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Page 1







Frank Herreman



William A. Fagaly


Robert Farris Thompson


Tavy D. Aherne Martha G. Anderson Suzanne Preston Blier

Frank Herreman Wyatt MacGaffey Joseph Nevadomsky John Pemberton Ill

Arthur P. Bourgeois Elze Bruyninx

Manuel A. Jordan Perez Louis Perrois

Bolaji Campbell Amanda Carlson Herbert M. Cole

Constantine Petridis Allen F. Roberts Mary Nooter Roberts Doran H. Ross Christopher D. Roy William Siegmann Jerome Vogel Roslyn Adele Walker Hans Witte

Susan Cooksey William J. Dewey Kate Ezra William A. Fagaly Christraud M. Geary Emily G. Hanna




RESONANCE FROM THE PAST is published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title organized by the Museum for African Art, New York in collaboration with the New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana. The exhibition opens in New York on 3 February 2005 and closes on 5 June 2005. It will

subsequently travel to: San Antonio Museum of Art (25 June - 2 October 2005), Arkansas Arts Center (7 January - 5 April 2006), The Albuquerque Museum (14 May - 13 August 2006), and the National Museum of African Art (5 October 2006 - 28 January 2007). A European tour is in development. CURATOR: Frank Herreman TEXT EDITOR: David Frankel

DESIGN: Linda Florio and Michiyo Uno, Florio Design Copyright February 2005 C) Museum for African Art, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the Museum for African Art, 36-01 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101. www.africanart.org Library of Congress Control Number: 2004115450 Paper bound ISBN 0-945802-46-3 Color Separations by Letter Perfect, Inc., U.S.A. Printed, and bound in Singapore by Tien Wah Press (Pte) Limited

FRONT COVER: Cat. 91. Male figure. Tabwa peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo. Wood, caning, duiker horn, fiber cord, seedpod bundles, animal hair, copper. H. 18 7/8 in. (48 cm). Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.151

BACK COVER: Cat. 31. Memorial staff: asen. Fon/Hweda/Yoruba peoples, town of Ouidah. Republic of Benin. Attributed artist: Akati Akpele Kendo, Master of the Long-Horned Ram (fl. 1858-89). Wrought iron, raffia, wood, organic

materials. H. 56 in. (142.2 cm). Gift of Francoise Billion Richardson. 89.257 FLAP: Cat. 35. ha divination bowl: opon igede. Early 20th century.Yoruba peoples, city of Osi•Ilorin. Ekiti region, Nigeria. Carver: Dada Areogun of Osi-llorin (c. 1880-1954). Wood. H. 24 3/4 in. (62.9 cm). Museum purchase with funds in honor of E. John Bullard's twenty-fifth anniversary as director of NOMA. 98.52

All object photographs are by Judy Cooper, courtesy the New Orleans Museum of Art.



PREFACE 1 6 Elsie McCabe, President, Museum for African Art

FOREWORD I 7 E. John Bullard, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director, New Orleans Museum of Art



Frank Herreman

INTRODUCTION I 9 William Fagaly


EPILOGUE I 136 When Saints Co Marching In: Kongo Louisiana, Kongo New Orleans Robert Farris Thompson







