30. The multiplication of eyesâ€”three pairs stacked to fill the faceâ€”is unusual in this type of mask, and dazzling in its effect. The use of constantly varying patterns is de rigueur on such masks, and the front and back of the panels always have different painted designs. Here the artist has introduced a novelty by carving a second, smaller face on the back of the bottom disc. Since these masks are not normally Januslike, this second face must have been a playful surprise the artist offered his audience when the masked dancer turned his back to them. Published: Trowell 1954, p1.10
Published: Griaule 1947, p. 25, fig. 15. Laude 1966, p. 244, fig. 144; Leuzinger 1959, p. 76. fig. 24; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 99. fig. 249; Schmalenbach 1953, p. 63. fig. 57; Sydow 1954, p. 114A; Trowel! 1954. p. 32A
130 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FEMALE FIGURE Mali, Senufo, Zignasso village Wood H. 19 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933 (illus. page 71) SENUFO sculpture has a number of uses connected with the men's porn and the women's sandogo societies. Usually small figures like this one were associated with divination done by both men and women whose social necessity was great because it explained causes of individual or group calamities and decided issues of guilt and innocence. Collected in the region of Sikasso in Mali by the Dakar-Djibouti expedition, this piece is from the northern Senufo. As a work whose area of collection is known, it is important for the light it casts on the question of regional styles. Most Senufo people live further south, in the Ivory Coast, where they are the dominant group. Their sculpture is carved by a separate group of blacksmiths who live apart and who marry only among themselves. Women of the blacksmith group are the potters of the region. Seen in a photograph with no dimensions, this piece could be considered several times larger than its actual size. Though small, its powerful curving arms, simplified forms, and unadorned surfaces give an impression of monumentality. Small African sculptures often deceive us as to their size because their power is equal to what we expect from larger works. This figure, with its sophisticated play of solids against voids, is a marvel of abstraction based on visual reality. The Musee de l'Homme collection contains few Senufo pieces of this quality, a lack that can be explained by the fact the the Dakar-Djibouti expedition passed only through the edge of Senufo territory, and did not pause there long. The museum never sent other missions to the area, and hence never acquired the rich group of well-documented pieces that it has, for example, from the Dogon.
KNEELING FIGURE Guinea, Pomdo style Stone H. 11 cm. August Chevalier gift 1936 (illus. page 72) THE Kissi, when they find stone figures such as this, call them "Pomdo," meaning "images of the dead," and since figures in this style are found mainly in the area inhabited by the Kissi today, the African-art literature usually lists the provenance of such figures as "Kissi." It might, however, be more accurate to refer to them as "Pomdo style," because we do not know who made them, and stone figures in a given style may be found throughout a wide area encompassing several ethnic groups. "Pomdo style" sculptures are generally columnar in form with compact limbs and features and a marked vertical axis. These contrast with the horizontally oriented figures in "Nomoli" style, which tend to have cantilevered heads, protruding features, and projecting limbs. The figure here is a fine and classic example of Pomdo style. Notches in the lower area carve out radiating cones that form the feet, knees, and belly. Grooved and hatched surfaces, typical of Pomdo style, are here well used to produce a dense and ferocious aspect that magnifies the small size of the sculpture. Sharply slanting eyes and an open mouth displaying rows of teeth are characteristic features of Pomdo style that contribute to the power of this dynamic little figure.
Published: Goldwater 1964, pl. 121
131 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
CROUCHING FIGURE Sierra Leone, Mahen Yafe style Stone H. 18.8 cm. Lecesne gift 1902 (illus. page 73)
TWO HEADS Guinea, undetermined style Stone H. 9 cm. G. Waterlot expedition 1935 (illus. page 74) AFRICAN artists rarely worked in stoneâ€”virtually everywhere their preferred medium was wood. Exceptionally, in Guinea and Sierra Leone they worked in steatite, or soapstone, using the same kinds of tools commonly used elsewhere for woodcarving. Steatite is softer than hard woods and much easier to carve than ivory. Even when it was complete, this was a very small sculpture. It is hard now to guess what the original subject was; perhaps the large-headed figure stood behind a much smaller figure, its arms embracing the small head. In style it is equally elusive; the closest parallels are works in wood from the Dan and Mende area. The Waterlot expedition collected numerous stone sculptures in a variety of styles, but the only information they recorded about this piece is that it was acquired in Guinea. Its rosy color and the delicacy of the carving make it very appealing.
THERE is a whole constellation of stone sculpture styles through Guinea and Sierra Leone known in the literature by the names of the ethnic groups who inhabit the area today. These peoples acknowledge, however, that they did not make the stone figures and heads they accidentally encounter while farming. I therefore propose the use of other names to distinguish these stylesâ€”at least until further research can establish their authorship. Since each people uses a different name for the stones they find, we might provisionally use those names to designate styles. For example, large heads found in the Sherbro area are called "Mahen Yafe," "discovered spirits" in the Sherbro language. They have a distinctive style some of whose features appear in this figure. Unparalleled in the crouching posture, the fleshy, modeled limbs, and the naturalism of the face, this figure does not fall into any of the usual categories. Its head, however, resembles the Mahen Yafe heads, which, like it, often have large, heavy-lidded eyes, rounded cheeks, and receding chins, and often wear earrings of this type. The plain turban is another feature sometimes seen on the heads but rarely in other kinds of stone sculpture from the area. As a sculpture, this small masterpiece parts company with much African art. The artist has introduced a torsion of the body and an asymmetry in the composition that are unusual. Equally exceptional is the naturalistic rendering of flesh and muscle in the flexed legs, the arms, and the back. The rippling volumes recall Rodin's phrase that "sculpture is the art of the hollow and the lump."
132 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
HORN Sierra Leone, Afro-Portuguese, 16th century Ivory L. 67 cm. From the Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Medailles, originally in the royal Cabinet des Curiosites. (illus. page 30) PORTUGUESE merchants on the west coast of Africa in the sixteenth century commissioned from local artists ornate ivories which we call Afro-Portuguese in recognition of their double origin (see no. 50)..Sherbro, Bini, Kongo, and probably Owo artists carved these horns, saltcellars, and spoons based on European models. About twenty ivory horns in this style exist, but this is one of the few that seem to have been made for African, not European, patrons. Bassani points out (1979) that the elements of its iconographyâ€”human figures, snakes, crocodiles, and dogsâ€”are all found in African works, whereas the other Afro-Portuguese horns are carved with hunting scenes of European inspiration. He further argues that the placement of the mouthpiece on the side, rather than at the end as in European models, would have made it possible to blow this horn in the usual African manner. The meaning of the figures carved on the horn is obscure. A nude male figure sits at the tip with a long-faced dog lying at his feet; a serpent coiled around the mouthpiece bites a bird, while, upsidedown in relation to the first figure, three other figures appear around the horn. The first is a nude androgynous figure (head missing) who crouches and holds his/her knees. Female figures wearing skirts alternate with coiled dogs. On the lower end, two slender crocodiles lie between two undulating snakes biting quadrupeds. The perfection of workmanship and exquisite design of this horn and similar ivories make us wonder what the sixteenth-century regalia of the western coastal kingdoms might have been like.
MASK Ivory Coast, Dan, Blosse canton, Zenguetuo village Wood H. 24.5 cm. Labouret expedition 1936 (illus. page 75) THIS mask with its startling conception of the face was collected by Labouret without much specific information except its name, koagle, or monkey. Such animal masks are danced during masquerades called "forked stick" masquerades because the masked dancer carries a hooked stick with which he strikes and harasses the spectators. His dance often begins with the masked dancer leaping suddenly out of a house on the outskirts of the village. The dancer vigorously jumps over mortars, create confusion and havoc by kicking over rubbish bins, chasing people, hurling stones and objects, and sending everyone flying off as he swings his hooked stick at the ankles of the musicians and onlookers. He is even recorded as grabbing the anthropologist's hat, rubbing dirt in it, and flinging it back. Rowdy lack of respect for rank is characteristic of these monkey masks which serve to amuse the crowd and "warm" the dance place. The sculpture of the mask is an eloquent expression of mindless rage, its face consisting of nothing more than two slits and a hole ringed by teeth. The rough cuts on the surface of the mask themselves suggest disorder (though they are a calculated device used by a skillful artist here) and give the impression of wood that has been hacked wildly. This archetypal nightmare face, small and sinister, bears a resemblance (perhaps not fortuitous) to recent images in American science-fiction movies.
Published: Dictionnaire 1968. p. 417; Laude 1966, fig. 4; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 30; Wassing 1968, P. 277
133 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
HEDDLE PULLEY Ivory Coast, Guro Wood H. 22 cm. Claudius Cote bequest 1960 (illus. page 76) WEAVING looms throughout West Africa use pulleys to smoothly raise and lower the heddles. In the Ivory Coast, especially among the Guro and Baule, the decorating of carved wooden pulleys has reached degrees of refinement and invention rarely excelled. As chance would have it, the Musee de l'Homme has few works of great artistic quality from the Guro area. No scientific expeditions concentrated there, and no administrator returned with Guro collections. That Guro resistance to French rule was tenacious and long—the last uprising occurred in the 1930s— may have been a factor. The Guro masterpieces in the museum today thus came from art collections. The particular genius of Guro style can be seen in this pulley—a perfect balance between line and volume. Like other Guro works, this head has a great, rounded forehead and full, puffed-out coiffure, but it also has tight linear cuts around the mouth, chin, and neck, and a contour that is supple and clearly drawn. Published: Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. fig. 149
SPOON Ivory Coast, Guro Wood H. 18.5 cm. Andre Lefevre gift 1954 (illus. page 77) LIKE many people of the Middle East, Africans traditionally ate with their hands, and spoons were seldom made—forks were unknown. A small spoon such as this one was used mainly by very old people who had lost most of their teeth. The Guro, like most African farming people, relied on hunted meat for a good part of their diet. Here the hunted animal, wily and fleet, is captured on the handle of the utensil with which kin of the successful hunter will dine. A small number of Guro sculptures portray this laughing, big-eared beast. It seems likely that all are by the same artist or workshop. Spoons and pulleys, two kinds of utilitarian objects decorated with secular motifs, are the things most likely to display this animal. Unlike most other African sculptures, such objects were often ready-made, rather than made on commission for a specific purpose. This artist combines the features of several animals— none specific—to suggest the essence of the animal free in the wild.
