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Closeup: Lessons in the Art ofSeeing African Sculpture is published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title organized and presented by The Center for African Art. Design: Linda Florio Typesetting: U.S. Lithograph, typographers, New York Copyright 1990 The Center for African Art. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from The Center for African Art 54 East 68th Street New York, New York 10021 Library of Congress catalogue card no. 90-42065 ISBN 0-945802-07-2 cloth ISBN 0-945802-08-0 paper Cover Illustration: Cat. no. 98 Punu, Gabon Standing Female figure, wood H.13 cm An American collection Printed in Japan



Preface Susan Vogel Some Thoughts on Looking at African Sculpture

7 9

Jerry Thompson African Sculpture: A Primer


Susan Vogel The Horstmann Collection


Susan Vogel An American Collection


Susan Vogel Map


Catalogue of the Horstmann Collection


Anne D'Alleva Catalogue of an American Collection


Anne D'Alleva References




A close examination ofform is the acid test of quality, and we would not


have undertaken it had we not been able to work with the very greatest Like many large projects, this one grew out of a small observation. I

works from two of the finest privately held collections of African art.

noticed that people in our galleries rarely looked at the sculptures on

We are most grateful to Udo Horstmann,and the American collector

display from more than one angle. They looked at three dimensional

who wishes to remain anonymous,for allowing us to present their

objects as if they were looking at paintings, or perhaps reliefs that could

collections to the public. Both cheerfully allowed us to disrupt their

be appreciated from a single point. Museums generally assume that the

households for long periods, while Jerry Thompson took the photo-

audience knows how to look, and proceed directly to an explanation of

graphs, and I made the difficult selection and wrote texts. I warmly thank

the work. It seemed worthwhile to suspend the explanations for the

both collectors for the generosity of their loans, and for being unfailingly

moment,and to take a close look at looking.

aghast each time I chose another especially beloved object. I hope they

Because we are a specialized museum, we have the luxury of presenting many different, sometimes narrow and highly focused approaches to

feel this book does justice to their sculptures. I personally wish to thank the Center's staff for its efficiency, hard

African art in our exhibitions and publications. Our exhibitions have been

work and high spirits. It is always a pleasure to work with them. Carol

aesthetic, anthropological, art historical, and historical; they have focused

Braide shuttled texts in and out of the computers and to and from the

on broad ideas, on single ethnic groups, on periods, and even on the

typesetter, a marvel of speed with no fuss; Albert Hutchinson skillfully

audience. I do not advocate any single approach to the exclusion of the

managed logistical and accounting support; Mufutau Oladele and Johanna

others, but feel that the fullest experience combines the visual with the

Cooper helped keep the office running; Linus Eze, assisted by Terry

intellectual and emotional. This is our first exhibition to focus on pure

Noel, and Carolyn Evans provided security. The education component

form—a limited way of understanding, but one that can enrich all the

was handled by Carol Thompson; Amy McEwen directed the registrarial


aspects of the exhibition. Ima Ebong helped take care of my other

Formal analysis is an old fashioned enterprise, popular in the early days

exhibition responsibilities, and Tom Wilson shared much of the adminis-

when knowledge of African art was scant, and the sculptural forms were

trative burden of the Center while I was wrapped up in this exhibition.

completely new to Westerners. Writers who argued that these new

Robert Rubin, Treasurer of the Board of Directors, assisted me with

objects were art were especially drawn to a discussion of their artistic

his keen aesthetic sense and fiscal acumen. Anne D'Alleva coordinated all

forms. Carl Einstein published Negerplastik in 1915, the first book to deal

aspects of the book and exhibition and wrote the catalogue notices. I am

exclusively with African art. It was a perceptive formal analysis even

most grateful for her quiet efficiency, and her well-honed skills. Like most

though it was informed by a limited and highly fanciful vision of African

books, this one owes a great deal of its character to its design. We are

culture. Guillaume and Munro, in the 1920s, analyzed specific works in

grateful for Linda Florio's exceptional talent for sensitivity with style.

the same vein. Subsequent studies have explored traditional African

We were fortunate to persuade Jerry Thompson to undertake this

aesthetic criteria; informants in those studies, however, are never

project on relatively short notice, and to give us the benefit of his subtle

concerned with the kind of formal analysis presented here, which departs

eye. His photographs manage simultaneously to respectfully elucidate

from the Western primacy of the visual sense over all others. This is a

the African art and to be works of art in their own right. I thank him for

profoundly un-African exercise. Recent publications tend to concentrate

his photographs,for his insightful text, and for adding to my own ability

on the growing body of information about the function and significance

to see. It has been a pleasure to work with so many friends.

of African art and limit remarks about form to praiseful descriptions. Susan Vogel

Nothing quite like this book has appeared in a very long time. We begin with "an essay in pictures and words" by Jerry L. Thompson,

Executive Director

who takes a photographer's visual approach to African sculpture, claiming that he knows little about it beyond conversations overheard among curators. My own essay and remarks on the color photographs follow, purely visual in approach but art historical in the analysis of form, and shaped by my understanding of use, meaning and the lives of sculptures in their original homes. The two essays, written simultaneously and separately, depart from different points yet converge at the same conclusion. Anne D'Alleva's catalogue details the function and significance of each object based on the scholarly literature.




Looking and seeing are words often found in discussions of photography. Photographers sometimes talk as if looking were all that photography involves, and that photography includes all that seeing has to offer. The two activities are of course closely related, but there are important

An essay in pictures and words by Jerry L.Thompson

differences. Looking is mercurial and unfettered. The eye (more accurately, pair of eyes) moves freely from viewpoint to viewpoint. Indeed discrete points of view need not be defined; a progression, as slow or as brisk as needed, reveals transitions, altered juxtapositions, shifting emphases. As a viewer moves slowly around a carved figure, the cut-out void under an arm may emerge gradually, like a rising moon. The living eye need not restrict itself to static tableaux,frozen configurations of form. Photography is slower and clumsier, but more insistent on resolution. A view of a sculpture cannot remain half-defined and still become a successful picture. Decisions must be made and alternative possibilities eliminated. Everything has to be sorted out before it can be put down on film, so to speak, just as a writer's momentary flash of intuition must be expressed as words—words that have to be rearranged, and clarified before the intuition makes sense as written thought. The views that work as pictures are determined in part by the elements of photographic craft: where highlights fall, light and shade patterns, patterns of contour that remain comprehensible through the one-eyed camera where the view becomes two-dimensional, the demands of print-making, the consequences of framing and so on. The requirements of resolution (in a formal, or design sense) that the craft of photography imposes on looking can be a blessing, a resistance useful to contend with, an obstruction that forces closer looking, and thus greater clarity of vision. But, as we shall see, this demand for resolution can also be a curse. Looking and photographing are activities with important differences— differences so marked that a viewer who only looks, and a viewer who looks only to photograph may well arrive at different conclusions. Even so, the two activities have at least one important feature in common: neither is passive. Neither the photographer nor the looker stands in front of a sculpture (or anything else) as if he were a blank slate or a mirror, ready to take in passively what the outside world presents. To neither observer does an object appear to be self-evident—not its meaning nor its identity, not even its form. Reflected light is the raw material for our eyes, and it does not long remain in an unprocessed state.


Subjectivity—the idea that each human mind controls and shapes,

This view of things was not a notion that died with the English

according to its own rules, the information it takes in from "outside"—is

Romantics. As an idea it took root, indeed had already taken root among

a major theme in the development of Western thought. Indeed, since

advanced thinkers when Coleridge published his critical and theoretical

Descartes played with a lump of wax and recorded his thoughts,

writings, and has continued to affect our understanding of looking up to

subjectivity and the elucidation of its implications practically are the

the present time. Near the end of the nineteenth century a similar

history of Western thought. Anything like a survey of the development

thought, expressed by Whitman in blunt American, is applied to

of this theme is beyond the scope of this essay (and well beyond the


capacity of its author), but a consideration of one or two examples may

All doctrines, all politics and civilization, exurge from you. All sculpture and monuments, and anything inscribed anywhere, are tallied in you, The gist of histories and statistics as far back as the records reach, is in you this hour, and myths and tales the same, If you were not breathing and walking here, where would they all be?

be useful if it helps to point us in the right direction for thinking about what we do when we look at African sculpture. The English Romantic poets, who came to prominence in the first decade of the nineteenth century, were among the first writers in English to address the subject of perception directly, in clear, forceful verse and prose. Wordsworth and Coleridge especially spent a good deal of their energies in theorizing about and demonstrating how the individual mind relates to the universe it inhabits. The word imagination figures promi-


either Wordsworth nor Coleridge, nor Whitman after them,

nently in both their poetry and their critical writings, but this word did

gave "objective reality" a dominant role, and neither do we when we

not mean for them (as it may for us) merely the ability to "make up"

look at a sculpture. In his book Art and Illusion (1956) the art historian

images and stories. In their sense, it is a much more basic faculty, the

E.H. Gombrich has convincingly demonstrated that when we look, we

ability to take a blizzard of sensory impressions and shape them into a

see what we are prepared to see. According to his view each of us builds

comprehensible order. For the Romantics imagination meant, literally,

up a "mental file" of patterns, or schema. When we see something

the ability to create the world.

unfamiliar or ambiguous, we compare what we can make out with the

Wordsworth saw the perceiving mind as a partner at least equal to the outside world, a "creator and receiver both,/ Working but in alliance with the works / Which it beholds." He writes of a "plastic power,""a

patterns filed away in our minds. The nearest match becomes the form we "perceive." Dozens of perfectly chosen examples from all fields(from the devel-

forming hand," and "an auxiliar light [that]came from my mind." The

opment of perspective to recent psychological experiments)support

Prelude, his longest philosophical work (10,000 lines of blank verse

Gombrich's arguments. One of the most striking examples involves

subtitled "Growth of a Poet's Mind")culminates in a complex, magnifi-

drawings by European artists of exotic creatures. In the early sixteenth

cently described image, a midnight view from a mountain path of moonlit,

century Darer drew,from descriptions he had heard and read, a

mist-covered hills below. Upon reflection, the view becomes "the

rhinoceros. He covered his rhinoceros with armor plates—probably,

emblem of a mind," an image of"the mutual domination," the "inter-

according to Gombrich, because he associated the rhinoceros with

changeable supremacy" of Nature and man. Nature has the power to

another fabulous beast, the dragon. The telling part of the story is that

impress and form the character of man,as the whole poem demon-

drawings of rhinoceroses even in the late eighteenth century continue to

strates, but this power is "the express / Resemblance of that glorious

show the beast with plates, even when the drawings were made from

faculty" that characterizes man's mind—the power to be "lord and

life. One late-eighteenth century account pointedly observes that its

master" over "outward sense / The obedient servant of her will".

illustration shows two horns, the correct number, rather than the one in

Coleridge, the chief theoretician of the English Romantics, went further. He called imagination the esemplastic faculty (esemplastic is a word he made up or possibly translated from German, meaning "molding

Darer's version, but the two-horned rhinoceros in the drawing still sports plated armor. Gombrich's point is that artists rely on learned patterns when they

into unity"), and he defined it as "the living power and prime agent of all

organize the visual impressions their eyes supply. When the material is

human perception." It is "a repetition, in the finite mind, of the eternal

unfamiliar, they rely on what they have in their heads to find their way.

act of creation." With some presumption, Coleridge (like Milton's Satan)

He goes on to show that Diirer himself, and even Leonardo—surely one

compares his own activity with the original act of creation by the

of the most acute observers in history—made errors, adding details we

Divinity. The Universe may have been created from chaos in the

now know to be nonexistent to their anatomical drawings.

beginning, but it exists for each of us only as we create it anew, each moment, in our minds by perceiving it.

In other examples Gombrich makes clear that relying on the contents of the mind to understand what the eye sees is characteristic not only of


trained artists, but of all of us: we are all trained lookers, and we all refer

which for most of us, is as unknown and unfamiliar as was the rhinoceros

to the schema filed in our minds. He puts it succinctly:"When we are

to DUrer and his followers. Most readers of this essay will be, like its

aware of the process of[mental] filing we say we 'interpret,' where we

author, Western museum visitors, and when we look at African sculpture

are not we say 'we see'."

our reference will probably be other art. But whether we think of Greek

Photography may help us a little here. It was probably photography that disclosed the errors of Darer and Leonardo, and anthropologists have long relied on photographs—more recently on motion pictures

sculpture or Cubist painting, won't the very schema that allow us to make contact also mislead? Sculpture, unlike most painting, can be viewed from all sides and thus is

made from two viewpoints simultaneously—to record information they

subject to even more varied interpretations. The same piece might look

did not trust to their own acculturated powers of observation. Isn't it

symmetrical and serene,from one viewpoint, and unbalanced from

possible that the separate mechanical optical system of the camera might

another. Consider these two views of a small Lulua figure (no. 28). The first

record, uninterpreted, patterns too exotic for the mind to admit—patterns

picture, a three-quarter view from the figure's right front, gives a clear

that might be understood by later observers, or even by the same

view of the whole figure. A description based on this view might list as its

observers at a later time?

salient features its thin, curved limbs, the knob-like head and large feet,

It is possible. Photographs can sometimes record truths too large, too

and especially the finlike structures on the arms and legs, which echo the

complex,or too fresh for the camera operator to anticipate and intend;

curious knee-elbow joints and are related to the shell-shaped forms of

it is this feature that sets photography apart from every other graphic

the eyes, nose and mouth. The overall posture looks static, balanced, and

medium. That its tools and materials can in the proper hands consistently

more or less symmetrical. The eyes have a level gaze.

stumble onto such discoveries, that an artist can somehow become

A three-quarter view from the figure's left might be described

hospitable to happy accidents—these possibilities offer the greatest hope

differently. Here the salient features are not only the finlike structures

and the greatest ambitions the medium of photography can support.

and forms used to represent the features, but also the collapsing

It is possible that photography can evade the limitations of sensibility,

asymmetry of the gesture. The left arm is much lower than the right, and

but the odds are against it. The camera is pointed by a perceiving, human

the left knee-elbow joint can be seen to be turning inward, enclosing the

eye, and this eye selects one viewpoint which excludes all other

space between the arms, rather than pointing in a direction parallel to

possibilities. Worse,sculpture is usually photographed in a studio, where

the joint on the right side. The left shoulder mass is sinking it seems, and

the photographer constructs his own lighting and backdrop arrangement.

the head (along with the gaze of the left eye and the left side of the

If he or she has experience in museums, that lighting will probably be

mouth)appear to be pulled down in the same movement.

focused and dramatic, as the lighting of contemporary exhibitions is

Which view is better? A look at the back suggests a possible choice.

focused and dramatic. Increased control tends to result in a picture that

The figure is so open and skeletal that its body is little more than a spine,

resembles more closely the photographer's "idea" of the piece. If(as is

and from the rear this main structural element can be seen to undulate

often the case) an object must be represented by one picture only, then

(in a way that conforms to the inward-turned left knee-elbow) and

the photographer may well come up with a kind of visual epigram—a

totter over to the left. The pelvis, shoulder, hands, and ears all tilt, and

view that relates to the presence of the piece as a headline relates to the

there is a flowing sinuous rhythm that runs through the whole figure,

news story(or perhaps as the news story itself relates to the richness of

from feet to topknot, rather like a wave form in a whip that is being

an alert mind's experience of the actual event). Unemphatic record


photographs, made in flat light by operators who may not have been

The back view, though not a "principal" view (one useful for identifica-

concentrating too much on what they were doing, are often more

tion, or one that might be chosen by a picture editor as a good single

interesting—especially when they show several views—than the care-

view)shows the basic structure of the figure, and suggests that the view

fully crafted productions of photographic artists.

from three-quarter left(the "collapsing" view) is a better view because it provides a more complete description. It shows more aspects of the form of the piece. The other three-quarter view presents the sculpture


as symmetrical, solidly placed, and perhaps, with its apparently level gaze, serene. It is possible to see this piece this way, and this view may strike

0 far, I have tried to present a sketchy description of the

some viewers as more beautiful; but an examination of the work from

subjective nature of seeing, and to suggest that subjective limitations

all angles suggests that this view is reductive. To force a parallel with

apply, for the most part, to photographic seeing as well. These limitations

Gombrich's example,symmetry and solid placement are the "armor

can be particularly troublesome for the viewer of African sculpture,

(continued on page 15) 11


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plates" of this figure, attributes the straw-man observer in my example brought to it from his memory of other examples in the history of sculpture. With the plates out of the way, we are able to see more of the animal underneath. There is a reason for recalling Gombrich's example of the rhinoceros at this point. That artists drew rhinoceroses with armor plates for two hundred years is only the first part of the story. Artists whose goal is naturalistic rendering do not draw armor plates on rhinoceroses any longer. By 1789 they had learned to count the horns; a few decades later they no longer saw folds of skin as armor plates. The mind projects, but it is educable. Prolonged exposure to new data creates, over time, new schema. I spent an hour or two with the Lulua figure, and I saw more in it at the end of that time than I had at the beginning. Any interested observer who looks with attention at an object,for a long time and from all angles and distances, will know more about it and about looking than before. Anyone who looks at many related pieces, including similar examples (which are never exactly the same) will know still more. Greek sculpture —or Gothic sculpture or Cubist painting—that we know is as good a place as any for a modern Westerner to start making contact with African sculpture. It is a terrible place to stop.

While looking at the rear view of the little Lulua figure, I tried to describe an undulating rhythm, a sort of movement from foot to head that includes and affects the shape and positioning of every part. This kind of rhythm is a feature so common in the figures of Western and Central Africa that it might almost be suggested to the novice as a kind of signpost, a feature to look for first which, when identified, will lead the viewer to the most telling views, views that show its most characteristic forms. The pictures that follow will describe this rhythm and give examples of how it appears both in the shapes of parts of the figure, and in the manner in which the parts are connected. If rhythm is a good word to describe the way these unbalanced, asymmetrical masses cooperate to create a whole that is dynamic, rather than static, and agitated, rather than at rest, then that rhythm can frequently be characterized as syncopated. 15 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

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igure sculpture in African art often embodies complex and

surprisingly graceful way, leading from the upper body down to the

abruptly surprising forms which might well be ends in themselves. If they

pelvis, where the hands frame the genitals. The arms make a lyrical line

are, they fully merit the famous praise of Roger Fry, who saw in them

(in contrast to the straight back) leading from the upper body—the

plastic freedom exercised to a greater degree than in any other sculpture

region of the heart and head—to the genitals: what does this composi-

he knew. But the human or animal figure is usually clearly recognizable,

tion tell us about the African artist who carved the figure, or the culture

however innovative the forms through which it is presented, and the

he worked in? Maybe nothing. The flowing lines are in the piece, but any

construction of the figure can often be seen as gesture. As Fry noted, the

words used to describe, categorize, or interpret them come from the

form created with such freedom of invention is expressive, and it is the

viewer's understanding of what he is viewing. No one reading this essay

expressive power of these gestures—that they seem to embody emo-

will ever see this piece in the same way its carver or his immediate

tions we know,or refer to imaginable experiences—that accounts, I

audience saw it, but that fact does not prohibit a strong response.

think,for the interest they have attracted from such utterly different

When elements we can recognize (arms, back, hands, vulva) are

quarters. These figures seem to be about something: they have some kind

presented in a startling way—rendered in surprising forms, and related

of content which, whether threatening, reassuring, exhilarating, hostile,

in a way which seems fresh but also coherent—our attention is height-

disgusting, or too unclear to be classified, has a hold, or exercises a

ened. We are intrigued as long as the forms and relationships are not so

power not on our formal or aesthetic sense alone, but upon some

novel as to be meaningless. If this new combination also seems to us to be

deeper sense.

possessed of a kind of rightness*, if we actually like what we see, if it looks

The pictures immediately following show a Luba figure with a rigidly

like art to us, then our excitement is even increased. The energy that

straight back and flowing, almost flying arms which, seen from the front,

results from such excitement can fuel a flash of insight, a sudden, affecting

make a circular frame for the torso. Seen in profile, the arms cascade in a

realization that seems a revelation. 21

In the presence of this energy familiar things, the things we recognize and thought we knew all about, can be pulled out onto the table for rearrangement. In this example ideas about strength and work,and, to use words even less adequate than these, participation in what might be called biological continuity, also come onto the table. They are subject to reranking and reconnection; during such a moment of excited perception, new connections may emerge that, temporarily at least, alter the way we think about these ideas. The concept of force may appear, briefly, to apply not only to personal power exerted, to the projection of individual will upon the world—as,for example, with this figure's arms and hands. Force may also be seen as a power larger than the individual, power that comes from somewhere else and passes through the individual, even through the organs least involved with consciousness and will. We are still in the mire of subjectivity. The categories, even the identification of body parts represented must come from the mind of the viewer at least as much as from the object itself. Even so, a close and (continued on page 44)

*The idea of rightness is a notion that deserves some attention. Since antiquity, thinkers have discussed how form is recognized as pleasing, and how formal patterns give rise to emotion. This vast literature is full of useful concepts: the sublime, touchstones,significant form, objective correlative, and many others. Probably rightness is at least in part a physical feeling, one that we learn to recognize and value. This feeling may result from biochemical processes in the brain triggered by the sight or sound or taste of certain configurations, and our cultural training may condition us to respond in a particular way to these feelings. When we level a picture "by eye" we adjust it until it "feels" right. A distinction important to admirers of Abstract Expressionist painting was that the placement of this or that mark be felt rather than calculated. Whatever the origin or explanation of rightness, the ability to recognize it has long been cultivated, and the ability to invent it has almost always been respected to the point of veneration.