Since our first exhibition, African Masterpiecesfrom the Musee de l'Homme, one of our missions has been to make important collections of African art available to audiences in New York and throughout the United States. The collections from Munich, Tervuren and Lisbon have been the subjects of popular exhibitions, which traveled to a number of American cities. We are very happy to benefit from the unusual opportunity provided by the New Orleans Museum of Art's decision to redo its African galleries and to organize a traveling exhibition of this exceptional collection. NOMA generously allowed us to choose from its entire collection—the only limitation being the space available in our galleries. The result is to be seen in these pages. In his preface, John Bullard describes the particular circumstances, which encouraged the New Orleans Museum of Art to start collecting African Art when few American art museums took the creations of so-called "primitive" peoples seriously. As we studied this collection, we realized that the circumstances of its formation have made it significantly different from the collections of the European museums we have previously shown. This collection was formed by a curator who was consciously viewing the objects as art. The great European national collections, though they contain astonishing masterpieces, were initially formed by administrators and ethnologists who were documenting the lives and cultures of their colonial subjects. They tend to be particularly strong in the art from regions that were once under their government and weaker in areas colonized by other powers. The NOMA collection was from the start formed for the beauty of its objects, without as much concern for representing particular peoples or areas. In our selection of objects and in the organizing principle of the show, we have tried to use a similar approach, choosing objects for their aesthetic quality rather than because they are representative of a particular region or people. Where the NOMA collection is very strong, as in the case of the Yoruba, we have chosen many objects, without concern for the fact that other African peoples are not represented at all. Our concern has been to emphasize the great formal beauty of African art. Since the cultural context of African art is not familiar to all of our visitors, we have chosen a somewhat different emphasis for the catalogue. We have asked a recognized expert on each area to write extended captions on each object, explaining its meaning, use and history. The catalogue, though it is planned as a resource for visitors, is also a valuable research tool for students and scholars as it is an anthology of the latest information gathered in the field. It makes it possible to both appreciate the beauty of the objects and also understand the role they played in their cultures. Working with NOMA has been a treat. Bill Fagaly has shared with us the encyclopedic knowledge and unerring eye that made this collection what it is. We have both enjoyed and learned from our collaboration. Official relations with NOMA have also been a pleasure thanks to E. John Bullard, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director. We also would like to express our appreciation to Frank Herreman who initiated the exhibition and has agreed to see it to fruition. Linda Florio, who designed our first catalogue twenty years ago, has again created a fine design. And Carol Braide, as always, put the whole thing together quietly and perfectly.

ELSIE McCABE President, Museum for African Art



In 1953 the New Orleans Museum of Art received from an anonymous donor its first African artwork, a rare late 18th century Benin bronze Head ofan Obo. Later, when few American art museums were actively collecting and displaying African art, my esteemed predecessor, James B. Byrnes, understood that an art museum in a city whose majority population's roots were African should recognize the art from this continent. To accomplish this goal, in 1966 he hired William Fagaly to develop a collection and organize exhibitions of African art. Bill had just received his Masters degree in African art history from Indiana University, one of the first students studying with the emerging preeminent scholar and teacher in the field, Dr. Roy Sieber. To give a little perspective, it is astonishing how new this discipline of art history is when one realizes that Sieber is now recognized as the first trained African art historian in the United States. Before that time the field, such as it was, was left to explorers, anthropologists and ethnographers. I personally have long had an interest in ethnographic art and since my arrival at NOMA over thirty years ago I have had the pleasure of learning from and working with Bill to expand our African collection. Our collection and this exhibition is a testament to Bill Fagaly's discerning eye, acute scholarship and great dedication. In his catalogue introduction Bill has outlined the successes during the past four decades that the New Orleans Museum of Art has realized since taking on the challenge of building a comprehensive African collection. Of course our success is due to the many collectors who have so generously donated so many fine artworks to the Museum—first among this group of patrons being Victor K. Kiam. We are proud of our accomplishments and delighted that the Museum for African Art has selected ninetyfour of our outstanding art works for this exhibition, which will travel to four other American museums. From the outset, Bill encouraged Frank Herreman to make the final selection of objects to be included as he felt having a totally fresh eye would be more beneficial to the exhibition. Many of the objects chosen have never been published and few have been exhibited outside of New Orleans; so I am pleased that a much broader public will see the breadth and quality of our collection. To that end a larger publication of over zoo African artworks is being prepared by Bill Fagaly, to be published when the Museum opens, hopefully in 2007, its much-expanded African galleries. In addition to individual entries on each work as in this catalogue, one feature of the larger publication will be documentation on each object's full provenance and history, which due to space limitations could not be included in this exhibition catalogue. We are grateful to the Museum for African Art, particularly Elsie McCabe and Frank Herreman and their colleagues, for the opportunity for the New Orleans Museum of Art to share its collection with a national audience. We hope the thousands of visitors enjoy the exhibition and invite them to visit New Orleans to see the many other works in our African collection, as well as our wonderful collections of Oceanic, pre-Columbian and Native American art.