134 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
PENDANT Ivory Coast, Akan Gold H. 9.5 cm. Bricard gift 1892 (illus. page 31) FOR centuries, gold was exported from the Ivory Coast to Europe in considerable quantities. To this day, surprising amounts of gold can be seen in Baule villages in the form of cast ornaments and gold dust. Acquired on the coast near the end of the nineteenth century, this pendant and the other gold objects that entered the museum with it were all attributed to a coastal people, the Adjukru. It now seems likely that gold ornaments were cast in a similar style by numerous Akan peoples and traded over a wide area. We thus cannot readily attribute this pendant to the Adjukru, the Anyi, the Attie, the Baule, or any other specific Akan people. The Aitu subgroup of the Baule, for example, were famous as gold workers, and they attracted coastal clients (including Adjukru) for whom they cast masquettes very like this one. This pendant is not only one of the first known in Europe, but also one of the largest, finest, and bestpreserved. It is also the work of a great genius. Like many Baule artists, he uses a refined asymmetry to enliven the work: the single low hair braid on the left is balanced by a whole group of braids on the right which are lightened by being higher up. The even spokes of the beard are a common feature on such masquettes, but many artists continue them like a crown across the top of the head. This artist halts them abruptly, creating another subtle imbalance top-to-bottom. He has further quite deliberately placed the right ear higher than the left, and the right eye higher than its mate. Finally, this master of delicate workmanship, this consummate artist, has left us his fingerprint like a signature on the forehead. Published: Histoire &morale de l'Afrique 1972, V. 3, pp. 288-89; Leiris and Delange 1967. p. 5, fig. 6; Nice 1979. p. 76. fig. 82: Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965. p. 63. fig. 12; Wassing 1969, p. 250
MONKEY FIGURE Ivory Coast, Baule Wood, feathers, nuts, cloth H. 53.5 cm. Andre Lefevre gift 1957 (illus. page 78) CONFLICTING reports on the use and meaning of Baule monkey figures have appeared in the literature, probably because these figures serve a variety of purposes and are known by different names in different places. Like most African objects with encrusted surfaces(formed by sacrificial blood and food poured directly on the figure), these are considered ugly, frightening, and relatively powerful entities in the scheme of things. Some of these figures represent baboons with greater or lesser fidelity; others range from vaguely simian to fully human. They are usually about two feet tall, have a boxy muzzle with many pointed teeth, and hold their cupped hands before the body. Some, like this one, actually hold a cup. These large figures are always male, and usually arrive in collections with loincloths intactâ€”as here. Some are used in cults for divination which are similar to divination cults that use human figures and involve prophesying by someone in a trance. Others protect families or belong to collective male organizations that protect against witches and poisoners. This figure is at the more representational end of the spectrum, having the small pouches in the cheeks that are typical of real monkeys. The tension of the actively ribbed hands and of the head with its bared teeth contrasts strangely with the fluid curves of the almost flaccid shoulders and arms. The flexed legs are typical of Baule sculpture. There is an interesting and complex relationship between the backward angle of the legs and the forward angle of the arms. The concave face forms a clean heart shape divided by the crisp line of the nose and punctuated by the almost spherical eyes. Published: Dictionnaire 1968, p. 155; Leiris and Delange 1967. p. 301, fig. 346; Nice 1980. p. 47. fig. 26; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, P. 59. fig. 92; Paris. Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 59, fig. 10; Paris. Musee National d'Art Moderne 1964. fig. 32; Wassing 1968. p. 241; Wingert 1970. fig. N41
135 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
DIVINATION VESSEL Ivory Coast, Baule Wood, vegetable fibers, skin H. 25 cm. Hans Himmelheber gift 1933 (illus. page 32) THE Baule use three main techniques for divination, one of which requires a vessel like this with two chambers in it joined by a hole. A field mouse kept in the vessel disarranges a series of short batons, which are then interpreted by the diviner. Mouse divination, probably of Guro origin, is practiced by the Yaure as well as by the Baule. Interestingly, mouse divination seems to be on the increase today. The Baule believe that mice, which live close to and under the earth, may communicate with asye, Earth as a power, and with the ancestors, thus helping them to foretell events. The figure here, and the small masks that decorate the sides of the vessel, are probably only for decoration, though the bowed head and pensive attitude might be interpreted by the Baule as showing the diviner's concentration. Because of its rare beauty, this divination vessel is one of the most famous and often-reproduced works of Baule art, a circumstance that may blind us to the fact that it is almost unique. Only one other such vessel has a whole figure on it (Kjersmeier 1935, vol. 1, pl. 54), though recently made ones are increasingly elaborate and may include a great deal of sculptural ornament. This piece was collected in the early 1930s by the German anthropologist Hans Himmelheber, who produced pioneering studies on African art and artists. Published: Dictionnaire 1968, p. 66; Elisofon and Fagg 1958, fig. 32; Griaule 1947, P. 93, fig. 81; Labouret 1934, no. 8. p. 5, fig. 1; Leiris and Delange 1967, p. 299. fig. 344; Muensterberger 1955. p. 110, Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965. p. 61, pl. 11; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, p. 50. fig. 68; Paulme 1962, pl. 11; Propylaen Kunstgeschichte 1978. p. 39; Wassing 1968. p. 206; Wingert 1970, fig. N41
FUNERARY FIGURE Ivory Coast, Anyi Terra-cotta H. 36 cm. Inventory 1943 (illus. page 33) COMMEMORATIVE terra-cotta figures, made by women in the Krinjabo area of the Anyi, formed tableaux in special groves (never at the burial place) where offerings to the dead could be made and devotions carried out. The figures were said to be portraits of individuals, recognizable by certain characteristic features. The terra-cottas show a great variety of coiffures and ornaments, but all have the typical long ringed neck, short horizontal arms, and upturned face. This example is unusually large and detailed, especially its seat and lower body; many similar figures have no legs at all. It probably represented the central figure in a tableau. The nobility of the face with its long straight nose and elegant beard, and especially the elaboration of the knobbed hat, would be in keeping with that role. Like many Akan works from the Ivory Coast, this figure has a contemplative, spiritual quality. Early in this century a Liberian-born prophet named Harris moved through the Anyi area preaching a syncretic Christian message and making mass conversions. By 1914 , the people of Krinjabo had embraced the Harrisist faith and stopped making commemorative terra-cottas. Cement figure sculptures, often lifesize and arranged in tableaux, now are a part of tombs for the wealthy throughout the southeastern Ivory Coast. Published: Marcq-en-Baroeul 1979, fig. 84; Toulon 1980, fig. 88
136 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
VESSEL (KUDUO) Ghana, Asante Bronze H. 28 cm. De Menil gift 1965 (illus. page 79) LARGE brass containers cast by the lost-wax process were called kuduo by the Asante, and were used both to hold precious or sacred things and to represent a man's spiritual state. Sacrificial foods such as eggs, yams, meat, or chicken were placed in the kuduo, which were put in front of ancestral stools at times of sacrifices, and at funerals. Sometimes gold dust or valuable beads were stored in them, and they also appear to have been buried with important people. These uses are associated with a cluster of ideas related to the soul or nonphysical part of a man (kra in Asante), and to the ritual of soul-washing. The complex scene on the lid of this vessel shows a king in state, smoking an enormous pipe, surrounded by his courtiers. The king is seated on his sacred stool and wears the elaborate regalia of royalty: gold necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and other ornaments. Musicians surround him, playing, while the other figures hold up symbols of kingship such as ceremonial swords. Asante was a centralized state, with dazzling regalia and court etiquette which were copied by many surrounding chiefs and kings. It is clear that this kuduo belonged to an important ruler because of its large size and the rich complexity of the scene on the cover. The shape, the method of fastening, and especially the decoration on the sides of this kuduo suggest ties to Islamic containers traded across the desert from North Africa. This is not surprising in view of the fact that the Asante exported gold in medieval times to the Sudanic kingdoms in what is now Mali, which in turn had important commerce with the Moslem world. Published: Delange 1965. p. 198. fig. 1; P. 199. fig. 2; P. 201, fig. 3: Dictionnaire 1968, p. 39; Fraser and Cole 1972, p. 150. fig. 86; p. 151, fig. 87; Leiris and Delange 1967, p. 202, fig. 225; New York, African-American Institute 1983, p. 153; Nice 1979, p. 76, fig. 83; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 35. fig. 27
GOD OF WAR Republic of Benin, Fon, Wydah Wrought iron H. 165 cm. Captain Fonssagrives gift 1894 (illus. pages 80, 81) WHEN the French army marched into Abomey in mid-November 1892, it gained not only the submission of a warlike nation, but also many works of art discovered in the king's palace and in various parts of the kingdom. Many of the most important Dahomean works extant entered the museum that year, among them two monumental thrones (page 14) and four life-size figures including this one and no. 45. According to the museum's earliest records, this tall iron figure was found in Wydah on the coast, and was called Ebo or Gbo, god of victory. The figure once held a large pierced sword in the right hand and a round-ended gong in the left (lost almost fifty years ago when the figure was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York). It appears to have been made very late in the nineteenth century, in a kingdom that was highly eclectic in its art forms and that encouraged artistic innovation. In many respects, this figure stands outside the conventions of African art. The materialâ€”European-made hammered ironâ€”is rarely employed for sculpture and never in this size. The striding stance and the gesture of the arms are also rare, but occur in all four large figures from Dahomey. The composition is elementary but effective, the bulky triangle of the tunic repeating the hollow, linear triangle of the legs. The jagged elements on the hat lend an aggressive activity to the top of the work in contrast with the plain base; the warlike aspect of this god of victory was also enhanced by the original rising sword and gong held in the hands. Published: Clouzot and Level n.d., fig. 43; Davidson 1959, fig. 10; Davidson 1961, fig. 11; Delange 1967. pl. 52; Elisofon and Fagg 1958, fig. 139; Griaule 1947, v.1, fig. 135; Laude 1966. fig. 63; Leiris and Delange 1967. fig. 266; Malraux 1952. v.I. fig. 401; Maquet 1962..p. 181; New York 1935. P. 237; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. fig. 306: Paulme 1962, v.l. figs. 114, 115; Pericot-Garcia et al. 1967, fig. 222.
137 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
KING BEHANZIN AS A SHARK Republic of Benin, Eon, Abomey Court Wood, paint H. 160 cm. General Dodds gift 1893 (illus. page 34)
AFRICAN rulers are often symbolized by predatory animals, most commonly the leopard. Behanzin's choice of a shark is unique, though it is consistent with this idea, and with the dangerous animals, the lion and the buffalo, chosen by his predecessors. Many works of African art combine animal and human features in highly imaginative ways to suggest beings that transcend their constituent parts and partake of another reality. This shark-man, however, fuses human and nonhuman features in an atypical and un-African way. Where other artists mix the characteristics of several animals, or use nonspecific features that suggest animalness in a generic way, the sculptor of this figure is literal-minded. The blunt, round-eyed head, scaly skin, and shark's fins have simply been grafted onto a man's body without suggesting a new kind of being. This figure, with its banal toenails and matter-of-fact fish scales, remains grounded in our everyday reality. Lacking transcendence, he is instead surrealistic. The additive technique used here is also atypical for African sculpture. This figure has been made of many pieces of wood which were carved separately and joined with nails, whereas traditional African sculptures, however large or complex, were almost always made from single pieces of wood. The sculpture of Behanzin as a shark may be less menacing than the king intended, but it is still fascinating. The rigid body quartered by the stiff fins plays off the soft limbs caught in mid-gesture. The textured surfaces of the midsection contrast with the utterly smooth skin of the legs and with the disquieting, almost featureless face. Published: Dictionnaire 1968, p. 118; Himmelheber 1960, p.249. fig. 181C; Kjersmeier 1936, vol. 2, fig 57; Laude 1966, p. 49; Leiris and Delange 1967, p. 233, fig. 265; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 43. fig. 51; Sydow 1954. fig. 17B; Wingert 1970, fig. N50
DIVINER'S TAPPER Nigeria, Yoruba Ivory H. 45 cm. Museum purchase 1897 (illus. page 82) THE Yoruba have a complex system of foretelling which requires a diviner to analyze the fall of special seeds and interpret them in terms of 260 enigmatic verses called odu which he has memorized. In the course of a divination session, the diviner, called a babalawo, uses a tapper such as this ivory one to invoke Orunmila, the god who was present at the creation and who knows the destinies of men and women. He taps a wooden tray with the pointed tip of the ivory, producing a sound to call the god. Many tappers have a clapper in them (making them properly bells), which adds to the tapping sounds. At least a dozen similar tappers exist, all presumably from a single area or workshop, probably in the Oyo region (Fagg and Pemberton 1982, p. 190). The figure on this one is more robust and less elongated than others, and the composition is based on a series of round, sensuous forms rather than the coolly elegant ovals of other figures. The plain rather than patterned surfaces on the hair, and on the bird's wings, are also unusual. The contrast between textured areas and smoothly turning surfaces is well used in this ivory and in others of the group. The tusk, hollow through part of its length, contains an ivory clapper attached to a bar. The loops that encircle the tusk above and below the woman's figure originally held small ivory rattles attached with string. When the tapper was shaken, a brilliant staccato was produced by the clapper in its chamber and by the myriad rattles sounding against the ivory and against each other. Published: Basler 1929, fig. 11a; Griaule 1947. fig. 112; Maupoil 1943, fig. 7; Savary 1975, fig. 14
138 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
DIVINER'S TAPPER Republic of Benin, Yoruba Wood, paint H. 58.5 cm. Bernard Maupoil gift 1938 (illus. page 82)
SHANGO STAFF Republic of Benin, Yoruba Wood, metal, beads H. 43 cm. From the Massey Museum, Tarbes (illus. page 83) SHANGO, the Yoruba god of thunder, a "hot" god, choleric and unpredictable, has inspired some of the most lyrical and serene, "cool" Yoruba sculpture. Staffs topped by a double axe. Shango's symbol, usually include a female figure integrated into the shaft. This staff, however, is exceptional in a number of ways, and its iconography is not clear. Instead of the god's usual symbolic axe, we have here a real, iron axe blade hafted onto the top of the staff. William Fagg has suggested (Delange 1963, p. 210) that the unconventional iconography happened because the staff had been carved by a Yoruba artist working for a Fon client. Shango shrines contain an array of sculptures; prominent among them are the god's ceremonial axes. The Yoruba, like many West Africans, believe that neolithic stone celts found in the earth mark the places where bolts of lightning have struck. These "thunderstones" are placed on Shango altars, and their broad flat shape is the model for the distinctive carved axe heads on staffs. The two round, pendulous, and rather organic-looking forms on the top of this axe are entirely different in spirit from those others. Probably during festivals a Shango priest would wear this axe by resting the blade on his shoulder. The sculpture is too fancy, and the structure too fragile, for it ever to have been a mere cutting tool. The sculptor of this work has ingeniously used texture to unify it: a fine-grained cross-hatching on the head and thighs, and a strong horizontal ribbing on the anklets and bracelets, the ringed neck, and the heavily ribbed column over the woman's head. Between these straight-lined areas are the sensuous curving forms of the woman's body.
SINCE this kind of tapper used by diviners is usually made of ivory, this wooden example imitates the curved and tapering form of an ivory tusk. Though the basic iconography is consistentâ€”the bird and the kneeling womanâ€”additional meanings are subtly introduced here. The lightning zigzag line that runs around the shaft above and below the woman recalls Shango, god of lightning and once king of Oyo. The interlace at the top of the bell is a royal motif often worked in embroidery or in beads on royal crowns, garments, shoes, and staffs. The woman's gesture, hands to her breasts, alludes to the ritual power of women, as well as to woman's role as nurturer and progenitor. The decorative style of this tapper is typical of the Ketu Yoruba living along the Nigeria-Republic of Benin border. It is not surprising that most of the Yoruba works in the Musee de l'Homme collection come from Benin, a former French colony, rather than from Nigeria which was a British one. Characteristic of Ketu style are the interlace braid, the decorative texturing, and the use of several colors. This tapper was once painted blue and white. The openwork of the base is typical of the virtuosity beloved of Ketu Yoruba carvers. Published Maupoil 1943, p 6
Published: Adande 1962; Delange 1963; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, p. 7; Pau 1961, p. 23, fig. 145; Segy. 1955. pp. 136. 173
139 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK (GELEDE) Republic of Benin, Yoruba Wood, paint H. 37 cm. J. C. Paulme gift 1937, collected in 1909 (illus. page 35)
AMONG the western Yoruba, gelede masquerades are performed to appease "the mothers," a collective term for the special powers of all women, especially those elderly, ancestral, or deified. "The mothers" are both creative and destructive (the Yoruba say, "the witches are our mothers"), and songs for "the mothers" express the ambivalence of their powers. Like all gelede masks, this is one of a pair of identical masksâ€”both of which are preserved in the museum. Collected in March 1909, this mask preserves the soft, subtle colors of its original earth paint. The gelede masquerade is still popular today; so new masks are made, and old ones are repainted frequently with bright enamel paint. The pairs of crescents on the sides of the mask probably represent the moon, which in this context carries several meanings. First it is associated with Islam, and may be a reference to Yoruba converts (rather than to foreign Moslems) since the traditional scarification marks on the cheeks and forehead make it clear that the mask portrays a Yoruba. Secondly, the moon is a nocturnal reference and thus alludes indirectly to "the mothers" whose covert practices occur at night. A gelede song begins, "Allpowerful mother, mother of the night bird." Most African sculptures are made of single pieces of wood, but this mask has been carved of several, ingeniously pegged together. The two sides of the coiffure are removable, their cylindrical extensions held in place by pegs that are carved to resemble hairpins. The artist who carved this large-eyed face repeated a lozenge shape in the scarifications, in the wings of the nose, and in the eyes, creating a calm and harmonious face whose intelligent gaze and generous mouth embody Yoruba ideals.