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(continued from page 36)


nowledge about African life and beliefs and about the use or

comprehensive examination of the figure makes the response,(personal

function of these pieces might also figure into this kind of response. I

though it must be) more specific than if, for example, it came from

have not studied African thought in a systematic or even a cursory way.

noticing merely that the figure has prominent genitals, or from less

My knowledge is on the level of servant's gossip—overheard conversa-

attentive observation, that the arms form a circular shape. The more

tions of curators and anthropologists, plus what I have been told in order

careful and detailed the looking, the more specific the response. When

to make the needed pictures.

an observer looks at piece after piece with thorough attention, under-

I know from experience that no amount of careful looking can supply

standings begin to embrace more and more distinctive features. The

basic information that is lacking. I have for example worked a long while

viewer may increasingly discover features that seem specific to this

to make a picture of what I saw as a figure cunningly curled around a sort

sculpture, and may, if he or she is sufficiently sympathetic and energetic,

of hollow base. I later learned that what I took to be base was actually a

encounter flashes of insight(perhaps breakthroughs into outsight would say

bowl, and that I had photographed the piece upside down.

it better) that do not come in just the same form from any other art. We

On the other hand, no amount of information can substitute for close

may approach an experience of art specific to the art of Africa; this is the

looking. I have looked closely at hundreds of pieces of African sculpture,

best most of us are likely to do.

sometimes in the presence of experts, and I have found that, however interesting and pertinent their comments might be, and however much they might enlarge my understanding of the object, no information can tell me exactly where to put my eye or camera lens in order to see the structure. My concern in this essay is looking and experience, rather than classification. The true identity of an object—that which makes it different from all others—lies in its details, in the precise articulation of its forms. An arched back is a common feature of small Senufo figures, but the backward leaning stance of the small male figure (no. 5)cooperates in a delicate way with the curve of his sword and the facial features and with the particular shape and angle of the head. Together these elements participate in a kind of resonance; each influences how I see the others. This resonant cooperation among formal elements—a body gesture, a nearly abstract curve, a particular face set on a curiously cocked head—this balance is the quality that rivets my attention and, as my eyes trace it out,fuels the excitement that charges my experience of the piece. Nothing I know about the figure's identity, use or age can tell me how to feel this balance of face, back and blade; no historical gloss can show me this discovery. Whatever genius carved this figure found his way towards a form that follows the bumps and hollows of glyptic melody, a form I can respond to as surely as I respond to the first four notes of a symphony written by a German genius nearly two hundred years ago. And I do respond, not just to the form but also to the spirit of this glistening black corsair as he cuts through sea, air, whatever medium it is that offers no resistance to his superb effortless passage.














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exual organs are prominent in many African figures. They

seemed especially prominent to the earliest European collectors,some of whose schema were apparently unable to accommodate clearly rendered, exaggerated sex organs and what appeared to be filth. Some of the first figures to come to Europe were sanitized: the genitals were chiseled off, and encrusted surfaces (resulting sometimes from ritual use) were scrubbed clean. But today the overt sexuality of some of these figures may still mislead.

The ongoing Mapplethorpe controversy shows how various and energetic are our responses to unveiled, hyperdetailed images of sexual organs. It is easy for us to take such images personally, to connect them with our desires or fears. We may see in them a suggestion of sexual pleasure, or perhaps a gross exaggeration of the animal component of life, a reminder of potent urges just under (or beyond) our control. Whatever we see, we may respond to these images as sexual presences that attract or repel us according to whether we enjoy or abhor the associations they suggest. It is worth considering that these organs have as much to do with fertility, creation, and plenitude as with personal gratification. Fullness appears in these figures in many forms: bellies, thighs, and biceps are full, as well as breasts and buttocks. In some parts of Africa finding enough to eat is not taken for granted, and having enough to eat to be plump may seem an accomplishment worthy of pride. In a part of the world where AIDS is commonly called "slim," and where other wasting diseases are not unknown,fullness and fertility may contribute to a notion of sexuality not limited to ideas of personal pleasure.



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ooking at the face of an African figure apart from the rest of it is

probably not very African. For that matter, just looking at, not touching,

feeding, conversing with, or otherwise living with these figures is not very African. Looking is only one way to experience these objects, a way that places their appearance above their efficacy as useful, powerful objects. But for viewers concerned only with looking, the face is often an exciting feature. In most cases the face, even when it is only a few millimeters in diameter, is an area of concentrated attention, a site where much careful carving comes into play. Sometimes the result is naturalistically mimeticâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in the portrait heads of Ife, startlingly so; sometimes the features are exaggerated in a way that suggests strong emotion, as in art we might call expressionist. There are also faces that might have been made by a constructivist, building up planes and shapes into a whole that suggests a face. Other single pieces could lay claim to all these idioms.




















ooking at African art is an exotic experience for modern

massive psychological presence. In Africa, artistic traditions continue for

Westerners. If any generalization about the work of so many artistic

hundreds of years, producing the same type of image again and again, as if

traditions spread over thousands of years and square miles can be

it were a continuous truth revealed to successive generations of medium-

hazarded, it might be that the art of Africa tends to be less personal

carvers, each with his own level of mastery and his own embellishments,

than the art of our world. It is probably not accidental that we know the

but all adherents to a tradition and the beliefs that support it. Anthropol-

names of so few African sculptors. Their work seems to deal more with

ogists report that when asked the reason for some belief or practice,

the nature ofthings than with what any individual made of any idea or

African villagers frequently respond with a shrug and some variation of

event. In violent contrast to much of the art of our time and place,

the response,"Because it's so. It has always been so."

African traditions seem to honor the existence of larger-than-personal

The proper attitude for any modern viewer of African sculpture is

realities. In doing so they lean toward acknowledging some kind of truth

humility. Virtuoso carvings, even the most idiosyncratic, even those made

outside the individual, the kind of "objective truth" that Western

for sale to outsiders, embody traditions hundreds of years old. Carving

viewers have been doubting with increasing insistence for several hun-

skills and motifs have descended not only through conscious, deliberate

dred years. As heirs to this tradition of doubt we in the modern West

teaching, but also in the muscles of the hands and fingers of the carvers,

can approach African art only in a way that is fundamentally at odds with

who often began training at an early age. Within the supporting matrix

what that art is. We ask, what does it mean to me? What can I

of comprehensive tradition, invention, elaboration, and innovative varia-

make of it? The objects themselves show no sign of being interested in

tion—qualities we in the twentieth century associate with artistic

the questions.

genius—found ample room for exercise and development. Every shape

When we look at these pieces, we try to understand them on our own

and mark was directed by generations of practice, supported by a

terms. We must, as we must with anything else in the cosmos we

coherence of tradition and exercised amidst an integrated experience

encounter, pass them through the needle's eye of subjective conscious-

of the world the modern Westerner can only wonder at, and attempt

ness, the unique understanding of an individual perceiving mind. Truth

to study.

for us is personal, contingent, provisional, immanent in the mind that

Exotic as it is, as difficult for us to approach on any except aesthetic

perceives it. We don't trust the head-on, centered view that shows the

terms, African art has a powerful attraction for the late twentieth

facade as if it were on the architect's plan, the ideal view, the civic

century. In our admiration of African sculpture we resemble the visitors

consensus. We prefer the sidelong glance, the view from an angle in half

who fill Italian churches in the summertime. Many, though seated in an

light, partially obscured by a tree branch, or the window of the automo-

attitude of genuine reverence, hold in their hands not rosaries or other

bile we are riding in. The former seems too much like a Platonic ideal,

objects of devotion but guidebooks. For the most part we as a culture

and for our modern notion of truth such a view leaves too much out,for

are no longer capable of wholehearted, enthusiastic faith in the mysteries

example, the conditions of observation. The latter is more like a real

those artworks celebrate, but we are nevertheless drawn to objects

view in real time— just an instant, just at this second from just this

called into existence by that faith.

position—but, in these qualified terms, true.

We may have only a passing acquaintance with the events of history

African figures give evidence of inhabiting a universe which is inevitable

and legend the pictures celebrate, but we sincerely love them, and we

and structured, outlasting and transcending any individual maker or

genuinely believe that what their makers did is in essence the same

viewer. If the order of things in this world is not actually unchanging, then

activity practiced by artists today, and that their abilities, then and now,

at least time does not matter very much. The figures(or fetishes as they

merit our greatest respect. The history of Western art records the loss

were called by collectors earlier in this century) embody or react to

of many things, such as faith, national purpose, and the capacity for

forces as constant as the weather, the seasons, birth and death. The fixed

infinitely sustained effort, but it also reveals a great development of the

gaze of a Fang head or figure (nos. 12, 97) is like the vacant stare of a

ability to see. Ironically, it is the separation of vision from the rest of

death's head memento mori, mocking or ignoring the petty individual

experience, and our exuberant and subtle refinement of visual skill, that

concerns which it sees beyond. A Yombe maternity figure (no. 100) has a

gives us access to African sculpture. Whatever these figures may have

solid undeniable reality of its own. It is not narrative; it does not aim to

once had that is now lost to us, they offer enormous rewards to a people

delight or instruct. It does not solicit the viewer's cooperation or

who know how to look.

encourage his participation. It simply is, in its formal completeness and its




Here we shall dissect the order embedded in African sculpture, cut open the structures, and study the rules of its strange geometry. Dissection, analysis, and the harsh light of the laboratory have no place in the world

by Susan Vogel

of art, you say. But if some of the enjoyment of art comes from a subliminal understanding of its order, then exposing the separate parts of African sculpture and the logic of its connective tissues will increase understanding—and enjoyment. This essay without the illustrations will be all but meaningless, an anatomy text without diagrams; it is essential to look hard and find what the words are pointing to. If the text and what you see make sense, you should feel that its meaning is perfectly obvious, that you already knew practically everything it contains. Sculpture is a particularly demanding form of visual art. As with architecture, we have to physically engage it in order even to apprehend it. We must interact with the work, touch or move about it, actually enter it in the case of architecture. Sculpture also engages the imagination in a different way from painting or drawing. To see sculpture or architecture fully, we must experience its heft and sense or feel its texture, often without being able to do so literally. By its very nature, we cannot see all of the work at once: we gaze on it and envision the parts we cannot see. As viewers we should also imagine how conditions extraneous to the artist's work—light in particular, but also the setting and whatever shares our field of vision with the work—affect how it appears at a given moment. We must envisage how different it might look in other circumstances. Finally, we must deal with the content expressed by the physical forms. The meaning of African sculpture is remote for most outsiders and unbelievers. The content provides a cooler, less gripping pleasure than the visual jolt we get from its plastic forms. We read into African sculptures our own sensual or emotional meanings based on our own personal histories. We find in the carved faces and bodies the echo of our own private experiences of well-being, mortality, sex,fear, or humor. While this is an accessible way of responding to art, we should remember that these emotions do not come from real contact with the art, but rather from contact with our own inner life. An experience of the sculpture itself must begin with a clear visual reading of its sculptural forms. Paradoxically, it is often easier to begin with a photograph than an actual sculpture. Photographs vastly simplify and organize sculptural forms. They reduce the intractable, full physicality of the work to colors


and lines on a small piece of paper, and they reduce the possible views to a single one. These simplifications allow us to analyze the photograph of a sculpture more easily than we can the actual object in its full complexity.


frican sculpture is more fully plastic, and presents more unique

formal inventions than we, citizens of the late twentieth century, can now fully appreciate or even clearly see.' We have become jaded, accustomed to the leaps of imagination produced by African sculptors, because, mimicked by artists everywhere, theirs has become part of the art vocabulary of the world. For example, African artists frequently switch from a full round, three-dimensional treatment of some parts of a sculpture to a flat, relief carving in others without any transition: the Dogon mother and child (page 130) which is rendered in sculptural rods and knobs except for the hands and feet, which are simply deep grooves cut in the surface; or the Chokwe neckrest(page 117) that switches without warning from the bulky, rounded presentation of the body to the shallowly engraved face; the Mambila figure (page 161) whose airy, billowing forms suddenly stop at the face which has no volume at all. African sculptors also freely mix an organic treatment of the body with a completely geometric, inorganic one, again without transitions. The full round, muscular arms and softly curving stomach of the Fang reliquary on page 22 flow directly into the metal-capped, cylindrical peg of the navel. There are many other examples of a shockingly abrupt change in the sculptural language used by African artists. African sculpture shows an extraordinary sense of mass, of weight and density occupying space, one of its fundamental qualities. Much African sculpture suggests not an inert shell, but an inner mass pressing towards the viewer. Swelling, bulging forms are the clearest manifestation of this, but there are subtler ones. To sense the density of African sculptures, they should be experienced as displacing air, containing volume; their surfaces should be felt not as enclosing a hollow core, but as full, as the edge of thickness, in order to sense the active interior.(An alternative conception of sculpture sees it not as volume, but as flat or curved surfaces and lines, as for example Cycladic or Cubist sculpture; this alternative approach is rare in African art. The Mahongwe figure, on page 100 would be an example.) The quality of dense mass in African art partly accounts for what is often experienced as an aggressiveness, described as a projection of energy. Though the outward projection of mass is probably the real source, energy may be perceived as coming from nonformal attributes such as



posture and gesture, or depicted features like horns, teeth, or puffed cheeksâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;frequent concentrations where the inner volume thrusts towards the viewer. The same aggressive energy can be seen in body parts not normally thought of as aggressive, such as foreheads, breasts or buttocks when they are rendered as masses pushing outward. This active inner volume is so pervasive, it can be seen even in unaggressive, naturalistic sculptures such as the Fang head (page 71), where we feel in the domed forehead the tense containment of volume, and we sense the power of intellect and numinous presence within. A similar sculptural use of swelling mass produces a very different effect in the head of the Southern African girl (page 70). More obvious are the thrusting forms of the two Fang figures(here and pages 22-24,52, 54), the ripe Luba caryatid (page 50, 51, 53,62), all three Bangwa masks (pages 162, 164, 165) and the muscular Boa figure (page 116). Even slender, linear sculptures have this same qualityâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;an active interior. They may barely show outward volumes, but suggest instead a wild current running through tubular limbs. Through the pipelike arms and legs of the Bemba figure (page 120) runs an energy like juice. Consider,for example, the Bamana female figure (pages 57-60) whose dangerously pointed breasts and smoothly rounded posterior thrust against the skin of the surface, while the strong movement of the sculpture as a whole courses down the coiffure, down the widening torso and legs. The masses of the great Senufo rhythm pounder (pages 16-17) move upward in a slower, more majestic pulse, rising from the ankles, swelling (throbbing) at the hips, then resolutely rising again to the beat of the shoulders and breasts and finally rising once more in the slender neck. Active voids ingeniously used are another fundamental quality of African sculpture. African works do not passively occupy space; they interact with and interpenetrate space, most obviously through the use of pierced forms and open compositions. The most extreme and evident pieces, such as the Koro cup figure (page 151), capture space which becomes a positive element, not a negative zone against which the sculpted parts are read. Voids contained in a sculpture often repeat the shapes of the volumes and become part of the composition, not empty air. The triangular spaces under the arms of the Shankadi neckrest(page 30), which are the same size and shape as the flaring coiffure, become parts of the design. The space between the legs of the Southern African figure of a young girl (page 119) duplicates exactly the shape of the torso, creating a negative echo of the positive form above. Even sculptures that seem densely compact engage the surrounding space. The air in front of the Zulu meat dish (page 122) becomes the face and stomach of the figure, shaped by the artist into two visible voids, as surely as he shaped


the wood.


have scant interest in the surface of a work beyond its good, clean condition. The accumulations of age and use so appreciated by Western connoisseurs were summarily wiped off or recoated whenever an object was readied for traditional use as in a masquerade.' Photography of African sculpture (as in, for example, Eliot Elisofon's 1958 book) reveal Western "seeing habits." Closeup photographs often focus mainly on a detailed examination of the rich, layered surfaces, reflecting Western tastes and expectations about sculpture, more than they reflect any quality inherent in African art. Western ways of seeing are also apparent in the impulse to silhouette African sculptures or to photograph them on pale, contrasting backgrounds which emphasize strong outlinesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;to the detriment of powerful masses. The volumes of African sculpture are usually articulated as segments rather than continuous form. In fact, African artists rarely compose a fluidly unified whole (though this is less rare in sculptures from Eastern and Southern Africa). They may isolate parts of a work with deep grooves or treat them as completely discrete units; thus an eye or knee may become a clean cylinder quite separate from the flat surface of the face (Grebo mask here and p. 140; Dogon figure pages 34-35). The arm and breast is often rendered as a single unified segment, sharply demarcated from the neck and torso, as in the monumental Urhobo figure (page 147) or in the Baule mother and child (page 142).3 The segments are organized into patterns that transform the face and body into designs. The organization of African sculptures, like that of all art works, proceeds from the repetition and variation of a limited number of elements. A common device is to render the different parts of the body with the same shape: the calves, thighs and buttocks of the Boa figure (page 116) become similar swelling ovals, and the knee is completely suppressed in the interests of design. The strange Upper Benue mounts and their equally strange riders (page 154) humorously share pointy shapes that appear indifferently as navels, knees and leg joints of a kind unknown to anatomy or zoology. Designs can also be created out of 69


similar positive and negative shapes as seen in the Bangwa Night Mask (page 164). More interesting(and sometimes disconcerting)are sculptures in which features we think of as dissimilar are given equivalent shapes

hough the essence of African sculpture lies beneath the surface

(see the Lobi figure, page 132, and the Donga River figure page 157).

in the volume it encloses, viewers are easily distracted by the interesting

As designs African sculptures are often so tightly organized that the works

surface it may present. The rich patinas so admired on African sculptures

acquire a quality of inevitability. The rigorous construction often means

are an incidental by-product of use. They were virtually never applied by

that no single part could be changed without altering everything else.

the artists, nor were they the result of special aesthetic attention from the users. It is significant that African artists almost never use color on a flat surface. They much prefer the plasticity of raised and incised textures, or zones of color bounded by changes in relief. The Mbole mask on page 112 is an example of the latter, while the Kete mask (page 175), with its lines of paint on the flat sides, is a rare exception. Field studies of African aesthetics suggest that African patrons of traditional art


t is often said that African sculpture is symmetrical. While its overall

design is usually balanced and symmetrical compared to some sculpture


traditions, it is almost never literally symmetrical. Overtly asymmetrical

circling the piece it may be impossible to understand how the different

compositions, however, like the Lobi figure (page 132) are rare.' In fact,

masses interact in the parts of the sculpture that are momentarily out of

traditional African artists tend to create symmetrical designs, but deliber-

sight(page 156, 157).

ately avoid symmetry in the execution; their works mock symmetry to

As part of their exceptional plasticity. African sculptures have what I

create interest. A close look at an apparently regular figure such as the

would call a continuous view. Many sculptures in other traditions have a

Fang reliquary guardian (pages 54-55) reveals that the proper left arm is

principal view; they were designed to be seen from a particular angle.

much fuller than its mate, creating a small imbalance and different spaces

This is sometimes related to the artist's preliminary sketch on paper or

under the arms. Like the living face and body. African sculptures are

on the uncarved block, and is especially true of sculpture made to stand

animated by subtle irregularities. The Baule mask on page 141 is a good

in a niche. A principal view is akin to a bas-relief in that it appears as an

example: the coiffure tilts faintly to the right, the left ear is lower than

arrangement of masses in front of a picture plane. Sculptures conceived

the right, the eyes are slightly uneven, and the nostrils are not the

more fully in the round may nevertheless have numerous points of view.

same size.