E. JOHN BULLARD The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director New Orleans Museum of Art




In September 1994, I had the opportunity to visit the New Orleans Museum of Art for the first time. William A. Fagaly, then Assistant Director of Art at the Museum and now the Francoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art, guided me through the Museum's collection of African art. I was struck by the size and quality of the ensemble. Over the following years, I visited other collections of African Art in different American cities, but, in my opinion, New Orleans remains one of the finest in the country. Three years ago, William Fagaly contacted me to inquire whether the Museum for African Art would be interested in organizing an exhibition and tour of the collection of African art from the New Orleans Museum. Our discussion resulted in the exhibition, Resonance from the Past, and the accompanying catalogue. After New York, the show will travel to San Antonio, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and will conclude its US tour at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.C. Thereafter, the exhibition will travel to Europe. It is a great pleasure to acknowledge the people involved in the production of this exhibition. First, I would like to thank Robert Farris Thompson, Colonel John Trumbull Professor of History of Art, Yale University, for his essay. I also would like to thank the scholars for their contribution to this catalogue. In their extensive captions, they have provided us with updated information on each of the objects selected for this exhibition. The scholars are: Tavy Aherne, Martha Anderson, Suzanne Preston Blier, Arthur P. Bourgeois, Elze Bruyninx, Bolaji Campbell, Amanda Carlson, Herbert M. Cole, Susan Cooksey, William J. Dewey, Kate Ezra, William A. Fagaly, Christaud Geary, Emily G. Hanna, Wyatt MacGaffey, Joseph Nevadomsky, John Pemberton III, Manuel A. Jordan Perez, Louis Perrois, Constantine Petridis, Allen F. Roberts, Mary Nooter Roberts, Doran H. Ross, Christopher Roy, William Siegmann, Jerome Vogel, Roslyn Adele Walker, and Hans Witte. I wish to thank the Board of Trustees at the Museum for African Art, Elsie Crum McCabe, President; and Jerome Vogel, Deputy Director. I also would like to thank E. John Bullard, the Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of the New Orleans Museum of Art who enthusiastically supported the project from its inception. My gratitude also goes to William Fagaly. It was a real pleasure to work with him on this project and to discover how we both share the same enthusiasm for the arts of sub-Saharan Africa and for the city of New Orleans, where he has been living for more than thirty years and that he has been promoting with great zeal. At the New Orleans Museum of Art, I would also like to thank Registrar Paul Tarver who oversaw the condition reporting, packing and shipping of the objects; the Registrar's Assistant Jennifer Ickes and Assistant Registrar Michael Guidry who worked closely with the Registrar preparing the objects for shipment. My gratitude also goes to the Curator of Exhibitions Patricia Pecoraro who coordinated the accurate measuring of the objects for the custom-built crates and the dismantling of the African galleries. Special thanks go to Judy Cooper who. showed her talent in making the photographs for this catalog. At the Museum for African Art, my thanks go to the full Museum staff, and specially to Laurie Ann Farrell, Curator; Carol Braide, Publications Manager; and Giacomo Mirabella, Registrar. I would like to dedicate this exhibition to those who donate works of art to museums, or help in acquiring them. Some of these donors are mentioned on the object labels in the exhibition or the captions of this catalog, while others wish to remain anonymous. In New Orleans, I had the pleasure of meeting several of these donors. I was struck by the enthusiasm of their engagement in helping to build a great collection of African art. Last but not least, I also wish to dedicate this book to my wife Saskia, who shares my love for the city of New Orleans and its people. FRANK HERREMAN