HORN Nigeria, Bini-Portuguese Ivory L. 77 cm. From the Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Medailles (illus. page 84) LIKE no. 35 in this collection, this horn was made for Portuguese patrons by African artists probably in the sixteenth century. Such horns were included in the very early French royal "cabinets de curiosites" that later passed into the Bibliotheque Nationale and from there to the Musee de l'Homme. Based on European models, they were used as hunting horns in Europe, and were given as gifts to nobility and royalty. One, for example, was given to a daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain by King Manoel of Portugal on the occasion of their marriage about 1500. Ivory horns were used by African musicians all along the Atlantic coast, but this one differs from those the Bini made for themselves. As depicted in many Benin works (see no. 51), horns for their own use had the mouthpiece on the outer curve of the tusk, whereas those made for Europeans have the mouthpiece on the inner side. The slenderness of this graceful horn, and the elegance of the fluting which terminates in an even, petal-like scallop, place it among the most refined and harmonious of all Afro-Portuguese works. A woodcut of a similar horn published in 1619 by Michael Praetorius in his Theatrum lnstrumentorum (Bassani 1981, pl. 20) is almost identical to this one except that a small human head, wearing a hat, emerges from the jaws of the crocodile. Published: Bassani 1981 fig. 15 Leiris and Delange 1967. p. 2; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 28
Published: Griaule 1947, p. 15; PauIme 1956, pl. 10
140 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
PLAQUE Nigeria, Kingdom of Benin Bronze H. 51.9 cm. Georges Henri Riviere gift 1931 (illus. page 85)
MOTHER-AND-CHILD FIGURE Cameroon, Bamilekc Wood H. 62 cm. Labouret expedition 1934 (illus. page 36) ACCORDING to the museum's records, this figure was collected in Bangante, a Bamileke• kingdom, by Henri Labouret, who bought it from King N'Jike. It had been carved by an artist named.Kwayep from the nearby village of Bamana, who had been trained in Bawok village. Bawok, famous for its carvers, was subsequently destroyed in a war with the king of Bangante, and its inhabitants fled across the border to the then British Cameroons. In the light of this history, we can no longer consider this a Bangante work even though it was found there. Grasslands kings undergo a long period of initiation which cannot terminate successfully until one of the king's wives gives birth to a child. This royal wife is then depicted in a sculpture such as this one. In all probability, the figure was carved to commemorate the birth of King N'Jike's first child soon after 1912 when he began to reign. Spatial immediacy as manifested in this figure is one of the great contributions that African artists have made to world culture. Here we see an organization of volumes—not of surfaces—in which each part is autonomous yet integrated. The figure projects into space and occupies it fully despite its slightness. The artist has not created voids in his work; rather, he allows the sculpture and the surrounding space to interpenetrate in such a way that they become inseparable. The composition challenges the viewer to find the "front" or main perspective—for there is none. The spiraling body of the mother, her angled legs and tilted stool, the writhing, circular form of the child, lead the beholder around the sculpture and reveal at each new angle new perspectives, new information, new inventions.
AN almost unbroken succession of kings or "obas" ruled Benin for close to five hundred years. Though often at war, they were never severely defeated, and the capital. Benin city, was never taken by enemies until the British overcame Oba Ovoranmwen in 1897. In the palace the British found an unparalleled collection of art treasures in bronze and ivory amassed by different obas over the centuries. Among the works the British brought home were hundreds of cast bronze plaques like this one made during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for the pillars of a palace courtyard. The plaques depict the major personalities of the court in a great variety of roles, costumes, and events. Most, including this plaque, are relatively static compositions in which situations and characters are revealed more by garments worn and objects carried than by individualizing traits or gestures. Here we see a relatively low-ranking chief in ceremonial war dress. He wears the dignitary's high collar of coral necklaces and the warrior's necklace of standing leopard teeth to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. A red parrot feather in the chief's cap assures him of success; the small face at his left hip represents a bronze mask pendant. He grasps a broad-bladed chief's ceremonial sword in his right hand and a spear in his left. Guards or soldiers flank him holding decorated shields and spears. Between the large figures stand two small musicians, one playing a curved ivory horn (see no. 50), the other a pair of bells. Published: Griaule 1947. P. 69. fig. 57; Histoire Generale de l'Afrique 1922, v. 4, pp. 32, 33; Laude 1966, p. 173, fig. 94; Luquet 1932. p. 9; Mauny 1970, p. 212; Paris, Musee d'Ethnographie du Trocadero 1932, p. 12, fig. 2
Published: Fraser and Cole 1972, p. 132, fig. 75; Paris. Musee d'Ethnographie du Trocadero 1935. p. 34; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 15, fig. 3; Pau[me 1962, fig. 10
141 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK Gabon, Aduma, Latoursville Wood, coloring H. 54 cm. Schwebisch and Tholon gift 1884 (illus. page 37) RELATIVELY rare in collections, Aduma masks have been more appreciated than studied. Perrois (1979, pp. 269-70) explains that the area from which they come has been one of great mobility and contact over the last three centuries, the consequence of which has been the amalgamation of some ethnic groups, and the blurring of art styles in the region. This kind of mask, called Mvoude, is today used by several ethnic groups in addition to the Aduma. Its original purpose and meaning are not known. Perrois suggests that it may have been used by a nowforgotten initiation society. Today, such masks seem to serve mainly for entertainments. Perrois mentions this mask specifically as one of the most beautiful examples of the type. It was also one of the firstâ€” perhaps the firstâ€”known in Europe, since it arrived at the museum in 1884. The formal composition of this mask resembles one consistently used in the Western Sudan, though the two regions have no specific historical or cultural links. The forehead and nose treated as one plane which overhangs the plane that forms the eyes, cheeks, mouth, and chin is a typically African solution to the representation of the human face (see no. 3). As in Sudan art fields of color unrelated to the sculptural forms are used to break up flat expanses, in a way that sometimes seems arbitrary. The carved elements in themselves are minimal: small features crowded at the top of the face; eyes and mouth that are simply openings in the facial plane without borders or detail. Much of the expressiveness of this mask comes from its black beetling brow and small, querulous mouth, but the main aesthetic interest is the startling asymmetrical paint that quarters the face and darkens the chin. Published: Perrois 1979, fig. 289
RELIQUARY GUARDIAN: HEAD Gabon, Fang Wood, tacks H. 33.5 cm Mme Paul Guillaume gift 1941 (illus. page 86) THROUGHOUT the equatorial forest region, ancestral relics are conserved in bundles or baskets and are the center of a cult which requires initiation. The ancestral reliquary, whose contents may not be seen by children, women, non-initiates, or non-family members, is usually kept in a special closed room in the house. Figures are created to serve as guardians of these reliquaries, literally and metaphorically warding off malefactors. Eyewitness accounts describe the brightness of the glittering eyes in the darkness of the chamber as extremely frightening (Walker and Sillans 1962, p. 65). The importance of the eyes in most reliquary figures (here they are represented by imported brass tacks) is a sign of their vigilance and their supernatural ability to see intruders, and witches in the darkness, and into the hearts of men. The gleaming black surface of this head is due to years of anointing with palm oil; though it has long been out of Africa, the wood still exudes oil The high domed forehead and tapering chin of this head are typical of Fang style, which accords great importance to the forehead not only as the source of consciousness and intellectual power, but for allusive purposes too. The high forehead and hollow cheeks here suggest a skull (such as those preserved in the reliquary) and at the same time give the head an infantile quality. The Fang believe that children, when they are born, come from the land of the ancestors and that they are consequently close to the ancestors. The Fang may thus see this head as a meditation upon the continuity of the living and the dead, on the journey of life from the land of the ancestors beyond the sea and back to them in death. At the same time, the head represents the benevolent presence of the ancestors watching over village life. Published: Paris. Musde de l'Homme 1965, fig. 20; Perrois 1972. p. 314, fig. 158; Perrois. 1979. fig. 86
142 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MASK Gabon, Fang Wood, paint H. 24 cm. Mme Paul Guillaume gift 1941 (illus. page 38) A DETAILED study of Fang masks has yet to be made, naming and defining the various types. Like other African peoples, the Fang seem to have regularly introduced new mask dances which conformed to a preexisting pattern but which had new names, dances, and meanings. One thing is clear: since the nineteenth century the Fang have used a variety-of white-faced masks to suddenly appear in dramatic and frightening performances. For the Fang, white is the color of the dead and of those "purified of the sin of birth" (Fernandez 1982, p. 490). In the nineteenth century these white-faced masks represented ancestors, powerful shades, or forest spirits, while more recent versions have represented a white woman, Charles de Gaulle, and Francisco Francoâ€”all symbols of remote authority that briefly disciplined the villagers (Fernandez ibid., pp. 298-99). These dances are still performed, though they are today predominantly entertainments. This mask and other works in this catalogue once belonged to the influential Parisian dealer in African art Paul Guillaume (1893-1934). It was he who in 1917 opened the first African-art gallery in France. In the course of a short career as a dealer and collector he amassed one of the greatest collections of African art ever held in private hands. Some years after his death, his widow gave the Musee de l'Homme an important group of works from Gabon, the strongest area of his collection. Like others of his generation, he loved African art for its aesthetic values; he never went to Africa and had rather fanciful ideas about African life and culture.
MASK Gabon, Fang Wood, tacks H. 40 cm. Mme Paul Guillaume gift 1941 (illus. page 39) ELABORATE coiffures and wigs of sculptural form and impressive dimensions, created with oil, clay, and other additions, were current among Fang men and women until the turn of the century. The high crest and rows of imported brass tacks seen on this mask are duplicated in early photographs of Fang warriors (who look rather like Fang dandies). The white color of the face marks this as a mask representing an ancestor or a spirit (see no. 55), but it is also realistic, since the Fang paint their faces and bodies with white clay for ritual occasions. Early studies of African art called attention to the prevalence of a concave, heart-shaped face most clearly manifested in Gabon but found through a vast area of West, Central, and Southern Africa. The wide distribution of this motif was seen as demonstrating its great antiquity, and it was argued that it showed contact between Africa and neolithic cultures of farflung places such as the Urals in Russia, and Scandinavia. Scholars of African art today no longer search for outside influences, since numerous studies of art conducted in Africa have led us to think of it on its own terms. Nevertheless, the heart-shaped face is found in very remote places and it would be interesting to consider why. The Africanness of African art, the quality that allows us to say that a work is African even when we have no idea where it may have been made, is only now beginning to attract dispassionate scholarship. Published: Perrois 1976, fig. 96
Published: Griaule 1947, p. 11; Laude 1966, fig. 131; Port er and Ponceton 1930, fig. 3
143 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
MALE RELIQUARY GUARDIAN Gabon, Fang Wood, beads, wax H. 60 cm. Museum purchase 1898 (illus. page 40)
This reliquary figure was created to guard ancestral bones which were kept in a cylindrical bark box. The long shaft at the back of the figure was attached to the top of the box, or inserted into it so that the figure appeared to sit on the lid. While the contents of the reliquary were not to be seen by the uninitiated, the closed box and figure could be seen by anyone, and might be paraded in processions. According to Gunter Tessman, who observed Fang culture from 1904 to 1909, on the concluding day of ceremonies for the reliquary cult, all the reliquary figures of the village were manipulated in a puppet show which amused the audience and served to lighten the atmosphere after the preceding days' focus on the subject of death. This apparently secular and irreverent treatment of what we would consider sacred works of art disappointed Tessman and seems contradictory to Westernersâ€”though it is part of many African cults. The Fang and other peoples frequently chide, joke with, or threaten ancestral spirits in the course of rituals and invocations. This is understandable if we remember that the ancestors are not distant gods, but dead elders whom one remembers. The museum purchased this figure in 1889, a time when few Fang figures were in Europe. It remains today an exceptionally large and powerful expression of Fang culture. The muscular tension connoting physical force, and the large head with high forehead implying intellectual powers, represent a Fang ideal: the physical productivity and fertility of youth combined with the wisdom and spiritual qualities of age.
FOUR-FACED HEAD Gabon, Fang Wood H. 20 cm. Ex-collection Sierpski 1939 (illus. page 41) BECAUSE this sculpture does not fit any of the usual categories of Fang art, its authenticity was long regarded as suspect. The museum's catalogue cards describe it as the top of a pillar, and indeed the bottom shows that it has been cut off somethingâ€” though no Fang pillars quite like this are known. Perhaps it is a reliquary guardian of the type illustrated in a sketch by Walker and Siliens (1962, p. 69, nos. 6 and 7) which shows heads atop geometrically decorated posts instead of the usual long neck (like that of no. 54). The existence of a reliquary figure with three faces (Perrois 1979, pp. 56-58) would support the theory that this many-faced object could also be a guardian. It would be consistent too with the iconography of guardians, whose function is vigilance: many pairs of eyes facing in different directions convey the idea of extraordinary clairvoyance seeing this world and the next. The four faces here are harmoniously integrated to become parts of a single head in which the faces seen in profile mimic the silhouette of a traditional Fang coiffure. There is no principal face here (as there usually is on four-faced Fang masks), but one pair is larger than the other; the small size of the face in this photo,and the orientation of the coiffure, suggest that the face is a secondary one. Fang art typically has a tense and dynamic quality, but this sculpture is marked by a sweetness and serenity rarely seen in Fang figures. It is remarkable for the purity of its gently swaying lines. The endless series of curves that delineate the faces, the coiffures, the brows, and even the base are stabilized and given rigor by the dead-straight, sturdy neck.