These, however, are only a succession of single views.

African artists set us up to expect the paired sides of a composition to

African artists often say they see the sculpture inside the raw wood

match, then leave us to enjoy the interplay between what we see and

and cut away material to free it.s Its exceptional plasticity may come

what we expected. Half our interest in the Tiv gameboard (page 152) lies

from that approach—from the fact that African art is unrelated to two—

in the irregularity of the deeply carved game cups; put a mirror on the

dimensional images. Non-African artists of all eras often began work by

middle of the picture and see how dull the piece would look if it were

drawing the outline of the future sculpture on the front and sides of the

perfectly symmetrical.(The same experiment is revealing when con-

block of wood or stone, or they might sketch studies of sculptures

ducted with a frontal view of almost any object here.)

before executing them. African artists conceive their works directly as

Most examples are more complex because their variations are played, not just on the horizontal axis like the Tiv gameboard, but through space, forming a spiral movement. The Donga River figure (page 156, 157) is an

three dimensional, envisioning them as they would exist in space, not on paper. African sculpture is often described as frontal probably because its

extreme example, but there are many others: note the torsion of the

conventional pose—arms to the sides, eyes forward, weight on both

small Shankadi figure (pages 30-33 and 108) whose body rotates so that

feet equally—corresponds to frontal figures from other traditions (such

the elbows are not aligned with the knees, creating a disjunction at waist

as Egyptian statues). African sculpture, however, is not frontal in a purely

level. Looking straight down on this piece (one of the common views of

sculptural sense, because it is developed fully in the round and can be

a neckrest) one sees that the top support is not parallel to the feet.

viewed from all sides.

A spiral stance is central to the Bangwa conception of figure sculpture

A recent experience installing European sculpture for the first time

(page 160): in relation to the head, the shoulders rotate to the left and

brought home to me the degree to which African sculpture is not

the knees clearly would have continued the leftward direction of the

conceived for a predetermined kind of display. In our exhibition was

turn. They do not counter it as in contraposto. Common in other

Houdon's bust of Voltaire which arrived attached to the base Houdon

sculpture traditions, contraposto is a pose in which the movement of

may have designed for it. The height of the base and the attitude of the

one part of the body, such as the hips, is countered by the opposite

shoulders determined to the millimeter the angle at which it was to be

movement of another part, often the shoulders. The Punu figure (pages

seen. I realized that never had an African sculpture dictated to me how

20-21) is a rare African example.

it was to be displayed. Most will not stand on a flat surface. Many were meant to be carried, to lean against something, or to be sunk partially into the ground, in any case they were not meant to stand in a particular way


and be viewed from a single point. It is clear that African artists did not usually create their works mainly to be displayed and, unlike Houdon,

frican sculpture often has no principal view; in fact it often were not primarily concerned with the reactions of a human viewer.

does not seem to have any privileged vantage points. An African work African artists often had higher concerns. The act of making a work may be best understood from the continuous view obtained by walking of art or its mere existence might in many cases be more important than around it, or by holding it in the hand and turning it. As the viewer circles its appearance. While the theatrical use of all masks and some figures the object, the sculptural shapes move in relation to each other; the (including Fang reliquary guardians, pages 96, 97, and 166) was certainly viewer can gain a complete sense of its three dimensionality, and watch calculated in the conception and presentation of the works, they were the order of the piece unfold. African works may be so complicated seen in a different way in Africa from the way we see them. The audience formally, and so far from our usual visual expectations, that without 79 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

was not seeking the purely visual contact that we in the West associate with looking at art; their experience was fuller and more complex, made up of: soundâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;which might be instrumental music, song or recitation whose words were telling, humorous,or to be pondered; motionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; dance and the movement of costumes and accessories; belief, anticipation and understanding. Even tastes and aromas might be part of the whole aesthetic pleasure as many masquerade festivals were also feasts. Appearance in our narrow sense was not the way art was experienced, and not the way artists thought about the sculpture they made. We know from field research that many works were kept in dark places and were seen by few people. The Mahongwe (page 100) reliquary guardian was kept in a small darkened storeroom for ritual and sacred objects. Except on rare occasions, only the metallic gleam of its face would have been seen, and then only by a few authorized family members. Masks were seen in motion,from a distance, at strange angles and often in poor light. The splendid small faces on the Ijo mask (page 149) would hardly have been seen by its audience. It was worn on top of the head,facing the sky. The carver must have simultaneously sought to make a mask that was a fitting representative of the water spirit it incarnated, while he took delight in the fine facets and detailed carving that went beyond strict utility and that hardly anyone would ever see.


n the context of Western art history, a striking feature of African

art is that it is not normally narrative, does not depict movement or groups of figures interacting and is not pictorial; it does not seek to create any illusion of motion, of perspective, or verisimilitude. If an artist wants hair on his figure or mask that exactly resembles hair, he will not hesitate to attach some of the real thing. If movement was wanted, the mask or figure could be worn or carried in dance. Since African art is not an illusion of reality and does not depict the visible world, we must recognize that it creates a new kind of reality. In carving, African artists introduce new beings into the world.(Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the secrecy with which the activity of carving is often surrounded, and a reason for the relative anonymity of artists.) Field research confirms the independent reality created in sculptures. A new mask or figure is almost always given a personal name


like a new child; the sculpture of a nature spirit makes newly visible

carved shrub or rock). Perspective, frontality, and a principal view all

a being that was not accessible before the carving was made. This fact

imply a viewer positioned in a particular place. African sculpture has none

could have been deduced from an analysis of the works alone.

of these qualities. African artists created movable objects that were not

African sculptures enter our space as independent entities in a way

destined to be seen in a single setting; almost all might have different

rarely seen in art before the twentieth century. They are generally single

settings according to phases of their use (in a cluttered shrine, wrapped

figures unframed by any space boundary that would set them in their own

in cloth, or carried in the sun in an annual procession,for example).

small stage. They are unaccompanied by any reference for scale (such as a 80 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

Consequently, they inhabit human space; they step directly onto our human world and stand in our space and our scale. They are small or large in relation to us, to the human body and not in relation to an architectural background or setting conceived for them. Masks,generally not meant to be seen unless they are being worn, enter our human world as personagesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;they may dwarf us; they walk on our ground and breathe our air. This quality is fundamental,for it means that African sculptures intrude upon the space we live in, not with a separate, artistically created space, and they interact with us directly. Further, it implies their existence as independent entities, as newly created beings with an existence palpable as our own.

Notes I. Three quotes from a 1926 book, Primitive Negro Sculpture, serve to demonstrate how different our visual and psychological reactions to African art are from what they were for a previous generation. We now meet African art conditioned by myriad Western images that have adopted African (and other 'Primitive" to use the terminology of the time)formal solutions and presentations of the human body that are frankly sexual. But in the mid-I920's Paul Guillaume and Thomas Munro cautioned: A person may have learned to appreciate the plastic qualities of Greek sculpture, in some measure, to follow with delight its flowing curves and smooth surfaces. He may be able to perceive some of the plastic qualities of the African fetish also, yet be only repelled by them, and bewildered by the profusion of its irregular designs. He will find. occasionally, a curve or plane as pure and graceful as the Greek he admires, but it will be mixed in with others radically different, with rough,jagged, unsymmetrical, bristling or swollen shapes, with abrupt and apparently unrelated transitions. He may never come to enjoy the latter:... But if he can learn to tolerate and even like these shocks, if he can feel stark force in what first seemed to be mere crudity of execution, he will have done in sculpture something like learning to enjoy a new kind of music, like accustoming oneself to new dissonances, to new irregular rhythms, the unfamiliar clash of contrasting instruments.(p. 33-34) A people used to unbridled sensual and emotional life, to handling, caressing. violently seizing and even rending the human body.[sic] will not feel toward a statue as does a people that is used to clothing and delicate restraint.(p. 47) A Gabun [sic] head suggests the skull of a shriveled mummy, with sunken, unseeing eyes, some legendary monster, dreaded in childhood,or the apparition of a long-forgotten nightmare. The swollen limbs of another figure remind him shockingly of elephantiasis: the distended or puckered mouths, the sharp teeth on edge. are expressions of pain and cruelty. The pose may be frankly sensual, the bodily organs emphatic and not to be ignored as parts of a design. All these may reawaken in a civilized man disapproved and primitive impulses. a kinship with the savage,fought down and half suppressed. yet still obscurely potent. Feeling their stirring beneath the inhibition of conscious tastes and standards, he experiences a sickening repulsion. a thrill of fear, and at the same time. perhaps,a strange and inexplicable fascination.(p.49) 2. Works intended to be awesome or terrifying are usually an exception. They are often thickly encrusted as a sign of their great age (seniority. wisdom, power).or as a reminder of the blood sacrifices they have received (also an acretion of power). Bangwa night masks like those on pages 164 and 165 are examples. Encrusted surfaces are often described as dirty. frightening, or ugly by African informants. 3. This particular segmentation is widespread in African art and may express a culturally determined reading of the female body: breasts and hands serve others in a culture where breasts are less the object of erotic focus than a symbol of nurturing. A more purely anatomically based reading of the body would join and equate, the arms with the neck: the breasts with the torso. 4. Recent carving for tourists and for traditional use has become more regular and rigidly symmetrical, both as a result of improved technical skills, and as the expression of new aesthetic preferences. 5. Michelangelo and other artists have expressed the same idea. 6. The exhibition was "Likeness and Beyond: Portraits from Africa and the World." 7. They have this in common with much religious art of many periods and placesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;from Japanese to Egyptian and Romanesque.





is the collection of an aesthete and a scholar. Udo Horstmann

has collected with passion and method for well over a decade, hungry for

the hunt and the study, and hard to satisfy. With a special interest in the little known sculpture of southern Africa, he has formed one of the most extensive collections in private hands and has become an expert along the way. He is one of the rare collectors I would consult on questions of connoisseurship. His library is imposing; painstakingly assembled, it contains every essential book and periodical on African art in at least three languages. And the books are not decor for the collection; they are well-used. He has a keen interest in the history of collectingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;his great Fang figure belonged to James Johnson Sweeney who included it in the seminal exhibition of African art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1935, when it was photographed by Walker Evans. He loves African art with a restless passion. Year in, year out, never satisfied, he has systematically raised the quality of his objects holding them to the highest standards. I have visited the Horstmann collection every couple of years since 1 met him and each time I failed to find a few good pieces I had liked. They were gone, replaced by even better ones. He continues to test every work in the collection, to study its style, search out other ones, and measure it against the bestâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a process that can lead to a quest for a better example. A great traveller, no matter how unlikely the place for African art or books, he nonetheless spends all his free time combing small shops, antique stores, and book dealers. Surprising acquisitions have been made that way,though the major dealers and auction houses on three continents have been his main sources. He has a special understanding of the small masterpiece, the refined, jewellike object that is a pleasure to hold and turn, to examine and contemplate. This is probably one of the finest collections of African miniatures; it includes some of the best known works in the genre. Large, showy objects don't seem to interest Udo Horstmann; when he acquires large works, like the two Mijikenda posts, they have a deeply meditative quality. He demands a kind of perfection ofform and has discovered the beauty of African design. He has a large collection of nonfigurative African pieces that this book barely suggests. One sees here, however, the guiding taste that runs through this whole collection demanding clarity of forms, expressiveness, a fine geometry, and enduring interest. SV


DJENNE CULTURE, MALI Crouching figure, terracotta; H. 45.5 cm. Massively immobile, and formally complex, this figure presents the viewer with no obvious "principal view." It leads us to circle it and finally to hesitate between the angle that confronts the face directly but places the shoulders in three quarter view, and the angle that shows the shoulders squarely, but leaves the face averted. Though we know virtually nothing about the original meaning ofsuch figures, we are captured by the enigmatic contradiction between the suffering body with its broken pustules and crawling worms or snakes, and the composed, noble gesture and facial expression. 2 DJENNE CULTURE, MALI Torque, bronze; H. 36 cm.







Female figure, wood; H. 59.5 cm.

Couple, wood; H. 15.5 cm.

The success ofthis sculpture comes

At first glance this sculpture seems

from the unity ofits spiky, pointed

to be about the inseparably joined

forms. With knifelike precision, the

couple. On reflection, however, it

entire body, hair and all, has been

becomes apparent that its most strik-

rendered as a series of projecting

ing feature is the void at the heart of

wedges and cones, creating a sense

the composition. It would probably

ofgreat activity, even aggression.

be wrong to see this as a cynical comment on the impermanence of love or the impossibility ofdeep human bonds, preoccupations ofthe West that are oflittle consequence in traditional African culture. To this observer the rectangular opening suggests a portal, firm and solidâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even inviting, though it would be foolish to attempt an interpretation based on no more than this speculation.






Male and female figures, wood,


beads, oil; H. 17 cm. and 17.5 cm.


One ofthe masterpieces ofthis col-

Female figure, wood; H. 52 cm.

lection and ofSenufo art, this pair of figures functions fully in the round. Their arcing bodies and bowed arms, punctuated by the staccato rhythm of elbows and armlets, cannot be understood from a single point of view. Though their faces are beautifully carved, the back and profile views are fully as interesting as the front.


7 BETE OR GURO,COTE D'IVOIRE Mask with horns, wood, raffia; H.40 cm. This unusual mask is constructed in two disparate formal modes but, instead of visually disintegrating, it fascinates. The top part, crowned by curving horns, is all lyrical, round lines, turning surfaces and fine linear decoration, while the bottom quarter abruptly turns onto sharply intersecting planes and harsh angles. 8 GURO,COTE D'IVOIRE Mask with leopard claw coiffure, wood, paint; H. 43.5 cm.


9 BAULE,COTE D'IVOIRE Mask, wood; H. 22.5 cm. 10 KOMA CULTURE,GHANA Helmet, bronze; H. 23 cm.



II FANG,GABON Mask, wood, paint; H. 29 cm. I2 FANG,GABON Reliquary guardian: head, wood, metal; H. 51 cm. including post under neck



13 FANG,GABON Reliquary guardian: male figure, wood,teeth, beads, metal; H. 58 cm. This celebrated figure combines a sensitive, expressive presence with incisively perfect, daring forms. There are many small asymmetries in the figure that are countered and resolved by the blatant asymmetry ofthe spiralling fingers. The coiffure twists to the figure's right; the face turns to the left; the right ear is higher than its mate. The position ofthe hands entails one elbow lower than the other, uneven spaces under the arms, and an active open space between the hands and the curving stomach. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of all is the horizontal shelfof the hips and the compressed springlike legs.

14 PUNU,GABON Hook: figure of a drummer, wood; H. 15 cm. The swinging lines ofthe knot on the bottom ofthis little sculpture entangle the eye and establish a fluid rhythm repeated in the figure above. The flowing coiffure is both beautiful and functional; bundles tied through the holes carved in the knot could be safely hung by means ofthe hooked coiffure. 15 PUNU,GABON Spoon, wood; H. 17.5 cm. This artist wittily created a human body, made ofangular inorganic forms, that stands on a suggestively organiclooking utensil. The bowl is earlike, and the stem recalls a vine or animal horn. The deeply convex bowl ofthe spoon is answered by the forward thrusting stem with its thick, twisted forms. The formal interest ofthe piece lies as much in the lower part as in the figure. 16 KOTA,GABON Mask, wood, paint; H. 32 cm.



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17 MAHONGWE,GABON Reliquary guardian, metal over wood: H.47 cm. 18 VILI, ZAIRE OR CABINDA Pot lid: man with a bird, wood; Diann. 19.5 cm. 19 VILI, ZAIRE OR CABINDA Pot lid: traveller in a hammock, wood; Diam. 23 cm. The author ofthis and the previous

pot lid is an original artist who obeys the low-horizon convention ofthis sculpture type in a novel way: he carves his figures as torsos, the legs only implied. By this device he suggests standing figures in an art form where figures are virtually always shown as sitting or lying down. To the Western observer unfamiliar with the genre, the figures appear to be standing waist deep in grass or water, ofcourse a misinterpretation.



20 BEMBE OR TEKE,ZAIRE Female figure, wood,encrustation; H. 33 cm. The authoritative upper torso and head ofthis daunting figure overbalance the powerful gesture ofthe hands and legs. The feet, now missing, would have stabilized the sculpture and given it equilibrium. The two knobs ofthe hair echo the rounded breasts; perhaps the feet were large, and repeated this double, lobed shape. 21 KONGO,ZAIRE Small power figure, wood; H. 10 cm. Small in size but not in scale, this figure carries enormous authority in its few inches. The boldness ofthe conceptionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;head and neck thrust aggressively forward, body uncommonly flat to set offthe protruding chinâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;adheres to a convention developed for the much larger figures often studded with nails. The detailed facial features with their defiant expression now contrast with the schematically rendered body, though the artist must originally have expected the torso to be hidden under magical ingredients.

22 SONGYE,ZAIRE Mask, wood, paint; H. 37 cm. 23 LUBA,ZAIRE Stool with standing female figure, wood; H.41.5 cm. Everything about this figure seems to have been taken one measure further than we might have expected; forms start away from one another with exceptional clarity and vigor. The body, suggestive offertility and rich abundance, has full breasts visible from every angle (even center back!); the keloids on the abdomen and lower back swell like ripening buds.




24 LUBA,ZAIRE Bowstand, wood; H. 55 cm. 25 LUBA SHANKADI,ZAIRE Standing female figure, wood, beads. metal, horn; H.40 cm.

-,{7rf Iral0A4lith'gf$4(Prir tripl 1,4 â&#x20AC;˘ ,- -06


26 LUBA SHANKADI,ZAIRE Neckrest: seated figure, wood, beads; H. 16 cm. This sculpture is by an artist William Fagg has named the "Master ofthe Cascade Coiffure,"after the two-tiered Shankadi coiffure exuberantly rendered on all his works. (Another artist's version ofthe coiffure can be seen in no. 25 in this collection.) The Master of the Cascade Coiffure's works always use a playful asymmetry to enliven the compositionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;here in the charming one-turned-forward, one-turned-back position ofthe hands. 27 TABWA,ZAIRE Ax handle with head, wood; H. 56.5 cm. 28 LULUA,ZAIRE Crouching figure, wood with artificial patina; H. 10 cm. Perhaps made for sale to foreigners, this figure and another that entered the collection ofthe Buffalo Museum ofScience in 1942 are the work ofa genius. Vigorously ribbed bosses forming extra joints have been invented by this artist as a variant on the Lulua convention oftextured scarifications and knobby limbs. Arriving in the West uncolored and fresh from the artist's hand, this piece was patinated by a restorer.


29 LULUA,ZAIRE Mask, wood, paint, raffia; H. 35 cm. (mask only) 30 LEGA,ZAIRE Mask, wood,fiber, paint; H. 25.5 cm.(mask only)



31 MBOLE,ZAIRE Mask, wood, paint; H. 44.8 cm. 32 BEMBE,ZAIRE Mask, wood, paint; H.48 cm.







Male figure, wood; H. 56 cm.

Pipe: female figure, wood; H.9 cm. This is an ingenious conceptualiza-

34 tion ofthe female body. The belly as BEMBE,ZAIRE Staff with male figure, wood; H. 27.5 cm.

bowl and the placement ofthe stem between the legs may have been intended as a ribald comment on sex

The pendulous, exaggeratedly long coiffure establishes the overall conception ofthe piece, repeated in the heavy hands, and low, swollen belly. The artist has given this small figure, barely a hand's breadth high, remarkable weight and substance. One of the finest ofits kind, this figure repeats in every particular, the style and proportions ofBembe figures that stand about a meter high. 35 MANGBETU,ZAIRE Knife in sheath, wood, leather, metal,fiber; H. 31 cm. This style has been shown to have been invented, perhaps by this artist, at the beginning ofthe twentieth century in response to the presence of Westerners at the Mangbetu court, according to recent research by Enid Schildkrout. The very hard, butterscotch-colored wood has allowed the artist to use fine, blackened vertical lines on the face to emphasize the elongation ofthe head. The same style can be seen in the pipe no. 36.


and pregnancy. The natural way to hold the pipe places the smoker's fingers on the two breasts which the artist has carved on the sides ofthe bowl. Both the artist and the users of such a pipe were probably men.