In the essay for the brochure accompanying my 1995 exhibition "Roots of American jazz: African Musical Instruments from New Orleans Collections," I wrote, Late in 1818 the esteemed Philadelphia architect and engineer Benjamin Henry Latrobe sailed to New Orleans to complete a complex project to build and operate a waterworks system for the city. While living here for nearly two years, Latrobe kept a journal documenting his activities and personal observations of the people, their customs and lifestyle. His entry for Sunday, February 21, 1819 is particularly enlightening. On a Commons (the present day Congo Square) directly north of the limits of the city (defined then by the area known today as the Vieux Carre or French Quarter), Latrobe accidentally came upon an assembly of approximately six hundred African American slaves who were enjoying, by state law, their day of rest. Crowding closer he observed a number of circular groups with openings less than ten feet in diameter. Women holding handkerchiefs moved to the accompaniment of musicians. The music consisted of two drums and a stringed instrument. An old man sat astride of Cylindrical drum about afoot in diameter, and beat it with incredible quickness with the edge of his hand andfingers. The other drum was an open staved thing held between the knees and beaten in the same manner. They made an incredible noise. The most curious instrument however was a stringed instrument which no doubt was importedfrom Africa. On the top of the finger board was a rude figure ofa Man in a sitting posture, and two pegs behind him to which the strings were fastened. The body was a Calabash. It was played upon by Fig. 1. The Bornboula. Wood engraving print used as illustration in Century Magazine, April 1886 after ink drawing by E.W. Kemble. The artist's conception of the old dances in Congo Square is based on George Washington Cable's description of the earlier dances. Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

a very little man, apparently 8o or 90 Years old. . . .[In another, larger circle) the instruments were of different construction. One, which from the color of the wood seemed new, consisted ofa block cut into something of theform ofa cricket bat with a long and deep mortise down the Center. This thing made a considerable noise, being beaten lustily on the side by a short stick. In the same Orchestra was a square drum looking like a stool, which made an abominable loud noise: also a Calabash with a round hole in it, the hole studded with brass nails which was beaten by a woman with two short sticks [Carter, Van Horne, and Formwalt 1980:204].


In 1886 author George Washington Cable reports and describes similar activities occurring in Congo Square [Floyd 1995:35-37]. The dances performed were the bamboula and the calinda, both of which had African origins. As African cultural retention among slaves brought to the United States was extremely low, Latrobe and Cable's accounts offer a rare insight into the apparent transferral of aspects of African customs into American life. Latrobe's descriptions and small rudimentary sketches demonstrate the strong affinities between the cultures on the two continents. The stringed instrument has remarkable similar features to known African koras, harps and zithers while the "mortised cricket bat" undoubtedly was a type of slit gong. The drum forms conform to known African types. It must be assumed these musical instruments were fabricated in North America by slaves from their African recollections and experiences since Africans were not allowed to bring possessions in the slave ships from Africa. New Orleans is often called "America's most African city" and embraced as part of the Caribbean world. The city's origins are in good part European, predominantly French and Spanish with a later influx from Italy and Ireland, but a major element of New Orleans's cultural gumbo stems from its associations with sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. African Americans have had an indelible impact on the city's life-style and customs. New Orleans music and cuisine are recognized worldwide as unique contributions to the cultural fabric of the Americas; the most basic of those contributions—jazz, America's quintessential musical idiom—is intrinsically African American in origin. Another singular Crescent City experience with associations to African ritual is the jazz funeral performance and celebration. The city's distinctive and famed cuisine has significant roots in Africa, melded with the culinary arts of Europe and Native Americans indigenous to the area. The study of African art takes a variety of forms in the city. The century-old tradition among African American males of "suiting" on New Orleans' Mardi Gras day in elaborate handmade costumes of their own design ranks among the city's extraordinary artistic achievements. These garments recall American Plains Indian dress but also African beadwork, particularly of the Yoruba and Cameroon peoples. In 1977, recognizing this fact, the New Orleans Museum of Art organized the exhibition "He's the Prettiest': A Tribute to Big Chief Allison 'Tootie' Montana's Fifty Years of Mardi Gras Indian Suiting." Montana is the universally acknowledged leader and "dean" among the approximately two dozen "big chiefs" in the community. He and his father before him together represent a predominant part of the history of this remarkable phenomenon. Three years ago the Museum organized a special exhibition and book, "Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts in New Orleans," documenting the considerable accomplishments of primarily African American master builders and artisans in physically shaping the city's architecture and design. The building trades—carpentry, brick masonry, plaster and lathing work, ironwork—were featured in this revelatory exhibition. Four universities (Southern University at New Orleans[SUNO], the University of New Orleans, Dillard University, and Tulane University) regularly offer courses in sub-Saharan African art history. In addition to the New Orleans Museum of Art's collection of African art, from which this exhibition was selected, other collections are housed at the Amistad Research Center at Tulane, SUNO, Dillard University, and Xavier University. The Monroe Library at Loyola University recently received the Frere Joseph Cornet Archives, an invaluable resource on Congo art now available to scholars for study and research. To complete the fabric of African art interest and connoisseurship in New Orleans, the city boasts distinguished dealers who regularly offer important objects, as well as several dozen discriminating private collectors who actively participate in the African art market.