Published: Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 299; Perrois 1979, fig. 70; Sydow 1954. fig. 53
Published: Marcq-en-Baroeul 1979, fig. 117; Perrois 1979, fig. 107; Toulon 1980, fig. 140; Trowell 1954. pl. 38
144 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FIGURE Congo, Upper Sanga River Wood, beads, shell H. 26.6 cm. Ferriere gift 1901 (illus. page 41) LIKE many works from Equatorial Africa, this small figure entered the museum collection at the beginning of this century. Scarcely documented at the time, it remains enigmatic in almost every respect. It is said to have come from the upper Sanga River region in the Republic of the Congo, far from the zone of reliquaries, though it has a post supporting the buttocks like those used to affix Fang reliquary guardians to bark barrels (see no. 57). Like other guardians, this figure has bright, reflective eyes, but this time made of cut shell, a material seldom used in African sculpture. This figure is completely without sexual features, which is also very rare in African art. The style resembles no other works of African art in its odd combination of gently modeled forms and aggressively stylized ones. One certainty about the sculpture is its aesthetic quality. It has the dense, compact power of Fang figures, and despite its small size it has enormous presence. Some of its interest surely comes from the contradictory, even incompatible, combination of the fleshy naturalistic body with the streamlined, inorganic head. The artist has apparently taken every measure to emphasize the differences between the two parts, banding the plump legs with parallel grooves to stress their roundness, and allowing the chest and upper arm to flow together in a soft, fluid volume, while harshly demarcating the jawline and carving the facial plane deep under the brows. Nothing mediates the abrupt transition between the body and the hammerlike head. Only the hands, enlarged and conspicuously held before the torso, partake of both styles; inorganically conceived like the head, they duplicate its arching brows, but, slightly scooped out, they echo in reverse the swelling curves of the full belly and round limbs. Published: Griaule 1947. p. 41. fig. 31; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 75, fig. 18; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 294
RELIQUARY WITH FEMALE GUARDIAN Gabon, Ngunie River Wood, paint, hide, other materials H. 30 cm. Inventory 1943 (illus. page 87) DURING an inventory in 1943, this small masterpiece came to light in the museum's reserves where it had surely spent a good half-century. It is likely to have entered the collection along with the door (no. 61) and other Ogowe River area objects before the turn of the century. It has often been published as an object related to magic or medicine. However, because reliquaries surmounted by guardian figures are common in Gabon, it seems more likely that this bundle contains ancestral relics The beauty of the female figure with her dainty features and delicate hair style is in no way incompatible with her role as a guardian. The red pigment on the body is camwood, a cosmetic (see no. 82) used by many African peoples from Nigeria to southern Africa. In the present figure it suggests beauty, health, prosperity, and well-being. The white paint on the face alludes to the world of ancestors and spirits. In most African systems of color symbolism, white connotes ritual purity, goodness, composure or coolness, and states of heightened spiritual power. Most Africans classify Caucasians as red, not whiteâ€”probably because red is morally ambiguous as a color symbol. For the nearby Fang and other peoples of the equatorial region, red and white are also associated with the creation and composition of the human body; the red drop of maternal blood surrounded by the protective white paternal semen becomes the infant; in the adult, white bones, tissues, and tendons support the sources of vitality, the blood and the red organs. In the social world, men tend to build structures and women fill them with vital activity (Fernandez 1982, p. 123). Published: Chaffin 1979, p. 29; Elisofon and Fagg 1958; Laude 1966. p. 141. fig. 77; Leiris and Delange 1967, p. 238, fig. 271; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 80; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 113, fig. 300; Wassing 1969, p. 240
145 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
DOOR Gabon, Ngunie River Wood H. 108 cm. Inventory 1967 (illus. page 88)
MASK Gabon, Ngunie River Wood, coloring H. 36.8 cm. Mme Bluysen gift 1942; collected in 1906 (illus. page 89) AS is often the case with objects from Gabon, we cannot be sure which particular ethnic group made this mask. Such masks have been attributed to a number of groups, the Punu, the Ashira, the Lumbo, and other peoples who live along the Ngunie River, a tributary of the Ogowe. We call it "Ngunie River" style until further research refines the attribution. These masks look naturalistic, but have quite a different effect when seen as they were intended to beâ€”high in the air. They were worn by costumed stilt dancers whose masked faces were perhaOs fifteen feet from the ground. In this context, the mask appeared tiny, out of proportion with the rest of the body. The effect was unearthly, inhuman, as was suitable for masks said to represent the spirits of beautiful young women who have returned to the world to participate in funerals. The elaborate threepart coiffure and the diamond-shaped marks on the forehead indicate that the spirits are still members of their ethnic group even after death. These masks surprise Westerners because of their whiteness and their degree of naturalism. Over the years, people have been tempted to see a resemblance to Japanese makeup in the narrow eyes, whitened faces, and red lips, as well as a similarity in the coiffure. Their inward-looking, meditative quality also seems Oriental to some viewers. The lack of any historical evidence of direct Japanese connection, and the fact that these visual and spiritual qualities can be explained in terms of our knowledge of Ngunie area societies, make such influence seem unlikely. There is, however, evidence that a few Africans from the mouth of the Niger traveled to Japan as crew members of seventeenth-century Portuguese sailing ships.
DOORS carved in relief out of a single slab of wood are found in many parts of Africa. We have no firsthand information about this door, though it had probably entered the collection by the late nineteenth century. The American writer-adventurer Paul Du Chaillu, who made several trips to Gabon in the 1860s, illustrates geometrically carved doors from the nearby Tsogo in one of his books, saying, "What was most remarkable, there was here an attempt at decorative work on the doors of many of the houses. The huts, neatly built with walls formed of the bark of trees, had their doors painted red, white, and black, in complicated and sometimes not inelegant patterns. These doors were very ingeniously made: they turned upon pivots above and below which worked in the frame instead of hinges" (Du Chaillu 1867, pp. 264-65). We do not know what kind of house this door was made for. Its small size, by Western standards, is not revealing, since doors for African houses large and small are often no bigger than this. The posture of the female figure is unusual in African art, although another Gabon door showing a displayed woman is published by Walker and Sillans (1962, p. 225). Du Chaillu mentions several "idols" he saw in the region, invariably describing them as "indecent," but, none are illustrated. By conventional African standards, this figure would be considered indecent or ribald; African women are traditionally modest, and complete nudity was rare in any public setting. Masks resembling the figure's head (see no. 62) were associated with spirits and the dead. There is, however, something unmistakably human and alive about the soft-bodied woman depicted here. Her dreamy expression makes one think this was the door to a sleeping chamber.
Published: Gnaule 1947, fig. 9; Laude 1966, fig. 113; Maquet 1962, PauIme 1956, fig. 21; Wingert 1970, fig. 101
Published: Griaule, 1947, fig. 51; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. fig. 80; Perrois 1979, fig. 276.
146 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
RELIQUARY GUARDIAN Gabon, Kota Wood, metal H. 40 cm. Schwebisch and Tholon gift 1884 (illus. page 90) KOTA sculpture, while stylistically different from almost all other African art, was functionally close to the reliquary figures of the Fang and other peoples of Gabon. Figures such as this one were guardians, attached to baskets which contained bones of important ancestors. A sketch by the explorer Brazza dated 1887-1888 shows several guardian figures on their reliquaries in a shrine (Chaffin 1979, p. 30). Their cult assured the village of the good things of life— health, prosperity, good hunting, and many children. In a few other areas, artists made wooden sculpture covered with metal—in Mali, Republic of Benin, Cameroon, and Eastern Zaire—but always sculpture conceived in the round and merely covered with metal. Kota figures are among the closest thing in African sculpture to a two-dimensional form.Only the shallow layered planes, the projecting eyes and nose, and the concave surface of the face give any depth. The interest lies in the play of different colors and textures of metal, in the use of pattern, and in the extreme stylization of the form. Kota reliquary figures are covered with copper and brass sheeting. The metal, not available locally, is assumed to have come from European basins called "neptunes." These metals were used because they were rare, expensive, and imported. Their value honored the ancestors. Like most Kota figures, this one has prominent, staring eyes, but no mouth. On one level, this can be explained by a general African tendency to enlarge things that are important and omit things that are not. The eyes watch over the relics but the guardian needs neither to eat nor speak. Perhaps, also, this is a way of producing a being which is in the human world but not entirely of it. The lack of a mouth is emphasized by the smooth vertical central sheet that divides the face and recalls its otherworldliness.
RELIQUARY GUARDIAN Gabon, Kota Wood, copper, brass H. 46 cm. Mme Paul Guillaume gift 1941 (illus. page 91) GABONESE art in general and Kota figures in particular were much admired early in this century by European artists and collectors for their interpretation of the human figure in almost abstract form. This semi-abstract sculptural treatment corresponded to and even infiltrated European art of the times. In 1922, Juan Gris made himself a Kota figure out of cardboard and hung it up in his apartment. Even within his ethnic style, the Kota artist could vary and innovate. A comparison of this reliquary figure with no. 63 shows different artistic intelligences at work. Everything about this figure emphasizes its verticality. The face is long and narrow, the coiffure elements at the side are compressed, as is the crescent at the top. The forehead has a vertical rib, and the cheeks lack the usual horizontal striation. Even the base has been pushed in at the sides to make it tall and slender. Only the eyes break the pattern. Two unusual features of this piece deserve notice. The face plays the convex, bulging forehead against the concave lower face, instead of being a simple concave oval as in the previous piece. The lack of pattern on the face makes it more three-dimensional than most Kota figures, for there is nothing to distract from the convex to concave movement. The presence of a mouth is unusual in itself among Kota pieces, and is even more remarkable here because it is treated as an opening, rather than as a flat low-relief pattern on an already patterned face. The mouth is a hole, pointed to by the line of the forehead rib and the nose; this gives added depth to an unusually deep face. In both these respects, the artist has deviated from stylistic norms with a clear sense of aesthetic purpose. Published: Chaffin 1979, p. 137; Perrois 1979. fig. 197; Propylaen Kunstgeschichte 1979. pl. 91a
Published: Chaffin 1979, p. 111,
147 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
GUARDIAN 65 RELIQUARY Gabon, Mahongwe Wood, copper, brass, fiber H. 49 cm. Michaud gift 1886 (illus. page 42) THIS reliquary guardian seems to have been made by the Mahongwe, though neighboring groups shared styles, cults, and influences so that today it is next to impossible to determine who created a particular object. Like the preceding Kota and Fang figures, this one was once attached to a reliquary bundle which contained relics of important ancestors of a particular clan. Each clan had a figure of this sort which was kept in back of the clan chief's house. At the time of initiation into the reliquary cult, many clans came together to perform collective rites, and each clan chief danced holding his reliquary figure. Some reliquaries had two or three such figures attached to their bundle, the largest representing the founder and the small ones his sons or descendants. This style represents a most extreme and intellectual abstraction of the human face: prominent, staring eyes as befits a guardian; the nose indicated by a simple curving blade; and the mouth omitted entirely, presumably because it had no symbolic or artistic function. A short, angled projection at the top represents a typical hair style of the region. We do not understand the significance of the lines running down from the eyes to the bottom of the face, although the fact that they invariably appear suggests that they have a meaning. The subtly curving outline of this figure and the perfection of its proportions make it one of the most beautiful known to us. It is also of historic significance: it was collected in 1881 and became the second work in this style to reach Europe.
RELIQUARY WITH GUARDIAN Gabon, Kota, Oudombo Wood, copper, brass, leather, basket, feathers H. 58 cm. Charles Roche gift 1897 (illus. page 43) IN the museum collection since 1897, this reliquary is of exceptional importance because it permits us to see a Kota object as it looked in situ. We usually see Kota reliquary guardians stripped of their baskets and decorations, looking abstract, minimal, modern. The wooden, diamond-shaped support, hidden here, is usually an important part of the formal composition of the figure, which then tapers from a wide top to a narrow foot. As seen here, where the bottom is inserted into its basket, the entire reading of the figure and its balance is radically changed. Only part of the wooden base is visible; the basket becomes the body for the metal-covered head, and the overall shape changes from a top-heavy abstraction to something evocative of a person bundled up, alert. The complex texture of twisted leather thongs and basketry gives the base a restless vitality and interest. The feathers attached to the back of the head further animate and complicate the figure's shape and texture. A simple, minimal object has become a composite formâ€”playing shapes, colors, and textures against each other. Western art criticism tends to stress the role of the individual artist, and to admire works which embody a personal vision. We are, for instance, troubled by paintings done by a painter "and his workshop." How, then, do we evaluate an "accumulative" work of this sort which was produced by a number of individuals? It would be wrong to consider the vision of its creator blunted and confused by an accretion of mere decoration. Rather it expresses a collective vision which is harmonious and meaningful.
Published: Chaffin 1979, P. 29. fig. 84; Griaule 1947. P. 36. fig. 26; Laude 1966, fig. 76; Leiris and Delange 1967, p. 20. fig. 19; Paris. Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 87. fig. 24; PauIme 1956, pl. 20; Propylaen Kunstgeschichte 1978, 916; Radin and Sweeney 1952, fig. 142; Schmalenbach 1953. p. 91, fig. 84; Segy 1952, p. 188. fig. 177; Sydow 1954, fig. 131; Wingert 1970, fig. 102
Published: Chaffin 1979, pp, 335. 228. fig. 172; Elisofon and Fagg 1958. p. 184, fig. 229; Griaule 1947, p. 37, fig. 27; Paris. Musks de l'Homme 1965, p. 84; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. pl. 112; Perrois 1979, fig. 213; Radin and Sweeney 1952, fig. 143; Segy 1952, p. 46, fig. 23; Sydow 1954, fig. 131b; Trowel! 1954, fig. 39; Trowel! and Nevermann 1968, p. 153; Wassing 1968, p. 240; Wingert 1970, fig. 102.
148 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
LIDDED BOX Gabon, Ogowe River Bark, paint Diam.9.5 cm. Schwebisch and Tholon gift 1884 (illus. page 92) THOUGH diminutive in size, this box was made by a technique exactly like that of the much larger reliquary containers of the Fang. Thin sheets of bark, bent to form the lid and the container, are sewn to form cylinders; the top and bottom are then covered with discs of wood held in place by pegs that pass through the bark. (Boxes from the distant Mangbetu are also made this way.) This box arrived in the museum in 1884, identified as a magical object and containing "a piece of cloth, seeds, bone, a piece of bird skull, a piece of wood, beads, pieces of iron, a ball of sawdust, two antelope horns filled with medicines, and two small packets: from one a porcupine quill emerges, the other is sealed." This sounds like a diviner's inventory of symbolic objects. In many parts of Africa, diviners interpret the disposition of such objects— each attributed with a fixed meaning—much as Tarot cards are interpreted by European fortune tellers. Arcs, circles, and a zigzag engraved on the lid form a face and transform this little box into a startling and charming work of art.
OIL BOTTLES Gabon, Ngunie region Nutshell H. 7 cm. Maclatchy gift 1933 (illus. page 93) HOLLOWED out of large nuts—apparently not coconuts—these charming bottles were made to contain pomade or cosmetic oil. Himmelheber (1960, p. 360) illustrates similar Kuba bottles decorated with carved knots. That such mundane objects would be so lovingly decorated bespeaks a concern for the aesthetics of daily life that is typically African. Everywhere in traditional Africa there was a concern for the refinements of life, for etiquette, ornament, and things that were pleasing to look at. Tomatoes in the market, prosaic utensils, the pattern of the broom strokes in the sand, the regular lashings on a chicken cage, all these were arranged with an eye to rhythm, harmony, texture, style. In this respect, traditional African societies were far more "civilized" than we are today. The artist has ingeniously repeated the contour of the sphere in circles, half circles, and dots that give the whole a bouncing, weightless quality. Not visible in this photograph is the artist's surprise: the row of tilting faces, eyes closed, dips as it rounds the bottle, and the last one looks straight at us with open, laughing eyes.
149 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
WHISTLE Zaire, Pende Ivory H. 7 cm. Saint-Pol gift 1977 (illus. page 93)
HELMET WITH COSTUME Congo, Teke, District of Alima Basketry, cloth, shells, and other materials H. 310 cm. West African expedition 1896 (illus. page 94) ONLY recently has it become possible to consider an object such as this mask a work of art. In this perception we have been guided by artists, just as artists led an earlier generation to perceive African objects as art for the first time. This object is not made of the materials of traditional artâ€”bronze, ivory, woodâ€”nor is its highly stylized form one that our ancestors would have considered "artistic." However, the use of precisely such unconventional materials and stylized or abstract forms by contemporary Western artists has brought this helmet and costume well within the purview of art as we now define it. Like some contemporary artworks, this mask is deliberately provocative. The reduction of the face to a curving plane punctured by a single hole as both eye and mouth is disturbing and mesmerizing. The unpleasant material on the face that looks like mud or excrement, and the messily put together rag coiffure, are as telling as the sculptured form. The shapeless, colorless body with no neck, and the coquettish row of white shells dangling across the coiffure, leave us in some doubt whether humor or awe was intended. We know, however, from the great length of the costume and from the opening low on the front through which the wearer looked, that this costume was worn by a man on stilts or by someone holding the mask high over his head; When worn, it stood 3 meters, 10 centimeters; faceless, it must have been awesome.