37 BOA,ZAIRE Standing figure, wood; H.42 cm. 38 CHOKWE,ANGOLA OR ZAIRE Neckrest: standing figure, wood; H. 14.5 cm. The artist has playfully merged the figure's head with the platform of the neckrest, turning its sides into the wings ofa traditional coiffure. While the stolid body is carved fully in the round, the face is incised practically on a flat plane; the piece is unified by similarly drown lines on the base, and representing scarifications on the body. 39 CHOKWE,ANGOLA OR ZAIRE Ax, wood, metal; L. 59 cm.


40 MAKONDE, MOZAMBIQUE Mask, wood, wax, nails; H. 20 cm. 41 UNDETERMINED STYLE, EASTERN AFRICA Figure of a girl, wood, beads; H.48 cm. Stifflegs, small breasts, and an awkward gesture ofthe arms and head suggest that an adolescent girl is depicted here. The childishly large head lacks a coiffure. The discipline ofthe forms and the elegance ofthe refined workmanship, marked by long shallow cuts in the wood ofthe limbs and fine scoops in the head and shoulders, help characterize the girl's modesty and restraint The figure has a touching, emotional quality in its simplicity.

42 MAKONDE, MOZAMBIQUE Snuff container with figurative stopper, wood, beads; H. 11.5 cm. (closed)


43 BEMBA,ZAMBIA Figure, wood, beads; H. 29 cm. The artist who created this looselimbed figure made brilliant use of the fundamentals ofSouthern African figure sculpture: bodies often lacking articulation; soft, often uninterrupted tubular forms; and a lack ofsignificant surface texture. This figure is almost a drawing in space.

44 SOTHO,LESOTHO Snuff container, horn, wood; H. I 3 cm. Tour de force detail carving is combined here with simplicity and restraint. The artist has intricately carved a minuscule face but refrained from showing off with the details oftiny fingers, toes, and belts. The tension ofthe sculpture in the round (seen especially in the back and neck) plays offagainst the tranquility ofthe low reliefcarving ofslender limbs and simple garments. 45 VENDA OR PEDI,SOUTH AFRICA Pair of figures (female giving birth), wood,shell, nails; H. 34 cm. and 39 cm.








Roof finial figure, wood; H.47 cm.

Meat dish, wood; H. 34 cm.

Container in bovine form, skin,

If this dish is read as a female figure

pigment; H. 10.7 cm.

(as seems intended), then an important part ofthe sculpture is the empty space in front ofthe two hollowed areas, where we "see" the round, invisible halves ofthe woman's head and stomach.





49 AMBO,SOUTH AFRICA Doll, wood,leather, beads, buttons, metal,fiber; H. 36 cm. SO MAMBILA, CAMEROON; EJAGHAM PEOPLES, NIGERIA Metal currencies, iron, copper; H. 38 and 63 cm. 51 KWELE, GABON Metal currency, iron; H.49 cm. 52 DENGESE,ZAIRE Metal currency, iron; H.68 cm. 53 GIRIAMA, KENYA Memorial posts, wood; H. 207 and 178 cm.




Hs collection was formed by one of the most exceptional

individuals on the African art scene. Modest and self-deprecating about his collecting, he guards the strictest anonymity. As a collector, he broke all the rules. Collectors are supposed to flag after a decade of buying one kind of art, but his interest, awakened nearly twenty years ago, is still going strong. I would guess he has bought at least one sculpture every month since I met him sometime in 1971. In the midst of a hectic business life, he still can't resist someone who wants to show him a work of African art—he will look at anything. The most elegant art dealers from Europe and the newly arrived Africans with minimal English—all alike have been cordially treated to his quick eye,fierce bargaining, and easy access. He loves to buy—and he loves to have and live with every single piece. No one is a more reluctant lender to exhibitions, and no one misses these individual presences in his life as much as he does when they leave the house. The sculptures published here are evidence of his singular and unerring taste. He chose these works with appalling speed; in seconds, literally, he will understand a piece and see its quality. He also chose them with what might have been reckless disregard for what was fashionable or rare, or published and famous, or admired by other people. His only regard is for great sculpture and that he spotted wherever it lay—in great classical Yoruba altars with their serene wide eyes, in funky recent masks with plastic flowers on them, and above all in the powerful, aggressive, demanding pieces from Nigeria and Cameroon that dominate the collection. This collection is a curator's nightmare and a curator's dream because so many of the works are completely unlike anything in any other collection. They can be impossible to document, impossible to say anything much about—other than that they are breathtakingly wonderful. He doesn't care very much about documentation or where something comes from, and never bothers much with the anthropology. For these details and for authenticity he relies on someone else. He has one of the most insignificant shelves of African art books that I have ever seen.judging from the results, no one ever needed them less. SV


54 DJENNE CULTURE, MALI Pendant, terracotta, slip; H. 9.5 cm. 55 DJENNE CULTURE, MALI Mother with many "children," terracotta; H. 35 cm. Almost nothing is known about the beliefsystem that produced this enigmatic figure with her brooding, severe face and warm, accepting gesture. Her right arm cradles two small figures in her lap, while her left hugs two against her back. Though small, they are clothed, naturally proportioned adultsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;clearly not children except in a metaphorical sense. Perhaps this figure can be understood best in terms ofthe Senufo beliefin "Ancient Mother," their name for the Creator and for the membership society which, like a mother, guides and safeguards its "children."




56 DOGON,MALI Mother and child, wood, metal leather; H.66.5 cm. Except for the great curving volume ofthe head, this sculpture is all machinelike tubes, rods, and knobs. The artist has such mastery ofthis almost mathematical style, that he can play with it by giving the mother four hands. He produces another jolt by switching from the three dimensional tubular style of the body to a bold-reliefribbing to depict the feet

57 DJENNE CULTURE, MALI Animal with two men, terracotta; L. 59.5 cm.



neck is positioned way offcenter.


Vague bumps and a few grooves

Equestrian figure, wood, metal;

sketch the features ofthe face; iden-

H. 59 cm.

tical ones serve as knees, sex, navel and breasts.



Figure, wood; H. 36.5 cm.


Though this figure looks deceptively

Kneeling female figure, wood;

unbalanced and spontaneous, the

H. 45 cm.

entire structure anticipates the powerful gesture ofthe raised arm. The head leans away from it and balances the gigantic hand, and the






Female figure, wood, metal;

Female figure, wood; H. I 04 cm.

H.60 cm.

The movement here is not only unswervingly vertical, but emphatically upward. This elegant figure rising effortlessly from her heavy base, seems to exist in a space that is free from the pull ofgravity. The masses â&#x20AC;&#x201D;globular hips that suggest buttocks even from the front, the slab of the shoulders, and the refined cones of the breasts and small headâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;ore linked not only by the long rods ofthe limbs, torso, and neck, but by the three captured voids which the artist has shaped as authoritatively as the wood he carved.








Figure, wood; H. 25.5 cm.

Finial, bronze; H. 20 cm.

Stool, wood, iron, pigment; H. 42.2 cm.

No sexual characteristics appear on this figure though the stomach paradoxically suggests both a phallus and pregnancy. Less than halfthe usual size ofsuch figures, it is nonetheless fully realized as a sculpture with a great,swaggering presence all its own.





. t)14***%41-

66 POMDO STYLE,SIERRA LEONE Figure, soapstone; H. 14 cm. 67 MENDE,SIERRA LEONE Figure, wood; H.69 cm. 68 DAN, LIBERIA OR COTE D'IVOIRE Guardian head, wood, beads,string, fiber, H. 35.6 cm. Pointy hair and face have been humorously equated in this impertinent head—which is not the evocation of a head the artist saw, but the creation ofa new reality. Without warning or transition, the artist abruptly cuts from a full round treatment of the hair and the billowing, conical base to a flat reliefcarving ofthe face—techniques occasionally employed together by African artists for emphasis and for special witty effect.




69 GREBO,COTE D'IVOIRE Mask, wood, mirrored glass, pigment, nails; H. 55.6 cm. The cool geometry ofthis mask produces an effect ofinevitability and seemingly effortless perfection. The bars, shallow cones and wedge ofthe facial features are arrayed on an absolutely flat plane, square cut around its edge. The forehead is actually a hollow band, a section ofa

loop. But the element that brings it all to life is the slight backward curve ofthe upper halfofthe mask. Cover its sides and imagine that they are straight, and the face becomes cold and dead, maybe because the geometry ofthe face then seems obvious. 70 BAULE,COTE D'IVOIRE Mask, wood, pigment; H. 28 cm.

71 BAULE,COTE D'IVOIRE Mother and child, wood; H.49.5 cm. What interests me about this figure is the way it blends a restrained naturalism with extreme segmentation. The body is made ofdiscrete elements that look as if they could easily be taken apart. The face and hair crest form a masklike piece poised on top of the neck as an element completely separate from the back ofthe coiffure; similarly, the arms and breasts seem to form a unit separate from the torso and neck. This does not express ideas about fragmentation ofthe personalityâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;far from it!â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but corresponds to Baule classifications ofthe body. 72 AKYE,COTE D'IVOIRE Mother and child, wood; H.46.5 cm. The tension ofthe mother, seated stiffly, arms by her sides, knees pressed firmly together, contrasts delightfully with the relaxed, almost lounging, attitude ofthe rather large child in her lap. Like many African sculptures ofa mother and child this one seems to show no emotional connection between the two: they neither interact nor gaze at one another. This is probably because African sculptures are not about the emotional human experience of motherhood, but about on abstract ideal.


73 YORUBA, NIGERIA Shrine sculpture, wood, pigment; H. 104.5 cm. With the skill ofa master, this artist suggests a tumultuous crowd in a cunningly organized composition. The lower halfofthe sculpture churns with small figures, but exactly at midpoint the scale and rhythm shift to express resolution and composure. From the quick syncopation ofthe small figures the artist proceeds without a pause to the slower more magisterial tempo ofthe large figure, and the regular beat ofthe faces on the bowl's rim. To make the small figures seem even more numerous than they are, the artist varies the height oftheir heads, and shows them gesturing this way and that. Even the ground on which they stand slants and dips. But rising serenely above the crowd is Shango's grand devotee with her immobile arms dominating the front ofthe piece. On the back, similar straight, plain lines form another Shang째 worshipper perched on the heads of musicians. 74 YORUBA, NIGERIA Shrine sculpture, wood, pigment; H.74 cm.






Bell, bronze; H. 20 cm.

Mother and child, wood, pigment. H. 206 cm.

76 This over life-size mother, holding


her tiny baby before her like a tro-

Figure group, bronze; H. 24 cm.

phy, is one ofthe very largest ofall known African figure sculptures. Its great size, however, is not necessarily evident in photographs because its scale is internally consistent, and it lacks any external reference for size (qualities found in very small African sculptures as well). The main masses ofthe figure have been conceived as a succession oftriangles first stated as they form the breasts, the arms and the shadowed spaces between them. The artist has flattened the top ofthe breasts to emphasize them as triangles (rather than cones) and to lock them into the zigzag pattern of positive and negative spaces that spans the upper torso. The rest of the sculpture is built of variants of the triangle in the conical legs, the triangular space between the thighs, the coiffure, head ornament, and in the outline ofthe baby's body and arm.



78 ISOKO, NIGERIA Mask, wood,fiber, pigment; H. 30.5 cm. 79 IGALA, NIGERIA Faceless mask, wood, metal, pigment; H.40 cm. At once cheerful and intimidating, this unique mask gives us a lot of incidental detail ofcoiffure and crest, scarification, headband with small pendants, ears, then窶馬o facial features, only holes through which we are watched by eyes we cannot see. 80 IJO, NIGERIA Water spirit mask, wood, metal; L. 74 cm.




EKET (11311310), NIGERIA


Headdress: figure, wood, pigment;

Female figure, wood, bead and

H. 58.5 cm.

metal ornaments, cloth,fiber, pig-

It is easy to see this figure as a

ment; H. 25.5 cm.

succession ofsensuous turning surfaces and sinuous lines, but that would be to miss the source ofits energy. The powerful swelling vol-

83 KORO OR JABA, NIGERIA Palm wine cup, wood,fiber, pigment, nail; H. 43.5 cm.

umes should be experienced as full and dense, displacing space and pressing towards the viewer. The movement ofthe figure comes from the shifting ofthis inner mass rather than from the depiction ofmovement. Despite what can be read as a dancing pose, the sculptor attempted no illusion ofmotion; the stability of the postureâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;well balanced sculptural masses rising from both feet in perfect equilibriumâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;creates stasis.


84 TIV, NIGERIA Ganneboard, wood, metal; L. 94 cm. Open, shouting mouths serve as the end pockets ofthis gameboard by a singular artist. I know ofno others like this veritable study in witty understatement. Two rude knobs tell us that the top head is female, the lower one male. The artist has cunningly arranged the six playing pockets in a jiggling staccato rhythm in which they manage never to fall opposite each other, despite the fact that they are seemingly all the same size and look regularly spaced.(When in use the board would have been horizontal, not upright as shown here). 85 MUMUYE, NIGERIA Figure, wood, pigment; H. 121 cm.


86 UPPER BENUE RIVER, NIGERIA Pair of animals with riders, wood; H. 29.3 cm., 30.5 cm.


87 JUKUN, NIGERIA Figure, wood, metal; H. 99 cm. This unique figure is deceptively simple since it appears to be constructed ofelementary geometric units. In fact nothing about this figure is either regular or simple. The artist has artfully distorted the forms, flattening the ball ofthe head, bending the arms and drawing one shoulder out ofline. Its similarity to popular film portrayals ofspace creatures and alien beings could be explained as an uncanny ability ofAfrican artists to capture fearful images deep in the human psyche. A more pedestrian explanation is the fact that African art forms are available throughout the Western worldâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even in Hollywood. Perhaps both explanations are valid.

88 DONGA RIVER, PROBABLY MFUMTE,CAMEROON Figure, wood, pigment; H.65 cm. It would be hard to imagine a sculpture conceived more fully in the round than this unique work which is almost impossible to understand in just one view. The arms run in a continuous ribbon from the right hand over the breast down, back, up, and across the chest to rest on the abdomen. Though the cornposition is almost entirely built ofjutting forms and solid volumes, texture is provided by the slicked back hair and the coquettish string ofbeads that circles the hips (but fades away near the genitals). In a sculptural statement whose meaning is enigmatic (though surely interesting) the mouth is equated with the female sex, the knees with the breasts.



89 DONGA RIVER, PROBABLY MFUMTE,CAMEROON Figure, wood, pigment; H. 55 cm. Awe and horror are inspired by this voracious, brainless figure because its forms seem chaotic. Neither explicitly male nor female, mouth gaping and stomach distended, it comes close to expressing a kind of quintessential nightmare creature devoid of all human qualities. In fact its formal structure is organized around a vertical columnâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;though a highly unconventional oneâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that runs solidly through the legs, lower torso and neck but is violently constricted and pushed backwards at the level ofthe chest(the heart?). The lumbering, boxy projections are all vaguely threatening.


90 BANGWA,CAMEROON Female figure, wood; H. 79 cm. One ofthe masterpieces ofBongwa art, this vital, pulsating figure is constructed ofsymmetrical pairs of rounded volumes with relatively few articulations. The artist has animated it by subtlyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;almost imperceptiblyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; varying all the paired shapes. This can most easily be seen in the extraordinary breasts, which point in slightly different directions, one a bit larger, rounder and higher than the other. Similar minute variations have been carved in the eyes, shoulders, arms and in the necklace. A careful look will reveal that in fact none of the paired shapes really match, creating small, vibrating imbalances. 91 MAMBILA. NIGERIA Mask, wood, pigment,fiber; H. 17.5 cm. 92 MAMBILA, NIGERIA Figure, wood,fiber, pigment,feathers; H. 30 cm.



93 BAN GWA (?), CAM EROON Mask, wood; H. 33 cm. 94 BAMILEKE, CAMEROON Figure holding a bowl, wood; H. 62.5 cm. Planting his feet and stool on our tabletop, this figure intrudes on our space, an intransigent presence. The sculpture almost forces us around it to view its ever changing forms and to search in vain for its principal view. Conceived by the artist for no fixed setting, the sculpture appropriates ours.

95 BANGWA,CAMEROON Headdress, wood,encrustation, pigment; H. 30.5 cm. The coherence ofthese immediately understood forms rests on the alternation of paired bulges and hollows. The two knobs that form the royal cap are answered by the two great cavities ofthe eyes and the bulbous cheeks below. But the real interest of the work lies in its fluid, asymmetrical brow line and in the fact that in profile, the cheeks and forehead are nearly at right angles to each other. 96 BANGWA,CAMEROON Headcrest with four faces, wood, metal; H. 30.5 cm.






Figure, wood, metal, palm oil;

Standing female figure, wood;

H. 39 cm.

H. I 3 cm.

It is often repeated that African art is frontal, symmetrical, and motionless. That description might be applied to this figure, but every point can be contested. The figure is not frontal because it was not conceived from the front or meant to be seen mainly from the front; in fact, it cannot even be fully understood from a front view. African figures have mistakenly been called frontal because their conventional postureâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;which is determined by cultural valuesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;hands to the abdomen, weight equally placed on both feet, head to the front, happens to correspond to other truly frontal sculptural traditions (such as the Egyptian).


99 BEMBE,ZAIRE Figure fragment, wood; H.50.5 cm. 100 YOMBE,ZAIRE Mother and child, wood, pigment; H. 55.5 cm. The three quarter view ofthis figure shows it at its tamest. The full front is confrontational for there we cannot escape the lowered brow ofthe mother and her strong gestures, and we watch the pot under her right hand pushed over the boundary ofthe base. The profile is also aggressive, emphasizing the forward thrust ofher shoulders and neck, and the instability ofher pose, perched on two feet. In three quarters, her daunting gaze is deflected and the forms are resolved as a softened, pyramidal composition.



101 SUKU,ZAIRE Mask, wood,fiber, tortoise shell; H. 114.5 cm. 102 SUKU,ZAIRE Mask with torso, wood,fiber; H.95 cm. The baleful gaze ofthis over life-size mask is both arresting and intimidating. The unusual squinting eyes and sour lips, hunched neck and shapeless torso suggest a malevolent old person. The small dry breasts may imply the flabby chest ofan old man rather than a woman. The artist has gone beyond the convention ofcarving only the face in masks ofthis type to create a unique and powerful presence that is both fearsome and moving.



103 YAKA,ZAIRE Staff, wood,fiber, beads,seed pods, copper coin, crucifix, cotton cloth, leather, metal, horns, pigment; H.96.5 cm. 104 YAKA,ZAIRE Comb, wood; H. 20 cm. The animated, wriggling forms ofthe mother and her independently minded child need the long, straight, absolutely unadorned lines supplied by the teeth ofthe comb. Without this contrast, the figures are too unrelieved. The stiff vertical ofthe mother's torso and neck, and the curved slanting lines ofher limbs and buttocks cancel each other without the third elementâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the straight slender columns below.






Standing female figure, wood:

Mask, wood, pigment, basketry;

H. 27.5 cm.

H.94.6 cm. Easy to analyze as simple variations on the theme ofthe triangle and the cone, this mask is nevertheless a highly sophisticated composition whose success is achieved, not through the elements used, but through perfect proportions.(Anyone who doubts this should close the book and try to draw the mask from memory) As the zigzag line formed by the lines on the cheeks and the lips descends the cone ofthe head, each angle becomes more acute than the last. To anyone unfamiliar with African art this might seem like the quintessential "scary face" African mask. In fact it is a very rare style.






Standing male figure, wood;

Power figure, wood, metal, hair,

H. 53.5 cm.

beads, animal teeth, leather; H. 28.5 cm.







Standing figure, wood, pigment;

Stool (?), wood, wire; L. 51.5 cm.

H. 49.5 cm. The swaying curves ofthe lower part ofthe body ofthis figure would seem vague and shapeless without the sharp geometry ofthe arms and shoulders. Characteristically African are this combination ofthe organic and the geometric, ofsoftness and rigor, ofthree dimensional carving and incised drawing (ofthe fingers and face). This use ofsculptural forms was virtually unknown to European artists until the end ofthe nineteenth century.