The New Orleans Museum of Art is proud of its record of recognizing the achievements of the artists of tribal Africa. Its first exhibition focusing on these cultures, "Spotlight on Africa," was held in 1952, and was followed three years later by a presentation of the famed Helena Rubenstein collection of African sculpture. The Museum's fiftieth-anniversary exhibition, "Masks and Masquerades" of 1961, devoted a section to African works. In 1966, when few American art museums had made a commitment to the permanent display of African art, the New Orleans Museum inaugurated an African gallery to exhibit its few holdings, along with an extraordinary group of objects placed on extended loan by Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford of Paris and New York. In 1968, the Museum organized the exhibition "New Orleans Collects: African Art" and published the accompanying catalogue. That same year it presented an exhibition assembled by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, of Benin bronzes. Other African exhibitions shown at the Museum include the outstanding Lester Wunderman collection Figs. a—s: Mardi Gras Indian suiting.

of Dogon art (1973), 100 masterworks from the national collections of Zaire (1978), the art of Cameroon (1981),

Photos: William Fagaly, New Orleans,

Shoowa raffia textiles from Zaire (1988), "Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought" (1991), and


"ASAFO: African Flags of the Fante'' (1995). Other exhibitions organized by the Museum include "Shapes of Power, Belief and Celebration: African Art from New Orleans Collections" (1989), the arts of Ghana from New Orleans collections (1995), and "Roots of American Jazz: African Musical Instruments from New Orleans Collections" (1995). The Museum's permanent collection of African art had an auspicious beginning: the anonymous gift, in 1953, of a late-eighteenth-century cast-copper-alloy head of an Oba, from the Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria. In 1971, to inaugurate new additions to the Museum's original building of 1911, a great masterpiece of African art was purchased for the collection: a veranda post of a mounted warrior by the master Yoruba carver Olowe of Ise. Carved for the palace of the Ogoga at Ikere in Yorubaland, this monumental work set the highest standard of quality for future acquisitions. Since then the Museum's collection has only grown, the most significant addition coming with a group of 140 magnificent African works bequeathed in 1977 by Victor K. Kiam, along with major paintings and sculptures by Miro, Picasso, Giacometti, and Dubuffet. Other important donations have come from H. Russell Albright, M.D., Dr. and Mrs. Oliver E. Cobb, Kent and Charles Davis, Carmen Donaldson, Robert P. Gordy, Carol and Dr. George Harrell, Helen and Dr. Robert Kuhn, Drs. Marian and Daniel Malcolm, Mr. and Mrs. P. Roussel Norman, Mrs. Francoise Billion Richardson, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford, Dr. James J. Strain, Ambassador Franklin H. Williams, and an anonymous donor. The Museum is pleased that two important collections of African art are promised to the institution one day and that Barbara and Wayne Amedee currently make annual promised and partial gifts of groups of objects. With monies from the Francoise Billion Richardson Fund, the Robert P. Gordy Fund, and an anonymous donor, the Museum periodically purchases major African artworks to augment and supplement the current holdings. The universities, the Museum, the dealers, and the collectors all contribute to making New Orleans a center for the serious study of African art in America. The citizens of the community, 70 percent of them African American, have an acute appreciation of their cultural heritage and actively participate in keeping alive the city's proud claim of being "America's Most African City." WILLIAM A. FAGALY The Francoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art New Orleans Museum of Art