AN extensive study of Pende art by Father Leon de Sousberghe, based on fieldwork done in the early and mid 1950s contains a long discussion of ivory Pende whistles, though by that time ivory whistles were no longer to be found in the area. He analyzes various styles, types, and origins, basing his study entirely on museum collections and telling us little about the original use of the whistles. As with other whistles from the region, the mouthpiece of this one is at the bottom, and the two small projections on either side of it are holes which permit the playing of two or three notes. It may be that, like tonal drums in Africa (see no. 89), whistles were played to imitate tones of speech. Elsewhere in Africa, whistles of only a few notes each were played in ensembles which produced music with a full range of tones. When this whistle was played, the face was upside down, and the musician blew across the wide opening while stopping the two small holes with his fingers as the music demanded. The whistle belonged to the artist Saint-Pol, who chose it, no doubt, because it is such a successful sculpture. Pende art makes great use of a flattened rounded triangle which here has shaped almost every part of the work. Beginning with the heavy-lidded eyes, the artist has repeated their triangular shape in the nose, forehead, coiffure, and in the contour of the face itself. The swelling belly of the whistle is another variant of the same blunt triangle. The softened forms are partly the result of wear, since these miniature sculptures were not only whistles and works of art, but were also worn as pendants.
150 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FUNERARY FIGURE Congo, Kongo, Loango Wood, paint H. 60 cm. de Stockar gift 1964 (illus. page 95) FUNERARY figures that honor Kongo ancestors are relatively rare, perhaps because they were made of soft wood and were placed in unprotected shrines. Such sculptures, always painted white, are said to be portraits of the deceased, attendants, or spouses. The mother-and-child is a frequent subject, as is a seated male holding a square gin bottle and a glass, as here. Except for the high crested hat and the man himself, everything depicted in this sculpture is of European origin. Portuguese ships landed in the estuary of the Congo River in 1482 and discovered the large and prosperous Kongo kingdom. The ruler soon converted to Christianity, and there followed a brief period of Christian European influence at the court. The next generation, however, saw a waning of this foreign presence, and a reconversion to the ancient Kongo religion. Nevertheless, trading contacts with Europe continued through the succeeding centuries, and imported items and ideas were available. The Kongo were extremely selective in the things they adopted from the cultural inventory of Europe. Among the chosen items were crucifixes (devoid of specific Christian reference), articles of clothing, crockery, mirrors, and nails (see nos. 72-76). On the whole, the Kongo assimilated only things that served a preexisting function, or that corresponded to their own cultural categoriesâ€”such as containers. Through five hundred years of contact with Europe, the Kongo maintained their cultureâ€”scarcely more affected by the contact than were their European visitors.
OATH-TAKING FIGURE Angola, Kongo, Cabinda Wood, paint, cloth, shells, nuts, horns, mirror H. 38 cm. Pere Constant Tastevin gift 1933 (illus. page 44) KONGO power figures are both personal and collective, and are used to achieve both positive and negative ends. They bring desired things such as good hunting, many children, and prosperity. They fight witchcraft and send evil back onto the witches. They cure diseases and, if the disease is the work of witchcraft, they can throw it back onto the witch. Most power figures have openings in the stomach or back which are filled with supernatural medicines and then sealed, often with mirrors but occasionally with big cowrie shells or other things. Frequently a mound of medicines is also placed on the top of the head. Many Kongo power figures had their powerful ingredients removed before they were sold or ceded to a purchaser, leaving an empty space where they had been. This one, however, conserved its accouterments. Both the forehead and stomach have cases of ingredients covered with mirrors. Mirrors are said to permit a diviner to see into their depths, as into water, and thus to see the other world. As they reflect light, they also deflect witchcraft and danger, and reflect evil back on an evil person. The many shells, horns, and nuts which hang around the figure are probably also filled with ingredients such as plants, blood, and earth from ancestral tombs, and from the depths of rivers. Thompson, in Four Moments of the Sun (1981, p. 198) asserts that shells are associated with immortality, pointing out that the Kongo word for the kind of spiral shells we see here puns with the word zinga, "to live long." People hide their souls in shells to assure long life. Paint, in colors having symbolic meanings, adds further power. Published: Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, p. 118, fig. 322
151 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
OATH-TAKING FIGURE Congo, Kongo Wood, nails, cloth, tacks, glass, paint H. 66 cm. Joseph Cholet gift 1892 (illus. page 45)
LARGE nail power figures such as this seem to have belonged to a whole village and to have been kept in a special place under the care of a priest. They were too powerful and dangerous to be owned by ordinary persons or to be housed in ordinary dwellings. This figure, like others, functioned to support the chief, to protect the whole village from the outside world, and to kill malefactors and witches who tried to harm those under the figure's protection. It seems also to have been used for swearing oaths, and to prove guilt or innocence. A power figure was simultaneously benevolent to those who owned and controlled it, and malevolent to their enemies (MacGaffey and Janzen 1974, pp. 87 ff.). Even for nonbelievers, this figure has an overwhelming strength that comes from its size and its aggressive expression and gesture, but above all from the bristling nails and blades which cover almost its entire surface. The figure is a collaborative and cumulative work, formed as much by the users who drove in the nails as by the sculptor. The nails and blades, driven into the figure to enrage and activate it, were added over time as its powers were invoked. Nevertheless, an artist created the expressive mouth open to show the teeth, the eyes, the menacing raised hand. Power figures were equipped with medicines activated by supernatural powers in the stomach and in the head. When the users added new nails, they drove them into all parts of the body, but never into the face or the casing that covered the stomach where potent ingredients reposed. This figure seems to be sexless, but others with prominent phalli had no nails driven into those parts. Published: Lehuard 1980. p. 70; New York, African-American Institute 1981, p. 23. no. 13
OATH-TAKING FIGURE: DOG Congo, Kongo Wood, European nails, indigenous iron blades, porcelain eyes L. 88 cm. Joseph Cholet gift 1892 (illus. pages 96-97) KONGO nail figures depicting dogs are not representations of real dogs, but power figures whose importance comes from the special qualities that the Bakongo assign to dogs. The Bakongo believe that dogs have four eyes and they smell out and hunt spirits in the night, as well as people of evil intentions. The dog figures function in a way that is an extension of the dog's role in a hunting society. The bell attached to this figure, which is the bell worn by dogs during a hunt, is a reminder of this direct tie. We can assume that this figure, when activated by the driving in of a nail, hounded down witches and malevolent spirits. The great number of nails it contains is a testimony to the confidence people had in its force. This figure is one of a pair of nearly identical objects which entered the museum at the same time. It seems clear that they were made by the same hand and served a similar purpose. Both originally had medicinal bundles on their backs and on the top of their heads, and both have open mouths with prominent tongues. The open mouth is a characteristic they share with the human nail figures, and seems to be a reference to aggressive biting or devouring of an evildoer. In the literature, there are reports of oath-takers licking nails before driving them in, and of the priest licking the mirrors which often cover the magical ingredients. The fact that only the face, snout, and tongue are left exposed by the nails emphasizes the mouth and adds to the menace . The sheer number of nails and blades and the fact that they cover almost every bit of the visible surface, give it remarkable intensity and presence. Published: Elisofon and Fagg 1958, p. 193, fig. 243; Laude 1966, fig. 57. Lehuard 1980. fig. 75; Marcq-en-Baroeul 1979. fig. 129; New York, AfricanAmerican Institute 1981, p. 23, no. 12; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1965. p. 89. fig. 25; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. fig. 318
152 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FEMALE FIGURE Zaire, Kongo Wood, paint, mirror H. 30 cm. Theremin gift 1892 (illus. page 98)
POWER FIGURE Congo, Kongo Wood, coloring, feathers, mirror H. 23 cm. Theremin gift 1892 (illus. page 99) FROM its small size, we can conclude that this figure was owned by an individual. The mirrors, covering magical ingredients in the stomach and the head, show us that its function was protective. But we know little else about this figure. The obvious first issue is whether it should be considered a monkey, a human, or as having a combination of animal and human attributes. The face and the disproportionately long arms are monkeylike. The white paint, on the other hand, is associated among the Kongo with nature spirits (simbi), who are related to ancestors. The feathers emerging from the magical bundle on the head are probably references to esoteric Kongo symbolism, but to understand their meaning we would have to know what bird they are from and what association that bird or its name has for the Kongo. We are faced, therefore, with an object that we feel must have a meaning but about which much remains obscure. Without understanding its precise significance, we can appreciate the formal qualities of this work. The proportionsâ€”big head, long arms, short legs, feet on platformsâ€”all work together. The white upper body and dark face are effectively contrasted. The face is expressive and appealing. The relatively benevolent expression of the face may or may not be significant, for the eventual function of such a figure may be the result of circumstances not known to the sculptor. We must remember, though, that the artist only created the sculptural framework for a power figure. After it left his hands, it had to be activated by a priest, its magical ingredients attached, sealed by a mirror, and the feathers chosen and applied to the head. This is truly a collaboration between the sculptor and the priest. If we imagine this figure without paint, feathers, magical substances, or mirrors, we can see how visually important the priest's contribution has been.
CARVED in a close-grained, honey-colored wood, this serene, naturalistic female figure, her smooth skin unmarred by nails or blades, seems to present the opposite impression from the violent nail images also made by the Kongo. The same artists made both kinds of sculptures, and both had similar purposes: both were personal power figures whose mirrors deflected evil and cast misfortune upon enemies (see no. 72). The difference between the two types of figures is superficial, for, on examination, the faces of even the most aggressive power figures are almost expressionless, and are as carefully carved, and often as naturalistic, as this one. African masks and figures rarely depict expressions, but imply psychological or spiritual states through other means. Without the rags stuffed into his mouth, and the tufts in his ears, the human nail figure no. 73 would have a virtually expressionless, open-mouthed face. Part of the figures' power to move us comes from the recognizable humanness of the face above the stabbing nails. There are two reasons African art does not normally depict fleeting expressions or gestures. One is that most sculptures (including this naturalistic female figure) do not represent people or things in the visible world, but ideas about the visible and invisible worlds. The second reason is that even portraits such as no. 71 are meant to depict the idealized timeless essence of an individual, and not the person at a particular moment in time. The sculptor who carved this figure enhanced the naturalism of the body with inlaid glass eyes, and carved two calabashes in her handsâ€”probably representing medicine containers. The mirror on her stomach was affixed to the fully finished figure, which did not have a cavity carved to receive it. Published: Laude 1966. fig. 55; New York. African-American Institute 1981. p. 24. no. 15
153 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
PALM WINE BOTTLE Congo, Kongo, Loudima Niadi Gourd H. 22 cm. Inventory 1984 (illus. page 46)
TOBACCO MORTAR Zaire, Lulua Wood, tacks, wire, sennit H. 13 cm. Lefevre gift 1965 (illus. page 46) TOBACCO and probably hemp were pulverized and kept in the container on top of this little figure's head. Mortars such as this frequently have finely carved crouching figures, usually male (unlike this one), with hands to the temples and elbows on the knees. The artists who carved them often created strange ellipses in the figures, and took extreme liberties with human anatomy, as seen in the feetturned-backwards motif here. Perhaps these distortions are related to the effects of tobacco or hemp. A late-nineteenth-century ruler, Kalamba Mukenge, produced a revolution in religious practices by forbidding the traditional cults and introducing a new one directed at a massive rebirth of the ancestors which would lead to a golden age. He forbade the drinking of palm wine, and instead encouraged the smoking of hemp—of Chokwe origin—in ritual contexts. Decorated pipes for hemp and tobacco were carved by the Lulua, sometimes with the hallucinatory motif of a small hollow head—the pipe bowl—resting on a large disembodied left hand. A striking feature of Lulua crouching figures is that they seem to depict an emaciated and perhaps sick person. The prominent ribs, knobby backbone, and protruding shoulder blades are not normal, not signs of beauty, and consequently not usually seen in African sculpture including other Lulua art. Unfortunately, so little is known about Lulua mortars that we can only surmise that the meaning of their emaciation might be connected to smoking. This small, jewel-like sculpture with its crisp forms and active, open composition has been meticulously repaired by its original owner. Fine vegetable fiber lashings in an ornamental knot bind together the broken parts of the knee and the ankle.
HOLLOW gourds of all sizes, also called calabashes, are used throughout Africa as bottles, trays, ladles, cups, and bowls. With long use they acquire a rich red-brown color and a lustrous patina that delights the foreign connoisseur. Calabashes are easily decorated: the hard, thin yellowish skin can be cut away to reveal the soft white flesh, or fine cuts can be made and darkened with a hot knife, as they have been here. This decoration is often the work of specialists, men in some places, women in others. Their status too varies; among the Yoruba, "gourd carver" is a term of scorn when applied to wood carvers. A very old paper label on the bottom of this calabash records its place of origin as Loudima Niadi, a village about midway between Brazzaville and the sea. The museum acquired it in the last decade of the 19th century and it has since lain undisturbed among the hundreds of other gourds in the collection. Though many are larger and fancier, this one attracted our attention because of its beautiful color, and the interest of the scene engraved on it. Among the Kongo, important people were buried in huge cloth sculptures that maintained the human form on a colossal scale—sometimes reaching a height of ten feet. Depicted on this gourd is such a mummy being carried in a hammock of the type also used by colonial officers. The culminating episode of a chief's funeral—which can go on for days—is the procession that transports the cloth mummy to the cemetery accompanied by orchestral music and dancing. This dramatic and often festival-like march is the scene depicted here. Herbert Ward, in a book directed at a popular audience, Five Years with the Congo Cannibals (1890, p. 61), illustrates a cluster of similar gourds with a carrying cord exactly like the one still attached to this gourd. Ward describes groups of men sitting in marketplaces and drinking convivially.