CHAD SUDAN 13 1 BURKINA FASO NIGERIA 15 16 2 GUINEA GUINEA-BISSAU BENIN 12 19 e River 5 20 16e0-' GHANA SIERRA LEONE-3 9 4 21 22 23 31 8 10 17 26 ln 18 LIBERIA_ 7 CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC I II -- 28 6 TOGO 25 27 29 24 CoTE D'IVOIRE 47 46 CAMEROON Gong° EQUATORIAL GUINEA_ 32 UGANDA 33 34 CONGO 45 KENYA GABON 35 . ZAIRE 49 36 48 —RWANDA 37 50 —BURUNDI 38 41 42 44 39 40 51 TANZANIA 43 55 52 Akye 10 Lega 48 53 54 57 56 Ambo 60 Lobi 15 Baga 2

Lovedu 61

Bamana 13

Luba 57

Bamileke 29

Lulua 52

Bangwa 28

Mahongwe 34

Baule II

Makonde 59

Bemba 58

Mambila 31

Bembe 38

Mangbetu 47

Bete 8

Mbole 45

Bidjogo I

Mende 3

Boa 46

Mfumte 30

Chokwe 53

Mumuye 23

Dan 7

Pedi 66

Dengese 44

Punu 36

Dogon 14

Senufo 12

Ejagham 27

Songye 54

Eket 25

Soninke 5

Fang 33

Sotho 62

Giriama 49

Suku 43

Grebo 6

Tabwa 56

Guro 9

Teke 41

Gurunsi 16

Temne 3

Hemba 50

Tiv 26

Igala 21

Urhobo 18

Ijo 24

Venda 65

Jain 20

Vili 37

Jukun 22

Xhosa 63

Kete 51

Yaka 42

Kongo 39

Yombe 40

Koro 19

Yoruba 17

Kota 35

Zulu 64









111 1 ,11


Kusu 55 Kwele 32


Senufo. Cote d'Ivoire Male and female figures. wood, beads, oil; H. 17 cm and 17.5 cm.


Unless otherwise noted, all works dote from the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth century. I Djenne culture, Mali Crouching figure, terracotta; H.45.5 cm.; 12th- I 7th century On stylistic grounds. this figure seems to be related to one in the Menil collection; it shares the same thick tube ears, and snakes running over the top of the head. down the cheeks and the sides of the arms(Houston, Menil Foundation 1987:122, fig. 80). The inflamed ears, swollen nipples, and pustule-like bumps seen on both figures may depict a figure at a particular stage of a disease. Although the formal relationship of these two figures is interesting, without archaeological evidence it is not possible to do more than hypothesize about their functional or aesthetic relationship. 2 Djenne culture, Mali Torque, bronze; H. 36 cm.; 12th-17th century Metalworking was highly developed in ancient Djenne. Excavations at Jenne-jeno (ancient Djenne) reveal copper ornaments at levels dated to circa A.D.400, and bronze ornaments in the ninth century. Among the Jenne-jeno burial bronzes, there are pieces twisted and hammered by handâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;as this piece appears to be, cast in open molds, and cast by the lost wax method. The use of this piece is unknown; although it appears to be a head or neck ornament, it is too small to fit over a head. 3 Bamana, Mali Female figure, wood; H. 59.5 cm. Called nyeleni, "little Nyele"(Nyele is a traditional girl's name whose diminutive means "pretty little one" or "little ornament"),figures like this one are carried from village to village by the young initiates of the Jo society, who tour the surrounding villages at the end of their period of seclusion. During their performances(numu jo), the initiates hold the sculptures as they sing and dance, or place them nearby on the ground. The inclusion of the sculptures not only makes the performance more pleasing, but reflects the desire of the young men to find wives. The full breasts and buttocks and slim waist of the figure correspond to the Bamana ideal of feminine beauty. Nyeleni sculptures are washed and rubbed with oil, clothed, and decorated with beads,so that they are prepared for the dance much the same way a young woman prepares herself for a special event. After their travels are over, the initiates return home for the final rituals ofJo initiation; now called "widows," the statues are stripped of their finery and set aside for the next group of initiates seven years later (Ezra 1986:20-24). Published: Gardi 1988, p. 58. 4 Dogon, Mali Couple, wood; H. 15.5 cm.; date unknown The male and female figures of this pair are very similar in form and gesture, reflecting. perhaps, not only the pairing of male and female beings in Dogon mythology but also the sexual duality the Dogon see as a spiritual component of every individual (Griaule 1947). Although such pairs are often identified as "the primordial couple," this terminology is imprecise; pairs of mythic male and female ancestors include various nommo,the original water spirits; their "children" the unum or eight ancestors of mankind; and their respective descendants(Ezra 1988:67). The small size of these figures with their integrally carved base is intriguing. The Dogon place sculpture on altars dedicated to the ancestral spirits of deceased family members. vageu: to ancestors who lived in the mythic times before death afflicted humanity, binu; and to the souls of women who died in pregnancy or childbirth, you pilu (Dieterlen 1941:216-227). Perhaps this sculpture was intended to be placed on a personal altar, as are larger male and female pairs. The encrusted, rather than oily, patina suggests that this object was placed on an altar where it would have received libations.

A Sando diviner may have a number of different figures, but must have a male and female pair. This essential image makes multiple references to the ancestors, the primordial couple, the ideal social unit of man and wife, twins, and the idealized Poro and Sandogo initiates. The sculptures, which are displayed during a divination session, act as a visual reference to, and substitute for, the real but invisible spirits, which speak through the objects tossed and read by the diviner. The beauty of the figures, in their form and detail, reflects the prestige and power of the Sando diviner who owns them (Glaze 1981:67). Unlike the Poro society, which is concerned with large public events such as funerals and initiations (see cat. no. 62), Sandogo, the association of diviners, most of whom are women,deals with day-to-day personal problems. Sandogo is responsible for safeguarding the purity of the matrilineage, and maintaining good relationships with the hierarchy of spiritual beings through divination. The fundamentals of the divination system are taught to all novices entering the Sandogo society, although only a small percentage are able to master the difficult system and become practicing diviners with a large clientele (Glaze 1981:57). 6 Undetermined style, Cote d'Ivoire Female figure, wood; H. 52 cm. This figure fits into the general sculptural style of the Sahel, but without collection data, it cannot be securely identified. It has been attributed to the northeastern Senufo region (Zurich, Museum Rietberg: fig. 78), but also resembles figures of the Mossi. Small Mossi figures, comparable in size to this statue, are used in ceremonies to honor the chief or to secure the mat door of the chief's compound (Roy 1987: 158, 170). The weathered surface of this figure suggests that it may have been exposed in this manner. Published: Zurich, Museum Rietberg 1987,fig. 78. 7 Bete or Guro, Cote d'Ivoire Mask with horns, wood, raffia; H.40 cm. The Bete and Guro, neighboring peoples in the south central area of the Cote d'Ivoire, share many artistic traditions (Fischer and Homberger 1985:87). Their masks usually appear in pairs: the male form frequently combines round eyes, horns, large open mouths and animal features, while the female form generally has slit eyes and a small mouth (Siegmann in Schmalenbach 1988:95). If Guro. this mask represents Zamble,the husband of Gu (see no. 7). The Zamble mask juxtaposes hunter and prey by combining the powerful jaws of the leopard with the elegant horns of the antelope. Unlike the restrained Gu,Zamble moves with fast steps, kicking up dust as he dances to the drums (Fischer and Homberger 1986:16, 20). 8 Guro,Cote d'Ivoire Mask with leopard claw coiffure, wood, paint; H.43.5 cm. This mask represents Gu,the wife of the powerful dancer Zamble. The mask has beautiful,feminine features and is meant to depict a brave female, which may account for the leopard paw with articulated claws which surmounts her coiffure. Gu appears in the sequence of performances after Zamble, and dances with restrained and simple movements broken by an occasional mime sequence. Unlike Zamble, Gu performs only to vocal and flute music, not to drums. The Gu and Zamble masks, together with one representing Zauli, the wild brother of Zamble, are owned by certain clans who maintain and protect them. Diviners frequently advise their clients to make sacrificial offerings to the masks to ensure health or to reverse misfortune (Fischer and Homberger 1986:20). Published: Fischer and Homberger 1985, p. 84. 9 Baule, Cote d'Ivoire Mask, wood; H. 22.5 cm. The gba gba dance is known as a "women's" dance, because women may participate and because the style of the dance movements is considered feminine. It is mainly for entertainment, and takes place on days of rest and for funerals of women and people particularly associated with this dance. Although gba gba is associated with the village and with women,the masks are worn by men. The masks,called ngblo, appear in a series of skits which present a microcosm of the human world. They appear in a fixed order of increasing prestige, skill and complexity,and though particular skits can be dropped, their overall sequence must be maintained. The first group of masks represents domestic animals, the second, bush animals. and the third, human beings. This rare mask depicts the sun or moon,celestial bodies usually represented by face masks surmounted by a disc or crescent(Vogel 1977:102,103,109; Vogel 1990:pers. comm.). Published: Rubin, W.,ed., 1984, v.1, p. 19.


JO Koma Culture, Ghana Helmet, bronze; H. 23 cm.; possibly 16th-I8th century

15 Punu, Gabon Spoon, wood; H. 17.5 cm.

In northern Ghana.funeral mounds, which measure from four to eighteen meters in diameter, contain a profusion of artifacts, mostly terracottas(Vion in Schmalenbach 1988:90). Cast by the lost wax method, this helmet, with its intricate surface patterns, shows an extremely sophisticated use of this technology. Its motifs are similar to those on helmets from northern Cote d'Ivoire which are often surmounted by equestrian figures. The zigzag pattern is commonly employed on both Lobi and Senufo bronzes.

Finely crafted, this spoon is surmounted by a human figure wearing an elaborate coiffure. Although traditionally food was eaten with the hands, a spoon may have been used by elders or other prominent individuals on important occasions. Traditional utilitarian objects such as this are increasingly rare; most have been replaced by manufactured items(Perrois 1985:fig.21).

11 Fang, Gabon Mask, wood, paint; H. 29 cm.

White face masks are made by many peoples of Gabon. Although they occur in a variety of styles and forms, most of these masks share a heart-shaped face, small mouth and prominent, slit eyes. They were used in funerals or for social control. Although early scholars suggested that the white face masks of the Ogowe river area perhaps were inspired by an oriental mask, possibly imported in the eighteenth century (because of a putative resemblance to Japanese noh masks), the complexity of this widespread tradition clearly refutes such notions (Perrois 1979:240). Published: Loran et al. 1974, no. 59.

White face masks which portray ancestors or spirits are prominent in the initiation rituals of young men. The masked dancers appear suddenly in the village, and stage a dramatic and frightening performance while punishing transgressors (Perrois 1985:150-151). Among the Fang, white is the color of the dead and of individuals "purified of the sin of birth." On ritual occasions. the Fang paint their bodies and faces with kaolin, a fine white clay, which has protective and curative properties(Fernandez 1982:490). The incised patterns on the cheeks of the mask suggest various motifs, such as the tail feathers of birds, tree branches, or frog feet. These symbolic elements are drawn from the myths and rituals of various associations, such as So and Ngil (Perrois 1985:224). 12 Fang. Gabon Reliquary guardian, head, wood, metal; H. 51 cm. Reliquary guardians exist in the form of heads as well as full figures. The long neck of the head is inserted into the reliquary, which substitutes for the body. Scholars have long debated whether one form antedates the other (Tessman 191 3,11:117; Fernandez in Vogel 1981:189: Perrois 1985:144). Before the establishment of colonial government,the Fang were a migratory people, establishing new villages as local resources were depleted. Fernandez argues that reliquary heads(and skulls) were more transportable than full figures, which came into use with the colonial sedentarization of the Fang in the nineteenth Century (in Vogel 1981:189). Perrois points out that both heads and full figures were found between 1880 and 1920 and suggests that the figures might have been preferred for use in performances(1985:143-144). 13 Fang, Gabon Reliquary guardian, male figure, wood,teeth, beads, metal; H.58 cm. The elongated torso, bulbous forearms and calves, and use of metal strips have been associated with northern Fang reliquary figures(Perrois 1985:141). This figure is probably holding a flute (the top portion is missing) of the type used in initiation ceremonies. Children and the ancestors are closely connected,for the Fang believe that when children are born they come from the land of the ancestors. In its carving style, the figure reflects the qualities most valued in adults, which are also preeminently characteristic of the ancestors: composure (nlem mvore), evenhanded tranquility (nwwaa), and the ability to hold opposites in balance (bipwe) (Fernandez and Fernandez 1975:742). The well-rounded limbs are like those of a healthy child, while the glossy, domed head resembles both the skull within the reliquary, and the round, hairless head of an infant. Published: Einstein 1915/1920. Abb. 40; Sweeney 1935, pl. 322; Radin and Sweeney 1952, pl. 68; Oberlin College 1955, pl. 53; Laude 1968, p. 303; Perrois 1972. p.65.

16 Kota, Gabon Mask, wood, paint; H. 32 cm.

17 Mahongwe. Gabon Reliquary guardian, metal over wood; H. 47 cm. According to the Mahongwe. these figures, called bwiti, are symbolic portraits of the ancestors. Large figures like this one represent clan founders, while smaller figures represent lineage heads(Perrois 1985:45). Bwiti guard the bark boxes or baskets which contain the skulls and other bones of the ancestors. The reliquary ensemble retains the power of these important men, who continue to protect and benefit their families (Siroto 1968:22-27). Published: Chaffin 1979. p. 85; Paris, Fondation Dapper 1987. no. 16; Florence 1989, cat. 84. 18 Vili, Zaire or Cabinda Potlid, man with a bird, wood; Diam. 19.5 cm. The wooden potlid formed a basic means of communication among family members,for its figural group addresses crucial issues of marriage and other family matters. Most Woyo potlids were exchanged between marriage partners, traditionally at the communal dining place for men, where each wife brought her husband food in an earthenware pot. The pot was usually covered with leaves, but an angry wife substituted a pictographic lid describing her feelings; the use of the lid declared that the issue was no longer a private dispute. but was being put before the community (McGuire 1980:55). Similarly, a husband could give a message to his wife by placing a carved lid on top of the pot at the end of the meal. The tableaux sometimes convey their messages directly. but more often indirectly through proverbs which employ analogy, metaphor, metonomy or homophony(Maesen 1960:31). 19 Vili, Zaire or Cabinda Potlid, traveller in a hammock, wood; Diam. 23 cm. This tableau focuses on two sets of figures: two porters carrying a person in a hammock,and a man and woman facing each other. On another potlid, the motif of the traveler carried in a hammock has been connected with the proverb "U beta koko, ienda mu chipoia! U beta kulu, simba ntif "which addresses social injustices using the metaphor of burden-bearing (Vaz 1969:430). Although we can not be sure of its meaning without knowing the proverbs related to each element, this tableau almost surely pertains to a marital conflict.

14 Punu/Lumbo, Gabon Hook,figure of a drummer. wood; H. 15 cm.

20 Bembe or Teke, Zaire Female figure. wood,encrustation; H. 33 cm.

Although the long hair of the drumming figure is a useful element from which to hang this suspension hook, it also has a spiritual aspect which transcends its utilitarian nature. According to Robert Farris Thompson,such long hair, worn in a long-tailed coiffure called tuumba by the northern Bakongo. can perform miracles; Kongo traditionalists believe that a person with long hair has an aura, like a meteor with its trailing streamers. The interlace motif below the figure shares this double nature: while the interstices provide places to attach nets or bags, the design itself brings to mind the circle of life (Thompson in Baldwin et al. 1986:186). Published: St. Etienne, Musee d'art et d'industrie 1956, no. 140; Besancon, Palais Granvelle 1958, no.420, pl. XXII; Robbins 1966, p. 190; Preston 1969. p. 36: Duponcheel 1980; Syracuse 1964, no. 55.

Sculpture of the Sibviti and Komono regions, inhabited by the Bembe,Teke and other groups, is characterized by a sense of geometrical order and a tendency to divide up the human figure into individual elements(Volavka in Schmalenbach 1988:233). This bilaterally symmetrical figure, with its clearly defined limbs, seems to reflect these artistic conventions. 21 Kongo, Zaire Small power figure, wood; H. 10 cm. Small n'kisi such as this are personal power figures serving an individual or household, in contrast to the larger figures which serve an entire community. Such figures guard against illness and misfortune,or inflict these ills on enemies. The four holes on the torso may have been intended to serve as fastening points for the various magical ingredients which empower n'kisi figures. A plain wooden statue has no power until these ingredients are added (MacGaffey & Janzen 1974:87). A mirror would probably have been affixed to the stomach of the figure to deflect evil and cast it onto enemies.


22 Songye, Zaire Mask, wood, paint; H. 37 cm.

27 Tabwa, Zaire Ax handle with head, wood; H. 56.5 cm.

Kifwebe masquerades are identified with nature; the performers are perceived as supernatural, socially alien beings of the wilderness and mountains. Various features of the mask are associated with different animals and elements of nature: the sides of the face are called sun and moon, the eyes are called holes of termite mounds, and the chin, crocodile. The white markings of a certain species of forest antelope are believed to have inspired the striated designs. These associations endow the masks with the behavioral characteristics and strengths of these animals. The Kifwebe society enforces allegiance and obedience to the chief. By upholding the social order through supernatural means and the collecting of fines at its performances, the society preserves the traditional powers of the ruling elite. Female masks,such as this example, lack the high central crest characteristic of male masks. Embodying mystical powers, they perform in a more restrained manner than male masks and encourage benevolent nature spirits to bring descendants to the villagers (Hersak 1986:38,46-62,66). Published: Clouzot and Level n.d.. pl. XXXI; Paris, Fondation Dapper 1986, no. 38; Thompson and de Grunne 1988,fig. 152.

Among the Tabwa, ritual axes, like the present example, are signs of prestige and power. They are often beautifully carved, with the handle terminating in a human head. An iron blade would have been inserted in the hole beneath the head. When they go into the forest, most men carry an ax as an all-purpose tool; diviners also use them to cut chips of medicinal bark or root. Decorated axes are carried by diviners as an emblem of their profession. The ax represents the diviner's powers to heal and protect his clients from agents of harm (Maurer and Roberts 1986:173). Published: Maurer and Roberts 1986, p. 257.

23 Luba, Zaire Stool with standing female figure, wood; H.41.5 cm. Though she seems to play a subservient, literally supporting, role, this caryatid figure is nonetheless a royal personage, as evidenced by her elaborate coiffure and scarification. As such she may be both a generalized symbol of ancestral continuity and a reference to a specific, influential woman. Figural stools are reserved for the king and play an important role in enthronement ceremonies. The stool is placed on a leopard skin to prevent the king's feet from touching the ground to symbolize his rule over even the most powerful of animals(Nooter 1984). Published: Leuzinger 1972, p. 329; Leuzinger 1978, no. I 20. 24 Luba, Zaire Bowstand, wood; H. 55 cm. Bowstands were functional in that the three prongs are designed to hold and display the king's bow, but they are also important symbols of royal power. Bowstands were kept within private enclosures, along with relics and other emblems of past rulers, where they regularly received sacrifices and prayers. Like the stool, neckrest, staff, and other emblems of royal authority, the bowstand is adorned with a female figure(Nooter 1984). 25 Luba Shankadi, Zaire Standing female figure. wood, beads, metal horn: H.40 cm. This magnificent figure is one of two that may be by the same hand (Neyt 1981:247). Both figures are characterized by a dynamic, angular treatment of the body, with special attention paid to the ornamentation of the head. They wear the characteristic, tiered Shankadi coiffure (see cat. no. 26 and 105). Without collection information for either of these figures. the identity of this artist remains unknown to Western scholars. Although the identity of individual artists was often disregarded by early collectors in Africa, the works of several individual Luba artists have been isolated (Bassani 1976; Vogel I 980b). 26 Luba Shankadi, Zaire: The Master of the Cascade Coiffure Neckrest. seated figure. wood, beads; H. 16 cm. Neckrests were used as sleeping pillows by men and women in order to preserve the elaborate coiffures for which the Luba are known. Many coiffures are worked over a framework of cane and fixed with oil and clay; they can take many hours to produce and may last two or three months. While some styles are worn by both men and women,others are associated with a particular status (Vogel 1980b:134). This type of elaborate coiffure is worn by the figure which supports the neckrest, recalling the purpose of the piece. The double-tiered coiffure is characteristic of the work of this artist, who is known as the Master of the Cascade Coiffure. In addition to the treatment of the tiered coiffure, the distinguishing characteristics of this artist's style are long, thin arms and legs, often arranged in sharply angled postures; a cylindrical, erect torso; coffee bean-shaped eyes and a small nose and mouth. Collection data for several of this master's sculptures permit a tentative identification of his working area as the eastern part of the Shaba region. not far from an area inhabited by the Hemba. The figures on his headrests sometimes wear the cruciform Hemba coiffure (cf. Bassani 1976:87, fig. 20, 21). Published: Bassani 1976. p. 81; Vogel 1980b, p. 137; Falgayrettes 1989. p. 69.

28 Lulua, Zaire Crouching figure, wood with artificial patina; H. 10 cm. Lulua artists traditionally carve small, crouching figures, posed with the elbows touching the knees and the face resting on the hands. The meaning of these figures is not clear. They may represent a chief, kalamba, in an attitude of contemplation,or a guardian spirit(Cornet 1971). and were possibly used by diviners(Maesen 1982:57). Among the Lulua, healthy, attractive skin is the sign of both physical and moral beauty, buimpe; the surface of such small figures is often enhanced by detailed scarification and a gleaming patina. Published: Siroto 1976, p. 64. 29 Lulua, Zaire Mask, wood, paint, raffia; H. 35 cm. The Lulua use masks during circumcision rites; the names of the masks and the text of the songs which accompany their performances suggest that they represent the spirits of the dead (Maesen 1960:19). The red and white concentric circles represent the scarification pattern tshilenge tshilu(Timmermans 1966:20). Torday noted that this form of body ornament was achieved by scoring lines in the skin to create curvilinear patterns which did not project above the surface, an effect called to mind by the execution of these designs in paint on the mask (1913:3). Published: Brussels, Societe General de Banque 1974, p.76. 30 Lega, Zaire Mask, wood,fiber, paint; H. 25.5 cm.(mask only) Wooden masks are associated with the Bwami society, which regulates the moral and political life of Lega villages. Men,and women up to a certain point, pass through various grades, accumulating knowledge, honor and prestige. The highest grade. kindi, is reached at an advanced age, and its members are highly respected for their wisdom. These masks, known as idumu, are associated with these very high ranking individuals. They are kept with other initiation objects in collectively owned baskets. During initiations, they are sometimes worn on the face or the back of the head; they may also be affixed to fences in a display of maskettes or placed on symbolic graves (Biebuyck 1986:44). In unique rites, these masks form part of the attire of women of high initiatory status(Biebuyck 1986:5). The white surface is a reference to the skulls of ancestors while the beard represents the beard of an elder. The small incisions around the mouth represent teeth. 31 Mbole,Zaire Mask, wood, paint; H.44.8 cm. The plank masks of the Mbole appear during the initiation ceremony which inducts boys into the Lilwa society. Boys are initiated into Lilwa between the ages of seven and twelve, after circumcision (the daughters of the highest ranking members of the society may also be initiated)(Biebuyck 1976:56). The initiation teachings are illustrated with dances, songs, dramatic enactments, narratives, and objects. The objects used on these occasions include the wellknown ofika figures, representing offenders hanged by Lilwa, as well as masks such as the present example. The masks are worn by the Lilwa title holders. ikonikoy, who serve as executioners(Neyt 1981:30). The lack of a mouth,one of this mask's most striking features, may relate to the extreme secrecy required of Lilwa members. Published: Gillon 1979. p. 108. 32 Bembe. Zaire Mask, wood, paint; H.48 cm. Among the Bembe,'alungo is an ancient nature spirit, which, unlike other minor nature spirits called biskeo, is not associated with a specific dwelling place on a mountain, in a valley or river. The mask is performed privately among initiated members of the society, on which occasions it is invoked for success in hunting and health for the village; in its public performance in the village, the mask serves


as an agent of social control, enforcing some of the desires of the 'alunga association. The mask is worn by a senior member of the society with a porcupine quill headpiece and a long fiber costume. The initiation ceremonies emphasize the omnipresence of the mask and the nature spirit it represents; the maskers sometimes identify themselves with certain mysterious or omnipresent animals, such as the owl or civet cat. The two faces and enormous eyes of the mask emphasize its superhuman powers of vision, perhaps reinforcing its association with the almost supernaturally perceptive owl and civet. The small mouth must have been in striking contrast with the special, raucous voice adopted by the dancer during performances(Biebuyck 1972:77,78). Published: Brussels, Societe General de Banque 1974, p.89.

38 Chokwe,Angola or Zaire Neckrest,standing figure, wood; H. 14.5 cm. The flat face of this figure with features incised or rendered in low relief, recalls faces with delicate, precisely rendered features that appear on many Chokwe prestige items(see cat. no. 39). The use of the caryatid female figure may reflect the importance of women among the matrilineal Chokwe. In the mid-nineteenth century, using the wealth accumulated by selling ivory and beeswax. Chokwe men acquired wives among neighboring peoples, rapidly increasing both their population and their territory (Koloss 1990:53). Published: Falgayrettes 1989, p. 82. 39 Chokwe,Angola or Zaire Ax, wood, metal; L. 59 cm.

33 Bembe,Zaire Male figure, wood: H. 56 cm. The Bembe and related groups inhabiting the western shore of Lake Tanganyika venerate heroic ancestors, the founders of lineages and leaders of migrations. Ancestors make their wishes known through dreams or divination and can strike the living with sickness and misfortune if displeased (Biebuyck 1981:24-26). In each village, wooden figures of the ancestors inhabit shrines maintained by the various lineages. This figure's serene, dignified appearance is characteristic; the dentate pattern carved along the jaw represents an elder's beard. 34 Bembe,Zaire Staff with male figure. wood; H. 27.5 cm. This figure is similar in style to the large commemorative ancestor portraits carved by the Bembe and related groups. The large head with its heavy coiffure and high-domed forehead, the barlike treatment of the shoulders, and the somewhat hunched posture of the arms are characteristic of the Boyo style. This figure may have served as the handle of a fly whisk (cf. Kecskesi 1987, fig. 416). The high quality of the piece indicates that it belonged to a prominent religious or political leader. Published: Vogel 1980. p.40. 35 Mangbetu, Zaire Knife in sheath, wood,leather, metal, fiber; H. 31 cm.

Although the ax is a common tool, the fine carving and decorated blade indicate that this one is a prestige item. The motif of interlocking arcs is one of a group of designs based on curves called mahenga. This particular design is called kapwita. the name of a snake (Bastin 1961:98). The central, relief-carved face recalls the masks made to celebrate beautiful young women. 40 Makonde, Mozambique Mask, wood, wax, nails; H. 20 cm. This mask probably represents a male, as the female masks are often adorned with the large labret worn by Makonde women. Masks perform at the conclusion of the initiation period, when both boys and girls come out of their respective initiation camps, and the community celebrates the arrival of these newly adult members. Three days of feasting and dancing follow; through the masked dancers, the spirits of ancestors share in these important celebrations(Wembah-Rashid 1970:44). Scarification patterns are often depicted with wax applied to the surface of Makonde masks. On this example,the wax outlines the eyes, nose, and upper lip, accentuating these features. The nails along the forehead of the mask probably served to attach a piece of hide or fur to represent hair (cf. Franz 1969:45). Published: Winizki 1972, p. 172, 173. 41 Undetermined style, Eastern Africa Figure of a girl, wood, beads; H.48 cm.

Elaborate knives were traditional prestige items, this one is further enhanced by its figurative handle. The intricately wrought leather sheath with its metal binding indicates the high status of the owner as does the anthropomorphic handle, carved in the form of a beautiful woman with elongated cranium and fashionable, tall coiffure. Professional blacksmiths forged the iron blades and also carved the elaborate knife handles(Schildkrout et al. 1989:42). According to Enid Schildkrout, works by this artist were also collected by the American Museum of Natural History explorers Lang and Chapin (Horstmann 1990:pers. comm.).

This tall, thin figure with short arms clearly belongs to the Eastern/Southern Africa cultural complex, although it does not bear a specific attribution. The NgunifThonga make similar figures. The Nguni/Thunga figures do not seem to represent ancestors, despite the traditional veneration of ancestors, and some scholars have speculated that they were carved in response to European influence (Holy 1967:59). However, because so little art historical research has been done in this area such conclusions seem premature.

36 Mangbetu. Zaire Pipe: female figure, wood; H.9 cm.

42 Makonde, Mozambique Snuff container with figurative stopper. wood, beads; H. 11.5 cm.(closed)

This wood pipe in the form of a female figure was a prestige item. Although anthropomorphic art was made for local use, its production was intensified by the increased presence of foreigners in the area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Early collectors report that kings and chiefs patronized the arts to enrich their courts and commissioned works which were presented as gifts to visitors. The tradition of figurative pipes seems to have been relatively well established in the region if not among the Mangbetu; in the 1860s, Carlo Piaggia and Orazio Antinori collected anthropomorphic terracotta pipes among the neighboring Bongo and Azande (Schildkrout et al. 1989:40,41).

During the early part of the twentieth century the German ethnographer Weule commented on the small, finely executed containers carved by the Makonde to hold tobacco or medicines(Franz 1969:44). The stopper of this one has both human and animal traits. The finely carved patterns on the cheeks suggest elaborate scarification, an important form of adornment among the Makonde.

37 Boa, Zaire Standing figure, wood; H.42 cm. This boldly carved figure is one of a small group of works which has been variously attributed to the neighboring Boa and Ngelima. The scarification marks on the forehead are reminiscent of those formerly worn by the Ngelima and which sometimes appear on Ngelima sculpture. The pierced, laterally projecting ears, although rather small, are typical of Boa figures. Figures like this one may have been used as grave sculptures, as is sometimes the case among the Boa. They may have been commemorative images made by and for outstanding individuals. The excellent condition of the figures suggests that they were kept in houses or shrines. In the early part of the twentieth century, wooden statues were rarely seen in this part of Zaire, and very few have been collected since then. It has been suggested that no established tradition of making such statues existed in the area at the time, and that they may not have been deeply rooted in the local religious and sociopolitical systems(Burssens in Vogel 1981:235,236).

43 Bemba,Zambia Figure, wood, beads; H. 29 cm. With its elongated proportion, tubular limbs and torso, and lightly incised facial features. thisâ&#x20AC;˘figure is characteristic of the "pole" style of eastern Africa. Some Bemba figures are decorated with scarification on face and body. perhaps influenced by Zairian art(Holy 1967:55). 44 Sotho, Lesotho Snuff container, horn, wood; H. I 3 cm. The small size of this horn indicates that it was a powder-flask or snuff-bottle (Holy 1967:46). It has a separate wooden base fitted into the wider end and a hole in the chest of the human figure through which the gun-powder or snuff was shaken. 45 Venda or Pedi, South Africa Pair of figures(female giving birth), wood, shell, nails; H. 34 cm. and 39 cm. Light-colored wood blackened with a hot knife characterizes much of the sculpture of southern Africa. The proportion of these figures is fuller than the more attenuated forms commonly associated with eastern and southern African sculpture. The birth scene is very unusual,for among many African peoples, men are forbidden to be present at birthings.


46 Lovedu. South Africa Roof finial figure. wood; H.47 cm. This sculpture represents a boy in initiation dress, complete with helmet mask. The original outfit is made of a very thick grass, with bandoliers of grass ribbons crisscrossing the initiate's chest. This finial figure is an abstract representation of the symbolically important costume, a reference to humanity's origins in the water and emergence from the reeds. Originally the figure had separately carved arms, the hands holding a stick and club, and its head was surmounted by feathers (the holes are still visible). Symbolizing the new vitality of the people. this figure was mounted on the roof of Modjadji IV's house when she succeeded her mother in 1959(Horstmann 1990: pers. comm.). 47 Zulu, South Africa Meat dish, wood; H. 34 cm. Zulu meat dishes. ugooko, usually have a natural, uncolored surface on the interior, while the remainder of the piece is blackened with a hot knife (Grossert 1978:93). This dish directly equates the female form with the shape of the dish; a well-known Zulu spoon in the Musee de l'Homme makes a similar connection between the female body and the shape of a utilitarian object of prestige value (cf. Vogel and N'Diaye I 985:fig. 99).

may have been derived from the zigzag scarification formerly worn by the Mijikenda(Wolfe 1986:57). Rarely do these figures have modeled heads, as in this example. The flat-faced figure, with its distinctively shaped neck and semicircular designs representing hips or shoulders, probably belongs to the Chonyi subgroup (cf. Wolfe 1986, pl. 8). Published: Gillon 1979, P.148.


48 Xhosa, South Africa Container in bovine form,skin, pigment; H. 10.7 cm. The bull is a characteristic image in the art of the Xhosa. Sotho and other cattle-herding peoples of southern Africa. Such figures are made by a technique similar to papier mache. Scrapings of animal-skin or entrails are modeled over a clay core which is removed when the figure is set(Holy 1967:60). This container may have been used for tobacco or snuff. 49 Ambo,South Africa Figure, wood. leather, beads, buttons, metal, fiber; H. 36 cm. Figures such as this, often called "dolls," have been variously identified as children's toys or devices to enhance fertility and encourage the birth of beautiful children(Holy 1967:61). This figure depicts a beautiful woman with bead-ornamented hair. wearing earrings, necklaces, and several hide and bead girdles. These accoutrements suggest that she possesses not only wealth but social status, for many forms of dress and adornment are limited to individuals who have achieved a certain social status such as marriage or motherhood. Published: Holy 1967, no. 148. SO Mambila, Cameroon; Ejagham peoples. Nigeria Metal currencies, iron, copper; H. 38 and 63 cm. The shape of the Mambila iron currency is probably derived from the shape of a hoe; the doubling of the blade (a hoe would have a single triangular blade) has made this an object which does not function as an agricultural tool, but as a medium of exchange (Westerdijk 1988:no. 6.7). In other societies, metal circulated in the form of easily transportable wires or bars, such as this bunch of copper wires. Many foreigners—from al-Husayn, circa 950 AD., to the Benin Punitive Expedition in 1897—remarked upon the widespread preference in Africa for copper over gold as a medium of exchange and for adornment (Herbert 1984:296). SI Kwele, Gabon Metal currency. iron. H.49 cm. This iron currency is called mandjong. Although seemingly shaped like an arrow, the form was probably derived from the shape of a hoe (Westerdijk I 988:no. 8). Like many currency forms derived from utilitarian objects, the basic implement has undergone a modification and elaboration which allows it to function on a symbolic level (Herbert 1984:227). 52 Dengese, Zaire Metal currency, iron; H. 68 cm. The oshele was primarily an emblem of rank that also functioned as a form of currency. Though this object is much larger in size, its shape is derived from the multi-bladed throwing knife, a weapon used in many parts of Africa. Manufactured by the Dengese. such objects were also used by the Songo-meno. Nkutshu, and Kela (Westerdijk I 988:no. 2). 53 Giriama. Kenya Memorial posts. wood; H. 207 and 178 cm. Among the Giriama, memorial effigies (vigango) are erected to honor and appease the spirits of deceased members of the Gohu society. Vigongo are not "tombstones,"for they are not normally erected at the deceased's grave nor at the time of his burial (Parkin in Wolfe 1986:17). The incised and chip-carved motifs suggest body features such as shoulders, ribs, and umbilicus. These patterns

Unless otherwise noted, all works date from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century. 54 Djenne culture. Mali Pendant, terracotta, slip; H. 9.5 cm.; 16th-17th century This small figure. pieced through under the chin, may have served as a pendant. The remains of a reddish slip are visible on its right side. Red slip may associate the figure with the spiritual world,for the deceased were anointed with oil and red ochre before burial (de Grunne 1980:37). Many Djenne figures depict individuals who seem to suffer disease or deformity; this figure is hunchbacked. The symbolic significance of the figure, with its intricate, plaited coiffure, and facial scarification, is not known. A thermoluminescence test performed at Oxford estimated the date of this pendant as 1530-1700. SS Djenne culture. Mali Mother with many "children," terracotta; H. 35 cm.; 15th-16th century A large, seated female figure embraces two smaller figures in front and wraps an arm around to hold two smaller ones pressed against her back. At first this appears to be a maternity group, yet it is important to note that the smaller figures appear to be adults. Terracotta sculptures from the inland Niger River delta may have been created to honor ancestors. A terracotta figure in this style excavated at Jenne-jeno (ancient Djenne) in 1977 had been placed in a round mud-brick structure in association with a spherical pot, a round object with a relief of serpents, a ceramic mortar and pestle with traces of a red substance and a large bowl containing carbonized grain. Domestic ancestral altars, consisting of an anthropomorphic figure placed on a platform, were reported as late as 1910 in the Jenne area (McIntosh and McIntosh 1979:52). A thermoluminescence test performed at Oxford University in 1980 estimated the date of this sculpture as 1450-1600. Published: Robbins and Nooter 1989. P. 67. 56 Dogon, Mali Mother and child, wood, metal, leather; H.66.5 cm.; date unknown The glossy patina may indicate that the figure was displayed at the funerals of prominent members of the community. A smaller figure nestles on the woman's back,framed by the jutting shoulders and buttocks. Although the relationship of the two suggests a mother carrying her child, the small figure appears to be an adult. The sculpture may be an ancestral figure, celebrating women as progenitors. 57 Djenne culture, Mali Animal, terracotta; L. 59.5 cm.; 12th-17th century It is tempting to interpret the large, placid (bovine?) animal as domestic, both because the people seem to show no fear of it, and because it seems to wear a harness or collar. The activities of the two figures—one stands under the beast's mouth and holds a knife, the other kneels under its body and drinks from a cup— suggest that this may be a ceremonial or sacrificial scene. The surface of the animal is incised with a spiral motif, perhaps intended to evoke the texture of fur.