Published: Delange 1967. pl. 138; Dictionnaire 1968. fig. 254; Leiris and Delange 1967. fig. 138; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, P. 122. p1.133
154 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
LADLE Zaire, Kuba Wood L. 31 cm. Lefevre gift 1965 (illus. page 47) ELABORATE knots figure prominently in Kuba decoration both as self-contained motifs, such as the one engraved on the bottom of this ladle, and as a continuous interlace or braid. An anecdote reported by Torday shows the importance that the Kuba accord to complex linear patterns. The first bicycle seen in Kuba country excited enormous interest, not so much as a vehicle, but for the wonderful patterns its tires left on the ground, which the Kuba saw as novel variations on their own traditional repertoire. So engrossed are the Kuba with linear patterns that their decorated objects are rarely very sculptural. This ladle is exceptional in that the familiar knot is executed entirely in the round, the rope full and three-dimensional, weaving back and forth as well as from side to side. Though they are rarely seen in collections or publications, many similar ladles were collected among the southeastern Pianga Kuba by Himmelheber, who reports that they were used for oil (1960, p. 374). Though it has been out of use for decades, this ladle still exudes oil in some places.
CUP Zaire, Kuba Wood H. 17 cm. S.A.M.E.T. gift 1931, ex-Collection de Mire (illus. page 47) NATURALISM of this degree is rare in African art. Even among Kuba works, one seldom sees a face whose features strike one as so lifelike and individualized, so much the portrait of a particular person. Most African art is idealizing, portraying beings who are ageless, but this face with its deep creases from nose to the corners of the mouth suggests aging. In other respects it is idealizing since it shows perfect, symmetrical features that suggest nobility of character. The refinement of the profile of the cup, and of the decoration, is exceptional. A detail invisible to us, and only seldom seen when the cup was in use, is the artful hollowing of the base to form a subtle bowl-like space. Published: Griaule 1947, fig. 77; Maquet 1962, p. 112; Paris, H6tel Drou6t 1927, fig. 283; Paris, Hotel Drouot 1931, fig. 74. Trowell and Nevermann 1968. p. 200
155 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
CUP Zaire, Kuba Wood H. 21 cm. Lefevre gift 1965 (illus. page 100)
BOX Zaire, Kuba Wood, shell H. 20 cm. Lefevre gift 1965 (illus. page 101) THE Kuba people carved wooden lidded boxes as containers for personal belongings, especially a red powder they use as a cosmetic. Powdered camwood is aromatic and widely used in Africa to color works of art as well as hair and the human body. Traces of red powder on the outside and inside of this box remain from its original use. Hundreds of boxes like this one exist—few are as successful as works of art. The basic form, in which the shape of the box itself is the outline of a face with flat-topped coiffure, is common to the type, as is the treatment of the sides of the box as flat planes decorated without any reference to the face on the lid. Kuba art can show a certain tendency to heaviness in the treatment of the face—a lumpy nose and long jowls—but that is completely avoided here. Instead we have a sensitively carved face whose generously large features fill, but do not crowd, the surface of the lid.
KUBA men use decorated cups such as this one and no. 80 when they drink palm wine. These cups were status symbols that proclaimed the owner's wealth and good taste among his drinking companions. This one might refer to a proverb or humorous saying, showing the owner's wit as well. Thousands of such cups exist, often figurative and sometimes, as here, representing a whole figure—virtually always male. In a characteristically African way, the artist has omitted the arms and torso so that the figure's neck springs directly from his waist. Everything superfluous has been eliminated by the artist, who gives us only the essentials. These include a detailed rendering of the coiffure, ornamental scars on the temples, and a broad band of patterned decoration around the neck. It is a commonplace to say that African art routinely depicts sexual characteristics in a conspicuous (and once considered blatant) fashion, and to explain that this means "fertility." Without considering here how accurate such statements may be (see no. 10), it must be noted that sexual identification is of paramount importance in African societies. Not only does one's sex determine the kinds of work one does, but it also dictates almost all ritual and political activity, as well as myriad details of daily life, from the kind of house one sleeps in to one's diet. Palm wine, one of Africa's best loved drinks, is less available to women than to men, and is likely to be consumed in groups consisting only of men or only of women.
Published: Delange. 1967. fig. 136; Dictionnaire 1968. p. 318; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. fig. 69
Published: Delange 1967. pl. 135
STAFF Angola, Chokwe Wood H. 61 cm. Prince Roland Bonaparte gift 1888 (illus. page 102) EVEN in the small, closely knit societies of traditional Africa, emblems of rank and status are numerous and important, despite the fact that one rarely sees a person one does not know, and the exact rank of everyone is current knowledge. Among the Chokwe, these prestige items take the form of staffs and chairs which often depict, as here, a third marker of rank, the high curved chief's coiffure. These are made of cloth and metal attachments, sometimes including a band of repousse brass across the top of the front. The principal face on this staff wears such a coiffure which has been altered by the insinuation of two small, highly stylized secondary faces in the place where two round tufts of hair would normally be. This playful and inventive treatment of the forms of nature is typical of African art and folklore, where things, animals, and people frequently metamorphose into something different. While these transformations are often seen as a sign of witchcraft (and "something different" can be a euphemism for the doings of witches), here there is nothing malign in the unexpected appearance of faces where hair should be. An interesting difference in style occurs between the principal face, which is relatively detailed and naturalistic, and the two secondary ones, which are pure globes marked with only a few cuts as features. If these faces had occurred on separate works we would assume they must be by different artists, or from different regions.
PIPE: HORSE AND RIDER Angola, Chokwe Wood, tacks, iron, wire L. 21 cm. Rohan-Chabot expedition 1912-1914 (illus. page 102) THROUGHOUT Africa, pipes, particularly decorated ones, are symbols of wealth and prestige. This Chokwe pipe is decorated not only with sculpture, but with valuable materials such as metal wire and imported tacks. The person smoking it made his importance manifest. Standing on the stem of the pipe is a mounted figure, another symbol of power and prestige. In much of Africa, horses are a rare and valuable commodity because they fall victim to tropical diseases. Horses are often associated with foreign invaders, with the strange, the exotic, the powerful. This beast of burden may actually be a buffalo, which the Chokwe used for commerce well before the colonial period when the Chokwe state dominated its entire region. An especially charming element of this pipe is the way in which its stem is actually a figure; the person smoking it blew into the coiffure (through a stem, now lost). African sculptors reasoned by analogy, seeing heads and bodies as vessels, torsos as the handles of spoons, and here seeing the head as the logical end to the neck and body of the pipe.
Published: Griaule 1947. fig. 92; Masson 1964, fig. 7
157 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
PIPE Angola, Chokwe, Cutchi River Wood, iron, copper tacks H. 19 cm. Rohan-Chabot expedition 1912-1914 (illus. page 103) IMPORTED plants and foodstuffs from the Americas arrived on the Atlantic coast of Africa in the late fifteenth century and quickly spread inland. Many, such as tobacco, became thoroughly integrated into African cultures so that when Europeans finally arrived in inland areas, crops of foreign origin had already supplanted local ones and had become staples in many areas (such as manioc, maize, and groundnuts). The smoking of tobacco and the taking of snuff are common throughout sub-Saharan Africa, as in pre-colonial times. Decorated pipes, such as this one, are found in many areas, as are water pipes that include water-filled gourds through which smoke passes. Hemp was also smoked in Central Africaâ€”especially among the Chokweâ€”often in ritual contexts. Diviners blew smoke over their divination equipment, and smoke was blown across sculpture and into the faces of initiates as a kind of blessing. Hallucinogens were also used, especially in Gabon, where they were taken by the novice during initiation. The compressed, muscular figure on this pipe is shown wearing a chief's broad, curving coiffure. In a composition that defies the vertical forms of nature, the artist has rendered the human figure as a series of strong horizontals, emphasizing the shoulders, forearms, and the nearly horizontal thighs. Brass sheathing covers the stem and bowl, and imported brass tacks stud the surface.
STAFF Angola, Chokwe Wood H. 49 cm. Prince Roland Bonaparte gift 1888 (illus. page 103) STAFFS and sceptres of considerable elaboration were made by famous Chokwe artists, and also by ordinary people for their own use. Some have very sculptural full figures on them, others have simple heads. This staff falls in the middle range of elaboration and size, but the inventive way in which the two Janus torsos are integrated indicates that it was probably carved by a professional sculptor. The faces, which seem to hang from the coiffure, rest on top of the shaft like a disconnected bracket. The pierced eyes and mouth emphasize the masklike quality of the faces. Each face has one arm, always the right, slightly flexed in order to echo the zigzag line engraved on the chest. According to Bastin (1982, p. 211), the faces here represent women despite what might be taken to be beards. Asymmetrical decoration, common in Chokwe art, can be seen here in the incised patterns on the coiffure. Contrasting angular and curvilinear areas are arranged so that the design of the band across the forehead of each face is different. From either side, the arrangement of the arms presents the viewer with an asymmetrical and slightly lopsided composition due to the discrepancy in height of the shoulders and to the fact that only one arm faces forward. Published: Bastin 1982, p. 211; Gnaule 1947. fig. 104; Paris, Orangene des Tuileries 1972. fig. 136
Published: Bastin 1982. p. 230
158 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
NECKREST Zaire, Zambezi River area Wood H. 16 cm. Lombard gift 1890 (illus. page 104)
HARP Zaire, Azande Wood, leather L. 73 cm. Inventory 1984 (illus. page 105) ATTRIBUTED to the Azande by Eric de Dampierre on the basis of a nearly identical harp published in Junker (1882-86, vol. 3, p. 20), this harp also resembles one seen in the late 1860s by the German explorer Schweinfurth. He encountered an Azande "minstrel," or wandering professional musician, whom he drew carrying a similar harp (Schweinfurth 1874, vol. 1, facing p. 445). He provides us with an early description of these harps and of their importance to the Azande: "... I would not omit to mention that the Niam-niam [Azande] are no strangers to enjoyments of a more refined and ideal character than battles and elephant-hunts. They have an instinctive love of art. Music rejoices their very soul. The harmonies they elicit from their favorite instrument, the mandolin (harp], seem almost to thrill through the cords of their innermost nature. The prolonged duration of some of their musical productions is very surprising." He goes on to describe the favorite instrument, the harp: "The sounding board is constructed on strict acoustic principles. It has two apertures; it is carved out of wood, and on the upper side is covered by a piece of skin; the strings are tightly stretched by means of pegs, and are sometimes made of fine threads of bast, and sometimes made of wiry hairs from the tail of the giraffe" (ibid., vol. 2, pp. 29 and 30). Many Azande harps have a small head carved at the top of the neckâ€”this is a particularly fine, sculptural example. The harp is held facing the player, so the carving was mainly for his pleasure rather than the audience's. Exceptionally fine here are the tooling of the leather cover on the body of the harp, and the refined shape of the sounding chamber whose contour is composed of points and of lilting curves.
THE elaborate sculptural coiffures that African men and women wore in the nineteenth century required hours of labor to effect, and were expected to last for a couple of months. To preserve them, people used small wooden neckrests as pillows when they slept. Coiffures were too complicated to do oneself; friends, relatives, or spouses braided and arranged each other's hair sometimes spending as many as forty hours. When the coiffure was in place, one could usually wash one's head without disturbing the hair. Neckrests, like wooden beds, are quite comfortable, and much cooler in hot weather than soft mattresses or pillows that tend to touch much more of the body's surface. Neckrests supported by an almost infinite variety of carved motifs were made throughout central and eastern Africa (and in ancient Egypt). Typical of those from the southern part of the region are the articulation of the base into two lobes separated by a raised welt, and the vertical elements that seem to hang from the sides of the top like lappets. The carving on such a neckrest had no symbolic or ritual necessity; it was simply there to be attractive, to amuse and interest people. The plump, almost succulent ribs and legs of this antelope remind us that it comes from a society in which animals were regarded partly as food. One West African song addresses domestic animals as "meat on feet." Published: Griaule 1947, p. 62
159 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
SLIT DRUM Central African Republic, Yangere Wood L. 229 cm. H. 80 cm. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza expedition 1896 (illus. pages 106, 107)
MASK Central African Republic, Banda Wood H. 55.5 cm. Lieutenant Charreau gift 1904 (illus. page 108) BEGINNING near the Cameroon highlands and running eastward to the headwaters of the Nile is a vast style area that can be called Central Sudan. Its westernmost peoples live on the Adamawa plateau in Nigeria (the Mumuye, for example) and its easternmost groups live in Uganda and the Republic of Sudan (the Bongo and Shilluk). Art from this style area is typically spare and simplified, reducing natural forms to their most abstract (African art is seldom truly abstract in the sense of Western contemporary art, but almost always departs to some degree from subjects in the visible world). Figures are often partial, lacking arms or limbs, and have little anatomical detail; disembodied heads occur on posts, stools, harps, and many other objects. The Banda are a large ethnic group bordered on the southeast by the Azande and stretching west across the Central African Republic almost to the Cameroon border. A numerically insignificant offshoot of the Banda, the Yangere (population 3,000 in 1959. Murdock 1959, p. 232) are represented in collections by their famous slit drums (no. 89), while the Banda are virtually unknown as sculptors except for this mask. This unique mask entered the museum in 1904 accompanied by information that it was used for hunting rituals. Its austere beauty is typical of art from the Central Sudan region, its stylization so extreme that an effort is required to identify the mask as an antelope head: note the hooklike horns that curve forward (not the direction they take in nature), the high dot of the eye, the narrow concave face, and the two discreet cuts that mark nose and mouth. The sculpture is so sleek and the forms so firm and purposeful that one might at first take it for a musical instrument or other functional object.