58 Bamana, Mali Equestrian figure, wood, metal; H. 59 cm. Among the Bamana, art is something that attracts the viewers' attention, focusing their eyes and directing their thoughts. In fact, Bamana often define the role of figurative sculpture in a particular context as masiri,"a decoration," and the sculptures themselves are usually lavishly decorated while in use (Ezra 1986:10). Equestrian figures are associated with the Kore society initiation ceremonies. They symbolize knowledge and the path followed by initiates leading to immortality (Bassani 1978:227). The large size of the rider compared to the mount emphasizes his power. The relationship is dramatized by the framing of the small elegant horse's head by the figure's oversized hands. Published: Bassani 1978,fig. 23; Robbins and Nooter 1989, p. 78. 59 Lobi, Ivory Coast Figure, wood; H. 36.5 cm. Lobi figures with one arm raised depict "dangerous people," ti puo, thought to be more effective in the struggle against malevolent forces than figures with arms at their sides. When the two types stand together on the same shrine, the ti puo decide what each should do; the Lobi say that the more passive looking figures "belong" to the dangerous ones(Meyer 1986:88). 60 Dogon, Mali Kneeling female figure, wood; H. 45 cm.; date unknown The kneeling woman is frequently depicted in Dogon art. Women kneel at funerals as a sign of their grief and in gratitude CO the deceased for a productive life (Griaule. Dieterlen cited in Ezra 1988:46). It is possible that figures of kneeling women are intended to honor the ancestors with this same gesture,for many Dogon figures are placed on ancestral altars dedicated to deceased family members. This sculpture was reportedly collected in the Bandiagara region. 61 Bidjogo, Guinea Bissau Female figure, wood, metal; H.60 cm. Young women perform with these figures during the preinitiation dances. The figures are carried on the hips to show that the young women are not married, and therefore are not carrying real children. The thin, straight body. small breasts, and flat stomach of the figure reflect the girls' own physical immaturity (GalloisDuquette 1982:133). Published Robbins and Nooter 1989. p. 138. 62 Senufo, Ivory Coast Figure (rhythm pounder), wood; H. 104 cm. Originally one of a male and female pair, this figure evokes an ideal woman. not only through its physical beauty, but also through its expression of moral, intellectual, and spiritual perfection. It served the Poro society which trains individuals in courage. strength, truth, knowledge. obedience, endurance and discipline of mind and body (Glaze 1981:196). Among the Senufo, the important events which begin and end life are not physical birth and death, but rather the ritual opening and closing of life through initiation and the commemorative funeral led by the Poro society. At the funeral, the ancestral couple represented by figures such as this one,stand in a position of honor as guardians, watching over the site where the body of the deceased will be brought for final ancestral rites, and where masks perform. The aggressive, animalistic forms of the masks contrast sharply with the idealized humanity of the couple (Glaze 1981:196,197). 63 Baga, Guinea Figure, wood; H. 25.5 cm. The hands-to-chin pose of this figure is characteristic of small statues created for nature spirits. These figures are housed in shrines located under a tree at the edge of the village. Through offerings made at these shrines, spirits can be contacted, and in some measure controlled (Chevrier 1906:362). The elongated head resembles a nimbo mask, which personifies fecundity, protects pregnant women and helps sterile women conceive. 64 Soninke, Guinea Bissau Finial, bronze; H. 20 cm. This staff finial, with its ensemble of two equestrian figures. women carrying scoops, kneeling figures, and dogs, is a particularly elaborate version of the usual sono staff composition. The meaning and use of sono are not fully known;an 1885 inscription describes an example in the Pigorini Museum as a bronze idol, "the representation of the War God of'Mamedi Pate,' king or chieftain of the 'Fulas' tribe"(Bassani 1979:46). Contemporary scholars have interpreted sono as the insignia of a king's or chief's temporal power; the staffs may also have served as

religious insignia before conversion to Islam. Tradition states that the Soninke, or Mandingo, who are credited with having introduced these staffs to the area, came from Mali, where horsemen are a recurrent theme in art (Bassani 1979:44, 47). Published: Bassani 1979, p. 47; Washington, D.C. 65 Baga, Guinea Stool, wood,iron. pigment; H. 42.2 cm. This stool is supported by two male and two female figures. The female figures hold their breasts in a gesture widespread in African art which expresses generosity and greeting. Aside from one nearly identical stool, Baga seats in this form are unknown. A Baga drum,collected earlier in this century, is also supported by two male and two female figures, although these are stylistically closer to nimba masks or figures of forest spirits (see cat. no. 63)than to the figures supporting this stool (van Geertruyen 1976:88. 89). 66 Pomdo,Sierra Leone Figure, soapstone; H. 14 cm. Small stone figures, called nomoli by the Mende and pomdo by the Kissi, are found throughout the southeastern half of Sierra Leone and in adjacent portions of Guinea and Liberia, though not in scientific excavations. Stylistic connections have been drawn between these stone figures and the Afro-Portuguese ivories which date to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries(Lamp 1990:48) and several figures reproduce details from sixteenth century Portuguese armor(Paulme in Vogel 1981:62). This kneeling female figure holds her breasts as do the female figures supporting the Baga stool (cat. no. 65). 67 Mende,Sierra Leone Figure, wood; H.69 cm. The most important women's society in Sierra Leone is known as Sande or Bundu. A statue called minsere belongs to the head of the society, Sowei. Although these figures do not represent specific ancestors, they embody positive characteristics and sanction ancestral authority. The headwoman holds the figure by the arms and speaks to it about infractions of the law (Lamp 1973:6-9). The ringed neck of the figure represents the neck creases which are a sign of great beauty, because they simultaneously suggest wealth, high status, and vitality and are also considered sexually attractive. According to certain Mende sources, God gives everyone a regular, functional neck, but he gives a ringed neck to those whom he has selected for special blessings and favors. The elaborately braided coiffure is a distinctly feminine sign of beauty. Because men shave their heads or crop their hair very closely, it is said they do not have hair, but a head of long, thick hair is admired on a woman (Boone 1986:167,169.184). Published: Rotterdam, Museum voor Land- en Volkenkunde, 1967, cat. no. 2/02 (not illus.). 68 Dan, Liberia or Cote d'Ivoire Guardian head, beads, cotton string, fibers, wax, metal, cloth; H. 35.6 cm. Guardian heads such as this are more common than full figures among the Dan. Kept in many private residences they embody protective spirits and are also associated with secret societies as embodiments of a benevolent spirit. In the society of field clearers the sculpture is placed on a bundle of rice plants as a goal post: it marks the farthest area to be cleared. As the members work toward the guardian head, the spirit it embodies protects them from jealous non-members as well as from the bullets of hunters who might mistake them for animals. The member who first reaches the guardian is entitled to dance with it in evening festivities (Fischer and Himmelheber 1984:119). 69 Grebo. Cote d'Ivoire Mask, wood, pigment, nails; H. 55.6 cm. The Grebo make several types of masks, of which this abstract type with multiple eyes is the most well known to Western viewers. Although Grebo masks are among the most celebrated works of African art, due to their popularity among European artists of the early twentieth century, little is known about their use. Representing spirits, the masks are associated with a sacred area within the forest where community ceremonies are held. Masked dancers perform both privately for initiates on ritual occasions and as general entertainment(Meneghini 1974:36-39). 70 Baule, Cote d'Ivoire Mask, wood, pigment; H. 49.5 cm. Portrait masks may be commissioned by an admirer of the subject or made on the initiative of the carver, but they should not be made without the permission of the subject. Each portrait mask is known by the name of its subject, though as a type they may also be called n'domo, meaning double or namesake, a term not restricted to masks. Such a mask is a compliment to its subject and may be carved if she is beautiful or an exceptional dancer. Portrait masks appear singly at the end of the gbo gbo dance in an order determined by the skill of their dancers, with the best performing last(Vogel 1977:117, 118).


The portrait is identifiable partly by the scarification depicted, which on this mask includes three marks at the eyes(aka dya or "chicken's feet") and three small ones at the corners of the mouth. These marks, called kanga (slave), were given to a child born after the death of several children of the same mother, in the hope that Death would not want to take a child with these scarifications. The kaolin applied to the eyes recalls the kaolin painted on the eyes and mouths of spirit mediums before a public performance as an aid to clairvoyance. The kaolin indicates that they will see and speak the truth (Vogel in Rubin. A. 1988:100- 104). 71 Baule. Cote d'Ivoire Mother and child, wood; H. 49.5 cm. Prior to birth, each person had a spouse and children who remain in the other world when the individual is born. These spirit wives and husbands (blob° bla, or blobo bian) are sometimes angry or jealous of earthly lovers, and they can interfere maliciously in the spouse's life. On the recommendation of a diviner, a figure is carved for the spirit to inhabit, so that it can be contacted and appeased, bringing good fortune. The need for a blob bla or blob bian figure is signaled by misfortunes, usually related to marriage or children. The finely carved coiffure and scarification honor the spirits by depicting them as good members of the community (Vogel 1973:23,25). 72 Akye, Cote d'Ivoire Mother and child, wood; H. 46.5 cm. Sculptures owned by diviners act as messengers between the human and spirit worlds. The wishes of the spirits are reported to clairvoyants by their sculptures through dreams or visions. Diviners usually ask artists to carve the figures as idealized images of beautiful young women which will appeal to both humans and spirits. The seated posture of this figure may reflect its important role in the divination process,for traditionally only persons of exalted status were allowed to sit on stools (Visona 1983:102-104). 73 Yoruba. Nigeria Shrine sculpture. wood, pigment; H. 104.5 cm. This sculpture, an arugba Shango, was part of a shrine for Shango. deified fourth king of Oyo-lle. In the bowl, devotees kept neolithic celts. the thunderbolts Shango hurls at those who do not acknowledge his authority(Drewal et al. 1989:155). Devotion to Shango, an unpredictable. capricious and self-serving god (orisha), is difficult, but the faithful devotee is able to share in his power. The bowl is a metaphor for the devotee's womb; it contains the thunderbolts, evidence of Shango's power,just as the womb contains the child created through the power of Shango, the giver of children (Drewal et al. 1989:162-163). The central female figure is composed and graceful, despite the burden she bears, both literally, and metaphysically, as the worshipper of Shango. 74 Yoruba, Nigeria Shrine sculpture. wood; H.74 cm. Attributed to Bamgboye of Odo Owa (died 1978) Since the central, mounted figure depicts a priestess of Oya, wife of Shango, this work was probably carved for a shrine of Oya(Fagg and Pemberton 1982:126). On her forehead, the priestess wears an oshe shango, the thunder ax symbol which devotees of Shango, the god of thunder and lightning, carry as dance wands at festivals. Female equestrian figures are very rare in Yoruba art, and the unusual depiction of a mounted woman reflects the priestess's power and high status. The sculpture combines royal and ritual imagery. In her right hand the priestess holds a fan, sign of royal privilege, and in her left a sacrificial cock (Fagg and Pemberton 1982:126). The reins of the horse are wrapped around the neck of a small figure of an ilari, a king's servant and messenger. whose head is shaved on one side as a sign of his office. Behind the priestess, a male figure carries the laba bags of a Shango priest. On the priestess's left stand a trumpeter and soldier; on the right stand a royal drummer and a couple touching each other's genitals, a reminder that Shango aids infertile women. This type of complex composition is characteristic of Bamgboye's work (Drewal et al. 1989:202). The hieratic proportions. in the proud, serene head of the large central figure rising above her small attendants, express the priestess's primacy. Published: Fagg and Pemberton 1982, pl. 37. 75 Lower Niger (Forcados River). Nigeria Bell. bronze; H. 20 cm.; date unknown This bell in the form of a human head has a complex iconography. The figure of a bat adorns the forehead, while another nocturnal creature—a small frog—sits on either side of the chin and short pointed horns emerge from the head. The face is decorated with sets of concentric circles and braided loops, echoed by curvilinear patterns on the back.

Although this highly specific imagery is clearly symbolic, the meaning and use of the bell are not known to us. Head bells may have served simultaneously as a means of communicating with the ancestors and as commemorative portraits, like those found on ancestral altars among the Edo and Yoruba peoples. Throughout southern Nigeria, bells are associated with leadership institutions; they are symbols of the transferral of power at installation ceremonies and function in ceremonial contexts both as items of status and as ritual paraphernalia (Lorenz in Bastin 1982:55). This bell resembles several others excavated near the Forcados River on the Nigerian Coast south of Benin. The encrusted surface and greenish patina suggest that it too was buried for an extended period. The Forcados area people maintained contacts with the coastal ljebu Yoruba to the west who cast bronze bells in a related style (Vogel 1980a:22). Published: Vogel 1980a. p. 22. 76 Yoruba, Nigeria Figural group. bronze; H. 24 cm. This bronze group is composed of a large. central male figure flanked by smaller male and female figures, whose wrists he holds. A similar group in the lbadan study collection (no. E.66.83) is labeled imole (earth spirit) and is associated with the Ogboni society. The number three has great symbolic meaning in Ogboni ritual. Four, the basic number of the Yoruba counting system, signifies completeness and symmetry, whereas the number three indicates mystery (Witte 1988: 23,178). The linking of the figures is interesting in light of the emphasis which Ogboni philosophy places on the interconnection of individuals, the sexes and members of society, shown also in edan figures (cf. Drewal et. al I 989:fig.42, 137). 77 Urhobo, Nigeria Mother and child, wood, pigment; H. 206 cm. Urhobo religion focuses on the spiritual forces, edjo, that exist in nature. Edjo imagery appears in two sculptural ensembles in each community. One shrine, featuring military imagery, is associated with male spirits; the other, associated with female spirits, alludes to procreative powers. The two shrines complement each other and each is considered incomplete without the other. The spirits are sometimes conceptualized as spouses. The female shrine is frequently located at the edge of the community, near a body of water and focuses on maternity figures such as in the present example (Foss 1976:12-15). Published: Preston 1985, fig. 49. 78 'sok°. Nigeria Mask, wood,fiber, pigment; H. 30.5 cm. Among many groups of the Niger River Delta, masquerades celebrate the high points in the life of the community, in contrast to the usually less spectacular use and presentation of figurative sculptures(Rubin 1976:5). Reflecting the patterns of warfare and commerce which historically have connected the peoples of this area, the art traditions share many similarities. This mask is covered with white chalk, a sacred substance which the neighboring Urhobo peoples also apply to their masks and figures(see cat. no. 77). 79 lgala, Nigeria Faceless mask, wood, metal, pigment; H.40 cm. !gala masquerades take place during funeral ceremonies called Aku and at annual ancestor festivals; the masquerades dramatize the relationship between the worlds of the ancestors and of the living and portray generalized characters who embody such characteristics as goodness, cunning, or evil (Sieber 1961:6). Another night masquerade festival portrays particular ancestors returning to earth. One dancer disguises his voice and impersonates the most recently deceased ancestor in the kin group. adjudicating disputes and giving advice to his descendants(Boston 1977:20). The Igala word for spirit. egu, is also the word for mask (Sieber 1961:6). 80 Ijo, Nigeria Water spirit mask, wood, metal; H. 23.5 cm. The mask is made to be worn so that the large, central face is directed toward the sky, because the audience includes both spirits and humans. The small, paired human heads may allude to anthropomorphic water spirits who live in villages beneath the sea. They are sometimes envisioned as having shining ornaments hung on their bodies, an image that may account for the reflective white metal disks set into the eyes of the mask. Although they can be mischievous and vengeful, water spirits are considered more playful and less dangerous than


forest spirits. Water spirits can also be associated with any object or living thing. especially imported goods such as photographs. white saucers, drinking glasses and lengths of cloth (Anderson and Kreamer 1989:49,50). Published: Robbins and Nooter 1989. p. 266. 81 Eket (lbibio), Nigeria Headdress: figure, wood, pigment; H. 58.5 cm.

"sleep" at the home of the leader (Rubin. A. 1969:82-83). The polelike body and spherical head carved with minimal facial features are characteristic of the sculptural style of this area. 88 Donga River area. probably Mfumte, Cameroon Figure, wood, pigment; H.65 cm.

Among the Eket. a subgroup of the Ibibio, this type of headdress is worn by a dancer who wears a long white robe, with bells attached to the neck and a basket covered with rows of bells affixed to the lower back. The masks are used in the Ogbom dances which honor the divinity of the earth (Neyt 1979:20). When not in use, the figures were hung under the roof, where they acquired a sooty patina. Before the dance, the sculptures were plunged into water and painted with natural colors. The bases were decorated with raffia and feathers (Neyt 1979:125, 126).

This figure is attributed to the Mfumte of the Donga river area. Clear regional styles have not been defined in this area, which is inhabited by the Mbem and Mbaw as well as the Mfumte and is close to the territory of the Mambila. A similar figure is in the Gebauer collection at the Portland Art Museum. This figure's striated coiffure is similar to that of the Gebauer figure's, as are the toothy mouth, horseshoe-shaped ears and protruding eyes (cf. Gebauer 1979: fig. P43). However, this figure has a different posture and is female rather than male. Published: Vogel 1980, p. 29; Rubin. W..ed. 1984: vol 1, p. 40; Baldwin et al. 1986, p.63; Robbins and Nooter 1989. p. 308.

82 !gala, Nigeria Female figure. wood, bead and metal ornaments, cloth, fiber pigment; H. 25.5 cm.

89 Donga River area, probably Mfumte, Cameroon Figure, wood, pigment; H. 55 cm.

!gala figures are essentially protective in nature. They serve as guardians for children and bring good luck, wealth, and general well-being to the family. Human figures are often accompanied by the carved figure of a leopard which symbolizes force, strength, and courage (Sieber 1961:7,9). The numerous ornaments and crusty reddish patina (resulting from the application of camwood powder as a cosmetic preservative)show that this figure has been carefully tended.

According to Gebauer,the Portland Museum figure. called Ngimfe by local residents, personified the messenger of the oracle named Sanko. Standing to the left of the larger oracle figure. Ngimfe accepted messages and was the conveyer of good news(Gebauer 1979:187).

83 Koro or Jaba. Nigeria Palm wine cup. wood,fiber, pigment. nail; H. 43.5 cm.

Known by many names, this game is played throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The game was described in 1623 by Jobson. who reported that, "In the heat of the day, the men will come forth, and sit themselves in companies, under the shady trees. to receive the fresh aire, and there passe the time in communication, having only one kind of game to recreate themselves withal!, and that is in a peece of wood, certaine great holes cut, which they set upon the ground betwixt two of them. and with a number of some thirtie pibble stones. after a manner of counting, they take one from the other. untill one is possessed of all, whereat some of them are wondrous nimble"(quoted in Sieber 1980:65). Gameboards range from holes dug in the ground (cf. Sieber 1980, p.83) to finely carved and decorated examples.

This figure portrays a woman in her prime. She wears numerous ornaments of high status, including a necklace of carved leopard teeth, armlets, waist beads, and a distinctive coiffure. Her powerful, well-rounded limbs and full breasts bespeak her energy and vitality, as does her animated facial expression. This figure has been linked with the celebrated dancing female figure collected by Gustav Conrau between 1897 and 1898 (Brain and Pollock 1971:127). Conrau reports its name was njuinderningwindem. which means "woman of God" and refers to the role of mothers of twins as diviners(Brain and Pollock 1971:124). Northern has pointed out that the Conrau figure is missing the diagnostic cowrie shells associated with ngwindern. and. noting the royal anklets. postulates that it may represent a royal wife who is also a diviner (1984:84). The formal differences between this figure and Conrau's cast doubt upon this figure's identification as dancing. Her erect posture and more frontal presentation contrast with the dynamic asymmetry and twisting movement of the Conrau figure. The gesture of one hand on the leg is characteristic of seated memorial portraits, and seems out of place in a dancing figure (cf. Vogel 1985:120). In her missing hand, this figure probably held an attribute which would help establish her identity. Published: Brain and Pollock 1971; Harter 1986; Robbins and Nooter 1989. p. 310.

85 Mumuye, Nigeria Figure. wood, pigment; H. 121 cm.

91 Mambila, Nigeria Mask, wood, pigment fiber; H. 17.5 cm.

The high degree of stylistic diversity found among the sculptures of the Mumuye of northern Nigeria is paralleled by the variety of their functions(Rubin in Vogel 1981:155). Some are used as oracles, others for healing, or to reinforce the status of important elders as embodiments of tutelary spirits. The figures are sometimes brought out to greet visitors, and men may engage in conversation with the sculptures as they hold them (Fry 1970:27). A figure sometimes served in more than one capacity. and function cannot be correlated with size, style, or other formal attributes(Fry 1970:10; Rubin in Vogel 1981:156). This widespread sculptural tradition is accompanied by a highly developed system of art criticism, and the names of talented sculptors are well known (Fry 1970:27).

Masks such as this are worn during the twice yearly planting and harvest festival. The masks depict mythological birds and mammals and are worn with fiber suits or feather costumes. Only men are allowed to view the dances, traveling from village to village for the festivities (Schwartz n.d.:I5,17). During this break from agricultural labor, they participate in sports. such as wrestling, and form friendships and marriages. When not in use, the masks are stored in ancestral shrines. Before new festivities begin, they are repaired and freshly painted; the horn surmounting this mask has been mended with a fiber binding. Published: Essen. Villa Hugel 1971. no. 262; Brussels, Societe Generale de Banque 1974, no. 59.

Drinking cups are a well-known form of art among the Jaba and Koro. neighboring groups of northern Nigeria. Though the cups are used by the Jaba, they are carved by Koro sculptors. Called gbene, they are used for ritual palm-wine drinking during an annual ceremonial sacrifice, and at second burials (Sieber 1961:13). 84 Tiv, Nigeria Gameboard, wood, metal; H.94 cm.

86 Upper Benue River, Nigeria Pair of animals with riders, wood; H. 29.3 cm.. 30.5 cm. These figures do not come with a specific attribution. A somewhat similar equestrian figure (carved separately from the horse)stood on a shrine near the figure of the god Auro. when Frobenius collected it in 1910(Fagg I 963:fig. 135). That equestrian figure is attributed to the Bassa-nge, who live near the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers. These figures may also be related to the Tiv figural style.

90 Bangwa. Cameroon Female figure. wood: H. 79 cm.

92 Mambila, Nigeria Figure. wood,fiber, pigment. feathers; H. 30 cm. Ancestral figures are kept in shrines, small buildings in the compound of lineage heads. The front of the shrine is decorated with a painting called bolut, which includes male and female figures with a rainbow, moon,and sun. A net suspended in front of the painting contains the ancestor figures(Schwartz n.d.:20,22). Published: Robbins and Nooter 1989, p. 306.

87 Jukun, Nigeria Figure, wood. metal: H.99 cm.

93 Bangwa (?), Cameroon Mask. wood; H. 33 cm.

Among many groups in the Upper Benue River area, wood figures play an important role in religious activities. They appear during calendric rituals and at times of crisis, such as drought, epidemic. or the infertility of a member of the community. During the ceremonies, the figures are brought from their shrine to

The highly stratified social structures of the Cameroon grassfields kingdooms are led by the king, fon, whose authority is supported by regulatory societies. The regulatory society sponsors dances at commemorative death celebrations. at the fon's annual dance, and at the new fon's public installation ceremony. Although licensed and regulated by this primary governmental association, lineage compounds, princes' and warriors'societies may also own masks(Northern in Vogel


1981:181). The double lobes surmounting this mask may depict the prestige cap associated with Fonship and titleholders(Northern 1984:147). 94 Bamileke, Cameroon Bowl figure, wood; H. 62.5 cm. Prestige bowls, used as receptacles for kola nuts,form part of the royal treasury. Normally, kola nuts, a mild stimulant, are consumed only by men: they are offered to women on rare occasions as a great honor (Northern 1984: fig. 35). These bowls are used during royal succession rites, or when dignitaries assemble to vote and share kola as a sign of agreement(Harter 1986:79). Published: Sweeney 1935, no. 320; Delange 1974. no. 96; Rubin, W.,ed., 1984, vol. 1. p. 164.

(Thompson and Cornet 1981:125). The tomb statues, as representatives of the ancestors, are petitioned in times of trouble. The chalky white color associates the figure with the world of the ancestors and spirits. Yombe society is matrilineal; a mother teaches her children that they belong to her lineage and must defend the rights of their community (Roosens 1967:38). The child's gesture. called tuluwa ku luumbu, is one of denial and self-control, literally "placing oneself within the enclosure:" it can also indicate grief in a mourning context; carvings with this gesture communicate a sense of respect (luzitu) or anguish (kyaadi)(Thompson and Cornet 1981: 120). The containment of the pose contradicts the direct, engaged stare of both child and mother. The kneeling posture of the mother signifies respect. 101 Suku, Zaire Mask, wood,fiber, tortoise shell; H. 114.5 cm.

95 Bangwa (?), Cameroon Headdress, wood,encrustation, pigment; H. 30.5 cm. Despite the animal ferocity of their expression, Night Society masks depict human beings. The overhanging brow, gaping, toothy mouth, and bulging cheeks make this mask particularly effective. The bulging cheeks have been interpreted as a sign of wealth and power.for great chiefs, such as the members of the Night Society, are ideally fat of face (Brain and Pollock 1971:133). 96 Bangwa, Cameroon Headcrest with four faces, wood, metal; H. 30.5 cm. The frightening appearance of this four-headed mask makes it an appropriate emblem of the Night Society. Composed of nobles, high-ranking chiefs, and royal retainers. the Night Society wields great political and spiritual power; members' duties include everything from collecting fines to supervising the succession of kings. These masks appear at the funeral celebrations of high ranking men. They are worn in dances, or, if too powerful to wear on the head, are carried on the shoulders. They are also placed on the ground outside the palace building where the Night Society meets during funeral celebrations. Masks with four heads belong only to very high-ranking chiefs. With the four faces of the mask, the society surveys the whole land, spying out transgressors (Brain and Pollock 1971:16.37.132). Published: Brain and Pollock 1971, p. 132; Northern 1979. no. 17.

A well-made kakungu should inspire fear instantaneously, even from a distance. The mask's large size and massive facial features contribute to this effect, as do noise makers,such as the tortoise shell suspended in the thick fiber fringe. This mask bears traces of the characteristic red and white coloring, along with blue. While red is said to symbolize blood, vengeance, and evil, white is said to symbolize blessings and health. The mask's white chin is also described as the white beard of an elder. This connection enhances the terrifying aspects of kakungu,for elders are sometimes thought to have acquired anti-social spiritual powers during their long lives(Bourgeois 1980:43). Published: Robbins and Nooter 1989, P. 413. 102 Suku, Zaire Mask, wood,fiber; H.95 cm. This kakungu mask is unusual in that the lower portion is carved as a torso, with small, cone-shaped breasts and prominent navel. The mask's large. square form. massive facial features, and its red and white color are typical. Kakungu masks are associated with nkanda, an institution which supervises the circumcision and initiation of young men. These masks safeguard the initiates by preventing malevolent people. baloki, from entering the initiation camp. Kakungu are powerful entities, who perform jumping feats and control the weather (Bourgeois. 1980, 1984). 103 Yaka. Zaire Staff, wood.fiber, beads, seed pods, copper coin, crucifix, cotton cloth, leather. metal, horns, pigment; H. 96.5 cm.

97 Fang, Gabon Figure, wood, metal, palm oil; H. 39 cm. Guardian figures (bieri) caution the uninitiated not to approach reliquaries, stored in a special room of the house, containing the bones of ancestors. The figures are not meant to be frightening in themselves, but to serve as a warning of something incomprehensible and untouchable (Fernandez and Fernandez 1975:724). The guardian figure sits atop the reliquary box.secured by the long shaft behind its legs. Bieri appear publicly at ceremonies to commemorate the dead. Before their appearance. the statues are anointed with oil so that over time they acquire a rich, glossy patina. During the ritual, the community formally addresses the reliquaries using a serious and reverent tone. A humorous conclusion features the figures dancing like puppets above a raffia banner (Tessmann in Fernandez and Fernandez 1975:743). 98 Punu. Gabon Standing female figure, wood; H. 13 cm. Little is known about the function of Punu figures. although they may have been used to harness supernatural power. It is not clear whether the figures are associated with ancestors. Apparently. the preservation of ancestral relics was not as widespread in this area as it was in northern and eastern Gabon.or at least it did not take the same form (Perrois 1979:200). Published: Perrois 1979; p. 257. 99 Bembe,Zaire Figure fragment, wood; H. 50.5 cm. Despite its fragmentary condition, this figure, with its massive shoulders and calm expression, still conveys the monumental dignity characteristic of Bembe ancestral figures. Placed in shrines, these sacred images received offerings of food from lineage members(Neyt 1981:303). 100 Yombe,Zaire Figure of mother and child, wood, pigment; H. 55.5 cm. The statue depicts woman with all the attributes of power and beauty. She wears the mphemba,a prestige cap donned by female clan elders when they intervene in the affairs of the village (Roosens 1967:44). Her lips are parted to reveal cosmetically filed teeth. Each arm is adorned with bracelets, and she wears a tight, beaded cord designed to enhance the beauty of her breasts (Lehuard 1976:60). Such figures are placed on the tombs of illustrious women who possessed unusual power and responsibility, and who were the progenitors of great families

Among the nearby Pende people,figurative orators' staffs are called mihango (singular muhango). The orator hits the ground with the staff to emphasize points of his argument during litigation between clans(de Sousberghe 1958:97). Attachments enhance the power and weight of the message as do additions to a Songye power figure. The remarkably varied elements added to this staff include a copper coin and crucifix, foreign objects which had become prestige items because they were associated with the power and wealth of Europeans' economic and religious systems. Published: Rubin, A. 1974, p. 53; Robbins and Nooter 1989, p. 410. 104 Yaka. Zaire Comb, wood; H. 20 cm. Yaka miniature combs are worn as hair ornaments by dignitaries (Bourgeois 1984:60). Often they are embellished with miniature human or animal figures. The mother and child figure adorning this comb is somewhat unusual. Published: Brussels. Societe Generale de Banque 1977, p. 67; Robbins and Nooter 1989, p.410. 105 Luba, Zaire Standing female figure. wood; H. 27.5 cm. The Luba often commemorate ancestors with complete figures. Only outstanding personalities who enjoyed high prestige during their lifetimes are honored in this way. The figures keep the memory of these important forebears alive and serve as temporary abodes for them as they help their descendants in daily life. At the end of the nineteenth century, a religious movement which opposed traditional ancestral veneration caused the destruction of many ancestral figures(Burton 1961:50). This figure bears intricate scarifications on the torso, and wears a less flamboyant version of the Shankadi cascade coiffure (see cat. no. 25, 26). 106 Kete, Zaire Mask, wood, pigment, basketry: H.94.6 cm. This is one of a series of masks which celebrated the birth of twins. The dancers celebrate the father's virility and perform in his village. This mask, murume ankalab, is the only one to carry attributes. A living cock to be offered to the dancers by the father of the twins is attached to its left shoulder. In his right hand


the masked dancer carries a machete,symbolizing authority and assiduity in work. Frobenius, who traveled in the southern Kete region in 1905-06. mentioned this tradition. In the 1950s and 1960s. the masks were used in nontraditional festivities of Christian inspiration (Ceyssens 1974:93-94). Published: Ceyssens 1974,fig. 4a. 107 Kusu, Zaire Figure, wood; H. 53.5 cm. The style of this ancestral figure, with its elongated face, arched brows and melancholy expression, is related to that of the famed Buli Master, who was probably active during the late 19th Century (Vogel 1990:pers. comm.). However, the Buli Master's works are characterized by an unusual dynamism and disequilibrium (Vogel 1980), while this figure exhibits the stability, erectness, composure, and restraint more typical of ancestral sculpture from this region. The Luba system of art patronage encouraged a cross-fertilization of ideas. Kings and chiefs brought renowned sculptors to their courts from far away, and people often traveled a considerable distance to obtain the works of a great sculptor. The town of Buli was a crossroads of the Luba empire. Situated on the Lualaba River, in an area populated by the Luba of the Shankadi subgroup, the population intermixed with eastern Luba(Kunda) peoples and bordered the related Luba-Hemba groups. As a chiefs village, and later as a colonial administrative town. Buli attracted people of different origins(Vogel 1980:1 33, 142). 108 Songye, Zaire Power figure, wood, metal, hair, beads, animal teeth, leather: H. 28.5 cm. Figure sculpture is a specific type of container for ritually charged materials (bishimba) among many other possible receptacles, such as horns. calabashes, or food tins. Without bishimba, the figure has no purpose and is regarded simply as a piece of wood. By invoking ancestral spirits, power figures provide protection against illness, sorcery, witchcraft, and war. The strips of copper appliqued to the face may relate to the figure's ability to counteract and channel lightning against aggressors: copper is an excellent electrical conductor(Hersak 1985: I 18, 130, 131). 109 Lega, Zaire Standing figure, wood, pigment: H.49.5 cm. The Lega Bwami society uses many types of sculpture to teach initiates its moral code and customs. Sculptures serve as reminders of things to be done or not to be done and as mnemonic devices that facilitate the memorization of aphorisms. Passed down within families, the sculptures symbolize the continuity of families, lineages, and ritual communities (Biebuyck 1973:170-173). Published: Neyt 1981,fig. 111.9. 110 Zulu, South Africa Neckrest?, wood, wire; H. 51.5 cm. This object may have served as a neckrest on state occasions, when a ruler, surrounded by precious objects, holds audience. The irregularly-shaped legs, derived from the natural tree branch, recall the stance of a lion, particularly in the firmly placed front legs and the crook of the hind leg. Combined with the human head, this feature refers to the symbolic identification of leaders with the lion (Van Wyck 1990: pers. comm.). Published: Robbins and Nooter 1989, p. 520.

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CURRENT DONORS Ernst Anspach Charles B. Benenson William Brill Bernice and Sidney Clyman Mr.and Mrs. Richard Faletti Gail and George Feher Denyse and Marc Ginzberg Lawrence Gussman Udo Horstmann Drs. Marian and Daniel Malcolm Adrian and Robert Mnuchin Carlo Monzino Don H. Nelson Mr. and Mrs.James Ross Lynne and Robert Rubin Daniel Shapiro and Agnes Gund Cecilia and Irwin Smiley Sheldon Solow Mr. and Mrs. Armand P. Arman Pamela and Oliver Cobb Gaston T. de Havenon Alain de Monbrison Sulaiman Diane Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass Lance Entwistle Roberta Entwistle John and Marcia Friede Mr.and Mrs. Irwin Ginsburg Hubert Goldet Dr. and Mrs. Gilbert Graham Clayre and Jay Haft Mrs. Melville W. Hall Jacques and Brigitte Hautelet Jill and Barry Kitnick Helen and Robert Kuhn Mr. and Mrs.Jay Last Helen and Philippe Leloup Mr. and Mrs. Brian Leyden Junis and Burton Marcus Nancy and Robert Nooter Klaus PerIs Freddy Rolin Alfred L. Scheinberg Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Silver Marsha and Saul Stanoff Mr. and Mrs. Paul Tishman James Willis Gallery Faith Dorian and Martin Wright S. Thomas Alexander Dr. and Mrs. Pickward Bash,Jr. Dr. and Mrs. Sam Berkowitz William Bolton Alan Brandt Peggy and Mark Curchack Davis Gallery Dave De Roche Suzanne and Alan Dworsky Drs.Jean and Noble Endicott Charles A. Fox Mr. and Mrs.John Grunwald Dr.John G. Herlihy Daniel Hourde Helen Kimmel Lee and Don Krueckeberg Mr. and Mrs. Sol Levitt Gabrielle and Samuel Lurie Isadore Marder Robin Mix Dorothy Brill Robbins Eric Robertson John Rosenthal Mrs. Harry Rubin Maurice W.Shapiro Dr. and Mrs.Jerome H. Siegel Mr. and Mrs. Stephen D. Slifer Monica Wengraf-Hewitt Mr. and Mrs. William U. Wright Susan Allen Lenore Anholt Richard Benenson Michael Berger, M.D. Eileen and Michael Cohen Frederic Cohen and Diane Feldman Margaret Demant

Freya Ellinwood Marc Felix Vianna Finch James Freeman John Giltsoff Mr. and Mrs. Murray Gruson Cynthia A. Harris Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Hollander Constance Hornig Lucy Black Johnson Jerome and Carol Kenney Stanley Lederman Mr. and Mrs. Morton Likpin Lee Lorenz Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Marill Tomme M. Matotan Jane W. Matthews Balene McCormick Donald Morris Gallery Dr. Werner Muensterberger David T. Owsley Martine Renaud Fred and Rita Richman Mr. and Mrs. Milton Rosenthal Syndey L. Shaper Vincent M. Smith Mr. and Mrs. Morton Sosland Gerard Tate Peter Wengraf Ruth E. Wilner Mr. and Mrs. William S. Woodside Maureen Zarember Mr. and Mrs. William Ziff Charles Alden Arnold J. Alderman Barbara and Daniel Altman Pierre Amrouche Andrew Appel and Paul Buboliz Dr. Sheldon Bach Neal Ball Audreen Buffalo Ballard Joan Barist Mr. and Mrs. Howard Barnet Armand Bartos,Jr. Ralph Baxter Micael and Elizabeth Beajour Sharon Bender Sid and Gae Berman Mildred Bijur John A. Buxton Joyce Chorbajian Carroll and Katherine Cline Jeffrey Cohen and Nancy Seiser Mr. and Mrs. Alan D. Cohen Mr. and Mrs. Herman Copen Kenneth J. Corvese Joyce and Daniel Cowin Mr. and Mrs. Duval Cravens Marie-Elaine D'Udekem D'Acoz Esther Dagan Gerald and Lila Dannenberg Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Delbanco Morton Dimondstein Dr. Norman and Ms. Shelley Dinhoffer Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Ehrlich John B. Elliott Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Feary Richard Fishman Kate and Newell Flather Mr. and Mrs. Donald Flax Charles Flowers Jeremiah H. Fogelson Gordon Foster Mr. and Mrs. Charles Frankel Marc and Ruth Franklin Dr. and Mrs. Murry B. Frum Joel D. Fyvolent, M.D. Clara K. Gebauer Nelsa Gidney Mr. and Mrs.Joseph Goldenberg Lourdes Gomez Greta Greathouse Charles S. Greco Elas and Marvin Ross-Greifinger Dr. Irwin E. Gross Randy and Mimi Harris

William and Ann Harrop Arnold Herstand and Co. Janine and Michael Heyman Mr. and Mrs. Howard Holtzmann Stephen T. Humanitzki Norman Hurst George H. Hutlzer.Jr. Stephen Hyman Barbara Jackson Mr. and Mrs. Harmer Johnson Mr. and Mrs. Charles A.Jones Jerome L.Joss Leonard Kahan Julian M. Kaplin Jacques Kerchache Joseph and Margaret Knopfelmacher John W. Kunstadter Bernard and Louise Koshner Alvin S. Lane Roxanne and Guy Lanquetot Mr. and Mrs. Elliot Lawrence Mr. and Mrs. Norman LeBeau Jay C. Leff Richard and Mimi Livingston Henry Luce III and Leila Hadley G. Luttik Drs. Lester and Joanne Mantell Jean Preston Martin Barry D. Maurer Jacques and Anne Maus Dr. Margaret McEvoy Mr. and Mrs.John McGee John A. McKesson Genevieve McMillan Anuschka Menist Ann Meschery Jane B. Meyerhoff Edwin Michalove Peter and Nancy Mickelsen Cora Miles Sam Scott Miller Kolani Miyapo S.J. Mostade and E.J. Nilson Prof. Marshall Mount Mrs. Edith Muma Concetta Nardin Judith Nash Mr. and Mrs. Howard Nelson William H. Nelson III Roy R. and Marie S. Neuberger Jack Odette Amend Oetker Mr.and Mrs. Richard Ohrstrom Philip Orlando and Robert Gino Margaret Pancoast Evelynne Patterson Ellen Pearlstein Prof. and Mrs.John Pemberton Linda C. Phillips Mr. and Mrs.Joseph Pulitzer,Jr. Elizabeth Hird Rauch Mr. and Mrs. Cecil A. Ray.Jr. Sieglinde Reynolds Beatrice Riese Warren M. Robbins Carlos Rodriguez Mr. and Mrs. David B. Ross Mr. and Mrs. Daniel G. Ross Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Rovine Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Rubin William Rubin Arthur and Joan Sarnoff Robert H. Schaffer Dr. and Mrs. Lewis Shapiro Franyo Schindler Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Shapiro Mary Jo Shepard Michael Siems Carol Spindel and Tom Bassett Mr. and Mrs. Dixon Stanton Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Sternthal Arnold Syrop Howard Tanenbaum Ellen Napiura Taubman Frederieke Taylor Mr. and Mrs. William E. Teel Daniel Toole

Dr. and Mrs. Saul Unter Ute Stebich Gallery Anthony and Margo Viscusi Dr. and Mrs. Bernard M. Wagner Dr. and Mrs. Leon Wallace Fred and Lucille Wallace Stewart J. Warkow Anne and Jay Whipple George F. Wick Elizabeth A. Widenman Mr. and Mrs. O.S. Williams Neil Wilson Bernard Young Ruth M. Ziegler

INSTITUTIONAL DONORS Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Anne S. Richardson Fund Department of Cultural Affairs, City of New York The Forbes Foundation National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Humanities New York State Council on the Arts Pace Primitive and Ancient Art Puget Sound Fund of the Tides Foundation The Rockefeller Foundation Sotheby's Current through May 31. 1990

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Adrian Mnuchin Chairman Susan Vogel Executive Director James J. Ross Sheldon H. Solow Vice Chairman Marc Ginzberg Secretary Robert Rubin Treasurer Ernst Anspach Corice Canton Arman Charles B. Benenson Joel N. Bloom William Brill Sidney Clyman Ekpo Eyo Richard Faletti Paolo Glisenti Lawrence Gussman George Lois Marian Malcolm Kathryn McAuliffe Carlo Monzino John Morning Don Nelson Robert Nooter William Rubin Daniel Shapiro Irwin Smiley Donald M. Suggs


STAFF Susan Vogel Executive Director Thomas H. Wilson Deputy Director Albert Hutchinson Assistant Comptroller Carol Braide Administrative Assistant Ima Ebong Amy McEwen Exhibition Coordinators Carol Thompson Education Associate Mufutau Oladele Membership Office Assistant Johanna Cooper Office Assistant Linus Eze ChiefofSecurity/Building Manager Carolyn Evans Terrance Noel John Adams Security/Admissions


The Center for African Art 54 East 68th Street New York, New York 10021


ISBN 0-945802-08-0

Profile for The Africa Center

Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture  

Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture presents African art objects of exceptional aesthetic quality from an American colle...

Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture  

Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture presents African art objects of exceptional aesthetic quality from an American colle...