THOUGH it looks like a large, streamlined animal in a flying gallop, this sculpture is in fact a stationary object, a drum. According to Genevieve Dournon, "the belly of the animal depicted is the sounding chamber, and the four short massive legs isolate it completely from the ground. Most African wooden drums fulfill a double function, providing rhythm for dances, and transmitting messages over long distances. For the latter purpose they have a long slit whose sides of different thicknesses produce tones of different pitch when beaten. Among peoples who speak tonal languages (languages in which each syllable has a fixed tone and tones of different pitch mark differences of meaning) drummed messages reproduce the pitches and rhythms of speech" (Dournon 1984). In conception, this drum resembles other Yangere instruments in museum collections (American Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum, New York; Museum of Anthropology, Khartoum), but as a work of art it stands alone. Where others depict a stolid bovine, an earthbound, wide-bellied animal whose head and tail stick out horizontally, its four long legs planted vertically at the corners of its rooflike body, this one looks airborne. The stroke of genius here was to shape the animal's body in a single swelling form and to gather the reduced legs under the belly in an elegant and breathtakingly simple solution. Published: Chauyet 1929. fig. 25; Dictionnaire 1968. p. 398; Griaule 1947. p. 118. fig. 107; Laude 1966, fig. 75; Leuzinger 1959. p. 178. fig. 133; Paris. Galerie PigaIle 1930. fig. 153: Paris. Musee de l'Homme 1965, P. 91, fig. 26; Paris, Musee des Arts Decoratifs 1964, fig. 58; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972. p. 72; Radin and Sweeney 1952. fig. 78; Schaeffner 1936, cover: Wassing 1968. p. 275. fig. 109: Wingert 1970. fig. 143; Zurich 1971. p. 327
160 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FIGURES Zaire, Azande Wood H. 19 cm. Museum purchase 1946 (illus. page 109)
AZANDE art shows two opposing tendencies: one represented by the harp in this collection (no. 88) and the other by these three figures. Where the head carved on the harp is relatively naturalistic and detailed, the figures represent an extreme of stylization. Almost all anatomical description has been suppressed here in favor of a strict geometric rendering of the human form. In a kind of visual shorthand, the artists who made these figures created highly individualized bodies using only a minimum of means. The fascination of these small figures comes in part from the seemingly infinite variety of forms that Azande artists have managed to impart to them without ever overstepping the narrow bounds of their sculptural style. Various theories account for the two different styles practiced by the Azande. One asserts that ancestor figures and works concerned with individuals (including probably prestige works) are bound to be more naturalistic than those concerned with impersonal forces. Small yanda figures like these which belonged to a highly secret society would fall into the latter category. The other explanation is that the schematic style is local to the region while the more naturalistic one belonged to southerners, notably the Mangbetu. Morphologically, the simplified geometric style of these figures, as well as their small size, connect them to a stream of similar armless or faceless, minimal figures that reach back across the Sudan as far as Upper Volta and include Bagirmi, Namji, Moba, and Mossi figures and "dolls." Published. Burssens 1962, fig 87, 174. 214
HEAD: FRAGMENT Chad, Sao, Tago site Terra-cotta H. 12 cm. Lebeuf expedition 1947-1948 (illus. page 110) ONCE part of a whole figure, this expressive head is one of several hundred terra-cotta human effigies uncovered at the ancient site of Sao south of Lake Chad near the borders of Nigeria and Cameroon. Sao is the name given to previous inhabitants of the region who, for almost two millennia, came in successive waves to settle the arable lands around the lake. The present-day Kotoko are the descendants of these ancient peoples. Though the uses of these ceramic figures have not been fully ascertained, they are always found in archaeological contexts which suggest sacred areas, such as sanctuaries or offering places, beneath house foundations, and occasionally, in tombs. This indicates that they played a ritual role, perhaps as intermediaries between the living and the dead. In the absence of a written history, the adornments, gestures, and contexts of these figures are the only remaining testimony to the customs and beliefs of the ancient Sao. This modeled head, with its elongated cranium, swollen eyes, and open distended mouth is typical of the whole figures found in three successive levels of Sao II (fourteenth and fifteenth centuries). Its facial features are conceived as jutting angular forms which, when seen in profile, resemble the jagged teeth of a saw. The intricately braided coiffure and the raised scarification marks on the temples and forehead may indicate ethnic origin. Gender is more difficult to determine, although most Sao figures appear to be male. What is certain is the humanistic quality of this piece which sensitively suggests a state of humility and receptivity. This kind of emotional expression is rare in African art, which usually projects a timeless essence. Published: Lebeuf 1977, fig. 71
161 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
HEAD Chad, Sao Terra-cotta H. 17.5 cm. Dr. Pales gift 1943 (illus. page 111)
FIGURE Chad, Sao Terra-cotta H. 34.8 cm. Lebeuf expedition 1947-1948 (illus. page 112) AT once massive and refined, this large figure occupied the central position in a sanctuary at Tago. Surrounding it were numerous other terra-cotta figurines—both human and animal representations—in various styles and forms, as if they had been brought from surrounding villages to the temple as offerings (Lebeuf 1977, p. 42). The naturalistic relief modeling of the figure's face contrasts with its solid truncated body which only implies the lower limbs without actually defining them. This places greater emphasis on the strongly delineated head which in African art is always the locus of power and spiritual strength. With its head tilted back, lips parted and hands upturned, this figure assumes a posture of supplication, and possesses the solemnity of a person in deep prayer. Remarkable about the figure is the precision with which the coiffure, scarification, and accouterments are incised on the head, neck, and chest. This may be an indication of the person's high status as a priest, ancestor, or ruler. Lebeuf notes (1977, p. 62) that the necklace worn by this figure is very similar to the bronze neck rings found at Midigue which were bestowed upon sovereigns in the past. Several similar neck rings are still conserved in the regalia of nearby towns.
THIS piece—presumably a human representation— differs from other Sao pieces shown here both in form and in geographical origin. While the others, all from Tago, share a similar conception of the human head, swollen features dominating the face, this piece from Azeguene is highly stylized—a simple oblong tablet of clay with features in raised relief. It is characterized by coffee-bean eyes, a diminutive nose with clearly defined nostrils, a long gaping mouth, and, interestingly, a prominent Adam's apple. The tablet itself is marked with fine incised patterns of chevrons and straight lines, perhaps a reference to scarification marks on the face and neck. The differences between works from Tago and Azeguene may reflect the particular artistic canons of local workshops. Furthermore, the archaeological contexts of the pieces differ. While most works from Tago were found in sanctuaries, those from Azeguene were probably found in one of two places: beneath house foundations and at the foot of great trees (Lebeuf 1977, p. 41). Despite the contextual and formal differences between this piece and those of Tago, all share a similar effect. The emphasis on the orifices of the face is very typical of all Sao art, regardless of provenance, and is especially well stated here. One can only surmise whether this is a reference to a mythical, religious, or emotional state.
Published: Lebeuf and Masson-Detourbet 1950. p. 166, fig. 11; Lebeuf and Masson-Detourbet 1951, P. 14. fig. 13; Lebeuf 1977, fig. 63; Leiris and Delange 1967. p. 59; Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, p. 107. fig. 285; PauIme 1956, pl. 15; Paulme 1962. vol. 2, fig. 13; Wingert 1970, fig. 89
Published: Lebeuf 1977. fig. 29; Leiris and Delange 1967, fig. 92; Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries 1972, fig. 281
162 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
FIGURE Chad, Sao, Tago site Terra-cotta H. 20 cm. Lebeuf expedition 1947-1948 (illus. page 48) BOLD and aggressive, this fragmented terra-cotta figure is among the most naturalistic of Sao human representations, due to the isolation of its anatomical features as distinct elements. Its single surviving arm hints at the originally lifelike proportions of the limbs to the body. The partial condition of this figure does not diminish its force as a work of art. On the contrary, the detachment of the head and chest from the rest of the body gives the figure the majestic quality of a portrait bust which not only eternalizes an individual, but commemorates a legacy, since this figure is one of several pieces which depict the founding ancestors of the ancient city of Sao (Lebeuf 1977, p. 62). The treatment of the accouterments and scarification patterns—which cover almost the entire surface—recalls that on other figures found in sanctuaries at Tago surrounded by animal figurines. The date of the piece is unknown, though some sculptures from Tago date to as early as the twelfth century A.D. It appears that the artist first modeled the head and neck on a long stem which he then fitted into a cavity in the torso. Additions of clay to the neck were used to smooth over the transition from throat to chest. Sao artists used primarily the stalks and fibers of plants to execute the fine details of their works. And to finish the surface, they may have used a technique still practiced by the present-day Kotoko: a spongelike tool made of vegetable fibers and filled with water and grain is vigorously rubbed over the completed sculpture (ibid., p. 63). Lebeuf notes that pieces from different sites are distinguished by the different temper of the clay, and he states that those from Tago have a particularly fine consistency (1977, p. 62).
DOLL Cameroon, Kotoko, Mahaya village Wax H. 18 cm. Fourth Griaule expedition, Sahara-Cameroon 1938 (illus. page 113) THE archaeologist Jean-Paul Lebeuf who collected this doll writes that "we know nothing of the use of these wax dolls—they may be just toys, made for a game in which children demonstrate their skill at modeling in wax—a technique that they inherited from generations of potters who know how to give clay the suppleness of wax" (Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1983, p. 98). Lebeuf found that very young girls modeled the dolls, and that the coiffures and costumes reproduced in detail those worn by Kotoko women. Lebeuf engagingly describes trying to work on an incredibly hot afternoon in a Kotoko village (ibid., p. 97). He heard a small noise and discovered that a shy little girl had placed a small wax doll on the table before his house. He took the doll and left some coins in its place. During much of the afternoon he continued this game, finally collecting about fifty wax dolls similar to this one but varying in size; this is one of the largest. This conception of the human body is remarkably sophisticated. The strong vertical movement is arrested et the horizontal shoulders, the knobby breasts, and at the girdle and base. The insubstantial quality of the figure is increased by the long slender neck, the raised hands, and the way the conical base lifts the figure. The material has dictated the form to some degree: it is entirely composed of wax balls and cylinders or ropes. Like most African sculpture, it represents a long evolution that resulted in the crystallizing of a style. The artist, whether old man or young girl, receives this tradition and works his or her variations and personal vision into it. There is usually little room for radical innovations or revolutionary breaks with the past.
Published: Lebeuf 1977, fig. 62
Published: Griaule 1947, p. 58. Leiris and Delange 1967, fig. 281; Pans, Musee de l'Homme 1983, p. 101
163 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
DOLL Cameroon, Fulbe Wax, beads H. 24 cm. Dakar-Djibouti expedition 1931-1933, gift from the Lamido of Garoua (illus. page 113) THOUGH radically different in form, this doll is made of wax like no. 96, and comes from the same region. While Kotoko dolls are made by young girls, Fulbe mothers make dolls for their daughters. In both areas, girls, like children the world over, dress, cuddle, "feed," and talk to their dolls. Among the nearby Fali, marriages are arranged in childhood, and the boys make dolls of corncobs for the girls to whom they are betrothed. Brides suspend their dolls on the family granary, a symbol of virility and of the fertility of the group and their lands (Lebeuf in: Paris 1983, Musee de l'Homme 1983, pp. 98-99). This custom exemplifies the ambiguous status of "dolls" in Africa, which often function as fertility figures as well as playthings. The gift of a doll/baby from a future husband, and the placing of this symbolic child in the family shrine to fertility, are probably seen as promoting the fertility of the couple. Many sculptures identified as dolls by Europeans were in fact ritual objects invested with spiritual content. Nonetheless, African children like all others play with toys made by their parents and by themselves. As far as we know, the Kotoko and Fulbe wax dolls (unlike the corncob dolls made by the Fali boys) are toys in the proper sense of the word. This figure moves horizontally as the constrained no. 96 moved in height. The flattened patty of the head is poised at right angles to the similarly shaped body. Anatomical details are reduced to a minimum: the bulbous hair and breasts, the hooklike arms, and two small white beads as eyes. Published: Gnaule 1947, fig. 47; Lutten 1933, p. 11, fig. 3; p. 19; Paris, Musee de l'Homme 1983, p. 43.
MASK Tanzania, Ziba Wood, human teeth H. 28 cm. Jeannel gift 1950 (illus. page 114) SCULPTURE is rare from the interlacustrine regionâ€” the area bordered by the great central African lakes: Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika on the west, and Victoria on the east. Few of the peoples of the area make sculpture at all, and those who do, the Ziba and the Karagwe, carve only a small number of masks. German ethnologists writing early in this century reported that these masks were worn by "court jesters." Others in collections have their original accouterments, such as unkempt monkeyskin beards, white paint rudely applied in lines around the face and down the nose, and human teeth in the mouth. The raffish aspect of these masks is consistent with masks for entertainment from other parts of Africa in that they violate canons of accepted behavior and appearance. As almost all works in this exhibition attest, an African ideal person is someone who is clean, healthy, law-abiding, morally and physically "upright," and composed or "cool." This mask is totally lacking in dignity and composure, which would require the mouth to be closed, the lips expressionless. The gap-toothed, yelling, laughing open mouth shows conduct unseemly in an adult. The disreputable beard and uncouth paint would have added to this clownish impression. The carving of this particular Ziba mask is more careful and the surface is more finished than the workmanship on others in collections. The treatment of the area from the eyes to the chin as a curving facet on the face is original and effective. The stark simplicity of the sculpture in its present state may seem to express anguish or rage to us, though when it was complete it must have looked jocular and engagingly foolish. Published: Delange 1967. pl. 175; Holy 1967. P. 44, pl. 19; Prop ylaen Kunstgeschichte 1978. fig. 139: Sydow 1954, p. 101, fig. 136A
164 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
SPOON FIGURE South Africa, Zulu Wood H. 56 cm. Saint-Pol bequest 1977 (illus. page 49) THOUGH the Zulu never made a great deal of sculpture compared to other African groups, what they did produce has a bold, confident quality in keeping with the aggressive expansionist history of the Zulu nation, but surprising in the light of their small output. Zulu art tends toward simplified lines, bold patterning, and strong geometric forms. Their works are mostly useful objects such as bowls, cups, staffs, neckrests, and an occasional spoon. Figures are rare, and often stiff or even naive as sculptures compared to the sophistication of Zulu decorated utilitarian objects. This spoon is brilliant for the way in which the figure of the woman is the spoon and not a decorative element incorporated into the utensil (as in the Guro spoon no. 38). Her head is the bowl, and her long slender body is the handle which ends at her slim ankles. Any parts of the female anatomy which were obtrusive or unnecessary in the artist's view—such as face, arms, and feet—were simply omitted. Essentials such as breasts, buttocks, and genitals, of course, have been carefully carved. For all his economy, the artist has provided this female figure with a decided character; she seems pert, young, and energetic. The clean, strong lines give her vigor, the tiny sexual features and the pale wood a feminine lightness and grace. Many ancient cultures of the world created female figures with prominent sexual characteristics but no faces, arms, or feet. The figures may represent a sort of male cultural ideal, or a kind of sculptural shorthand for the essence of woman. This irresistible spoon-woman goes a step further—in attitude and in fact—to create the ultimate woman-as-object.
FUNERARY POST Madagascar, Sakalava Wood H. 210 cm. A. Grandidier expedition 1900 (illus. page 50) MALAGASY tombs are large rough-cut stone structures surmounted by tall carved posts and the long-horned skulls of sacrificed zebus. The tombs stand—often in isolation—on uninhabited hillsides or uncultivated fields. The posts that stand in rows in the center of the tomb, or that line the perimeters, are carved with human figures and animals. The carved subjects depict wealth and the joys of life which will continue in the hereafter. Couples amorously entwined are a common subject, as are birds and pairs of birds said to be associated with passion, fertility, and perhaps communication between the living and the dead. Standing couples such as this one are relatively rare. An extremely similar post in a private collection is the mirror image of this one. The arresting figures, carved in an idiosyncratic style, have the same soft corpulence, tense stance, and hollow-cheeked, skulllike faces. Their dark, searching eyes are effective, but were not the artist's original intention; an early photo of this sculpture shows that patterned beads had once been inlaid in the eye sockets. Characteristic of this artist is the progressive lightening of the figures as they rise from the heavy legs that sink directly into the base, to the narrow shoulders and thin, sketchy arms. On the front of the columnar base is a large crocodile in high relief pursuing or eating a small animal. This motif links Malagasy art with art of the Celebes and Borneo—as befits an island whose population stems both from Africa and from Southeast Asia. One prevailing theory about the art of Madagascar holds that it is a region of Oceanic art. Published: Besson 1929. fig. 2; Cahiers d'An 1931. p. 396, figs. 9 and 10; Clouzot and Level n.d., pl. 44. 45; Faublee 1946, P. 88; Grandidier 1924. vol. 4. pl. 14; fig. 2; Paris. Musee de l'Homme 1965, p. 93, fig. 27; Wingert 1970. fig. 150
165 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
alogue. Museum of Primitive Art. New York. Senufo Sculpture from West Africa. Exhibition catalogue. Museum of Primitive Art. New York. Grandidier. A. and G. Ethnographie de Madagascar. Paris. 4 vols. 1908-1928. 1924
Adam, Leonhard Art Primitif. Mondes anciens. Vol. 3. Paris. 1959 Adande, A. "Les recedes des rois du dahomey." I.F.A.N. Dakar. 1962 Atkins, Guy (ed.) Mending Art and Civilization. British Museum. London. 1972 Basler, Adolphe L'Art chez les peuples primitifs. Paris. 1929 Bassani, Ezio "Un Corno Afro-Portoghese con Decoration Africana." Critica 1979 d'Arte. Vol. 166-168, pp. 167-174. Florence. 1981 "Des comes d'appel en ivoire de la Sierra Leone (XVI siĂ¨cle)." L'Ethnographie Vol. 77, pp. 151-168. Paris. Bastin, Marie-Louise 1982 La Sculpture Tshokwe. Meudon. Besson, Maurice Le Totemisme. Paris. 1929 Brest, Musee de Brest Aspects de la creation plastique. Exhibition catalogue. 1978 Burssens, H. Yanda beelden en Maui sekte bij de Azande. Tervuren. 1962 Cahiers d'Art. Paris 1931 Nos. 9-10. "Exposition bronzes et ivoires du Benin au Musee d'Ethno1932 graphie Palais du Tocadero." Numero special. Chaffin, Alain and Francoise L'Art Kota: les figures de reliquaire. Meudon. 1979 Chauvet, Stephen Musique negre. Paris. 1929 Chevrier, M.A. "Note relative aux coutumes des adeptes de la societe secrete 1906 des Scymos." L'Anthropologie. Vol. 17, pp. 359-376. Paris. and Level, Andre Henri Clouzot, Sculptures africaines et oceaniennes. Colonies Francaises et n.d. Congo beige. Paris. Davidson, Basil The Lost Cities of Africa. Boston. Toronto. 1959 Old Africa Rediscovered. London. 1961 Delenge, Jacqueline "Sur un Â°she Shango" Objets et Mondes. Vol. 3. pp. 2051963 210. Paris. "Une piece de la collection Tristan Tzara." Objets et Mondes. 1964 Vol. 4, pp. 39-42. Paris. "Un Kuduo exceptionnel." Objets et Mondes. Vol. 5, pp. 1971965 204. Paris. Arts et peuples de l'Afrique noire. Paris. 1967 Dictionnaire des Civilisations Africaines Georges Balandier and Jacques Maquet, eds. Paris. 1968 Dournon, Genevieve (Label for Yangere drum) translated by S. Vogel. 1984 Du Chaillu, Paul B. A Journey to Ashango Land. London. 1867 Elisofon, Eliot and Fagg. William The Sculpture of Africa. New York. 1958 Fagg, W. and Pemberton. J. Yoruba, Sculpture of West Africa. New York. 1982 Faublee, J. L'Ethnographie de Madagascar. Paris. 1946 Fernandez, James Bwiti; An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa. 1982 Princeton. Fraser. Douglas and Cole. Herbert African Art and Leadership. Madison. 1972 Goldwater. Robert Bambara Sculpture from the Western Sudan. Exhibition cat1960
Grieule, Marcel 1938,1983 Masques Dogons. Paris. Arts de l'Afrique Noire. Paris. 1947 Folk Art of Black Africa. Paris, New York. 1950 "L'Afrique." In L'Art et l'Homme. Rene Huyghe. ed. Paris. 1957 Conversations with Ogotommek An Introduction to Dogon 1965 Religious Ideas. London, Oxford. New York. Himmelheber, Hans Negerkunst und Negerkiinstler. Braunschweig. 1960 Histoire Generale de l'Afrique Noire. Jean Dumont, ed. Paris. 1972 Holy, L. Masks and Figures from Eastern and Southern Africa. London. 1967 Janzen. John M. and MacGaffey, Wyatt An Anthology of Kongo Religion: Primary Texts from Lower 1974 Zaire. Lawrence. Junker, Wilhelm Johann Dr. Wilh. Junkers Reisen in Afrika 1875-86. Vol. 3. Vienna, 1882-86 Olmutz. Kjersmeier, Carl 1935-1938 Centres de style de la sculpture ',Ore africaine. 4 vols. Copenhagen, Paris. Labouret. Henri 1934-1935 "La divination par les souris (Cote d'Ivoire)." Bulletin du Musee de'Ethnographie du Trocadero. Vol. 8. pp. 4-11. Paris. Laude. Jean Art de l'Afrique Noire. Paris. 1968 Lebeuf. Jean-Paul and Masson-Detourbet, Annie La Civilisation du Tchad. Paris. 1950 L'Art ancien du Tchad. Paris. 1951 Lebeuf. Jean-Paul and Annie Les Arts des Sao, Cameroun, Tchad, Nigeria. Paris. 1977 Lehuard, Raoul Fetiches a Clous du Bas-Zaire. Arnouville. 1980 Leiris, Michel 1934,1981 L'Afrique fant6me. Paris. "Bois rituels des falaises." Cahiers d'An. pp. 192-199. Paris. 1936 Leiris, Michel and Delange, Jacqueline Afrique Noire, la creation plastique. Paris. 1967 Lem, F.H. Sudanese Sculpture. Paris. 1949 Leuzinger, Elsy. Afrika, Kunst der Negervolker. Baden-Baden, Holle. 1959 Ligers, Z. Les Sorko (Bozo) Maitres du Niger, etude ethnographique. 1966 2 vols. Paris. Luquet, G.H. "L'Art du Benin au Musee du Trocadero." La Nature. No. 2886. 1932 pp. 97-101. Paris. Lutten, E "Poupees d'Afrique occidentale." Bulletin du Musee d'Eth1933 nographie du Trocadero, No. 5. Paris. Malraux, Andre Le Musee imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale. Paris. 1952 Maquet, Jacques-J. Afrique, les civilisations noires. Paris. 1962 Marcq-en-Baroeul, Fondation Prouvost-Septentrion Afrique noire, arts d'hier et d'aujourd'hui. Exhibition catalogue. 1979 Masson, Annie "Les Batons africaines decores du Musee de l'Homme." Ob1964 jets et Mondes. Vol. 4, pp. 157-186. Paris. Mauny, Raymond Les Siecles obscurs de l'Afrique noire. Paris. 1970 Maupoil, B. La Geomancie a l'ancienne Cote des Esclaves. Paris. 1943
"La Mission ethnographique et linguistique Dakar-Djibouti (1931-1933)." M i notaure. Revue artistique et litteraire. No. 2 special. Paris. Muensterberger, Warner Primitieve Kunst. Amsterdam. 1955 Murdock, George P. Africa: Its Peoples and Their Culture History. New York. 1959 New York, African-American Institute 1981 Masterpieces of the People's Republic of the Congo. Exhibition catalogue. Art of Metal in Africa. Marie-Therese Brincard, ed. 1983 New York, Museum of Modern Art African Negro Art. Exhibition catalogue. Text by James John1935 son Sweeney. Nice, Musee National Marc Chagall Esprits et dieux d'Afrique. Exhibition catalogue. 1980 Paris, Galerie Pigalle Art africain et art oceanien. Exhibition catalogue. 1930 Paris, Hotel Drouot Art precolumbien, Perou, Amerique Centrale, Mexique; Arts 1927 africains et oceaniens. Sale of June 30. Collection G. de Mire. Sale of December 16. 1931 Paris, Musee des Arts Decoratifs Afrique: Cent tribus, cent chefs-d'oeuvre. Exhibition catalogue. 1964 Text by William Fagg. Paris, Musee d'Ethnographie du Trocadero Instructions sommaires pour les collecteurs d'objets ethno1931 graphiques. Musee d'Ethnographie et Mission Scientifique Dakar-Djibouti, Palais du Trocadero. Bronzes et ivoires du royaume du Benin. Exhibition catalogue. 1932 La Mission du Cameroun de M.N. Labouret. Exhibition cata1935 logue. Paris, Musee de l'Homme Chefs-d'oeuvre du Musee de l'Homme. Exhibition catalogue. 1965 Poupee-jouet poupee-reflet. Exhibition catalogue. 1983 Paris, Musee National d'Art Moderne Collection Andre Lefevre. Exhibition catalogue. 1964 Orangerie des Tuileries Paris, Sculptures africaines dans les collections publiques francaises. 1972 Exhibition catalogue. Pau, Musee des Beaux Arts Sculptures de l'Afrique Noire. Exhibition catalogue. 1961
Schweinfurth, Georg The Heart of Africa. 2 vols. London. 1874 Segy, Ladislas African Sculpture Speaks. New York. 1952 "Shango Sculptures." Acta Tropica. Vol. 12 1955 Skougstad, Norman Traditional Sculpture from Upper Volta. Exhibition catalogue 1978 African-American Institute. New York. Sydow, Eckart von 1954 Afrikanische Plastik. Berlin. Tessman, Gunther 1913 Die Pangwe. 2 vols. Berlin. Thompson, Robert Farris and Cornet. Joseph The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo art in two worlds. Ex1981 hibition catalogue. National Gallery. Washington, D.C. Toulon, Caisse d'Epargne Arts d'Afrique. Exhibition catalogue. 1980 Trowel!, Margaret Kathleen 1954,1970 Classical African Sculpture. London. Trowel', Margaret Kathleen and Nevermann, Hans 1968 African and Oceanic Art. New York. Walker, Andre and Sillans, Roger 1962 Rites et croyances des peuples du Gabon. Paris. Ward, Herbert 1890 Five Years with the Congo Cannibals. London. Wassing, Rene S. 1968 African Art. New York. Wingert, Paul 1970 The University Prints. African Art. Series N, section 1. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Zurich, Kunsthaus 1971 Die Kunst von Schwarz Afrika. Exhibition catalogue. Text by Elsy Leuzinger.
Paulme, Denise Les sculptures de l'Afrique noire. Paris. 1956 "L'Art sculptural negre." Art et Style. No. 62. Paris. 1962 Pericot-Garcia, Louis; Galloway, John; and Lommel, Andreas Prehistoric and Primitive Art. New York. 1967 Perrois, L. 1972 1976
La Statuaire Fan, Gabon. Paris. "L'Art Kota-Mahongwe (Gabon)." Arts d'Afrique Noire. No. 20, pp. 15-37. 1979 Arts du Gabon; Les arts plastique du bassin de l'Ogoue. Arnouville. Portier, A. and Poncetton, F. 1930 Les arts sauvages, Afrique. Paris. Propylaen Kunstgeschichte, Kunst der Naturvolker. 1978 Elsy Leuzinger, ed. Frankfurt am Main-Berlin-Wien. Radin, Paul and Sweeney, James Johnson African Folktales and Sculpture. New York. 1952 Saint-Priest, Galerie Municipale d'Exposition 1982 Sculptures de l'Afrique Noire, arts et religions dans deux pays d'Afrique Occidentale (Mali, Haute Volta). Exhibition catalogue. Savary, Claude 1975 Dahomey, traditions du peuple Fon. Exhibition catalogue. Musee d'Ethnographie. Geneva. Schaeffner, Andre Origine des instruments de musique. Paris. 1936 Schmalenbach, Werner 1953 L'Art ()Ore. Paris.
Aduma, 37, 142 Afro-Portuguese, 30. 133 Akan, 31, 135 Anyi, 33, 136 Asante, 79, 137 Azande, 105, 109, 159, 161 Baga, 19, 51, 116 Bamana, 22. 23, 55-57, 119-121 Bamileke, 36, 141 Banda. 108, 160 Baule, 32, 78, 135, 136 Benin, 85, 141 Bini-Portuguese. 84. 140 Bozo, 20, 53, 54, 117, 119 Bwa, 29, 70, 130 Chokwe, 102, 103, 157, 158 Dan, 75, 133 Dogon, 24-28. 58-69, 121-129 Fang, 38-41, 86, 142-144 Fon, 34, 80, 81, 137, 138 Fulbe. 113, 164 Guinea, 74, 132 Guro, 76, 77, 134
Kongo. 44-46, 95-99. 151-154 Kota. 43, 90, 91, 147, 148 Kotoko. 113, 163 Kuba, 47, 100, 101, 155, 156 Lulua, 46, 154 Mahen Yafe style, 73, 132 Mahongwe, 42. 148 Manding, 52. 117
Ngunie River, 87, 89, 93.145. 146, 149 Ogowe River. 92, 149 Pende, 93, 150 Pomdo style. 72, 131 Sakalava. 50, 165 Sanga River, 41, 145 Sao, 48, 110-112, 161-163 Senufo, 71, 131 Sherbro, 132, 133 Teke, 94, 150 Yangere, 106. 107, 160 Yoruba, 35, 82, 83, 138-140 Zambezi River, 104, 159 Ziba, 114, 164 Zulu. 49, 165
168 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED
(continued from front flap)
continentâ€”a distance of 4,500 milesâ€”and brought back an extraordinary quantity of specimens including a splendid collection of objects from the Dogon country, many of which are in this exhibition. Dr. Guiart, after discussing the inevitable misconceptions which impede our understanding of other cultures, advises us to let the art speak for itself in its own universal language.
Illustrations, including 34 in full color on the jacket: (front) no. 60 (back) no. 39
Published and distributed by
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York
Printed and bound in Japan
THE CENTER FOR AFRICAN ART, 52 EAST 68 STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10021 ISBN 0-8109-1825-0
COPYRIGHT PROTECTED IIMMEMMMINI
African Masterpieces from the Musée de l’Homme presents a selection of masterpieces from the vast ethnographic collection of France’s preemi...
Published on Feb 11, 2016
African Masterpieces from the Musée de l’Homme presents a selection of masterpieces from the vast ethnographic collection of France’s preemi...