Dogon peoples, Mali Wood, sacrificial patina. H. 23 1/2 in. (59.7cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.201

The Dogon people live in the region of the Bandiagara Escarpment, a range of steep cliffs, 125 miles long, located in Mali between the Niger River and the border with Burkina Faso. The Dogon are believed to have converged upon this dry, inhospitable region from several directions between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries (Gallay et al. 1995:29). They encountered a group of people already living there and called them Tellem. Teams of Dutch and Swiss archaeologists have investigated Tellem sites, located in rock shelters in the cliffs above Dogon villages (Bedaux 1977, Gallay et al. 1995). These sites comprise areas for funerary rituals and communal burials and contain wooden headrests, footed pottery bowls, and wool and cotton textiles that are among the earliest in West Africa. Scientific dating of these materials indicates that the Tellem occupied the Bandiagara cliffs from the eleventh century to the fourteenth. These archaeological investigations have also yielded a handful of wood sculptures, similar in style to the vast numbers of undocumented sculptures attributed to the Tellem that entered the African art market in the 195os. These sculptures, like the one shown here, are characterized by simplified geometric forms, planklike backs, raised arms, and thick crusts of sacrificial materials. Sculptures with these features are often identified as Tellem and dated to as early as the eleventh century, but caution should be taken in doing so. While radiocarbon tests of some of these sculptures place them within the period of the Tellem occupation of the cliffs (Leloup 1994:140), other studies have shown that style is not a clear indication of a sculpture's date (Bedaux 1977:76-77, Roy 1983:6). Furthermore, sculptures in "Tellem" style have been used on Dogon altars and copied by Dogon artists in the past century (Paulme 1977:11-12, Laude 1964:49-50, N'Diaye 1995:20). Thus style is not necessarily an indication of the age of a sculpture, or of whether it was made by a Tellem or a Dogon artist. This Figure with Four Arms has the hallmark features of Tellem-style sculptures. The abstracted human form is conceived as two almost identical ovoid masses—the head and torso of the figure— separated by small conical breasts. At the lower end of the figure's serrated arms a pair of hands hug the torso, while at the upper end another pair of hands reach above the figure's head. The mass of the upraised hands is balanced at the bottom of the figure by a conical base instead of legs. The surface is entirely covered with a crust of sacrificial materials. In Dogon and Tellem art, the upraised arms are commonly interpreted as a prayer for rain, much needed for the survival of crops and people on the arid Bandiagara cliffs. KATE EZRA




Dogon peoples, Mali Wood. H. 16 1/4 in. (41.3 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.233

The mother and child is one of the most common themes in African art, and Dogon art is no exception (Cole 1989). Here the kneeling mother feeds her child with her right hand while she supports him with her left. The child's posture is as stiff and formal as the mother's; he sits erect on his mother's lap with his arms held close to his sides. As is common in African art, the child's proportions and body parts, in this case especially his pronounced chest and distinctive hairstyle, suggest a miniature adult rather than a child. Nevertheless, the mother's gesture is tender and protective. It speaks eloquently of the close connection between human fertility and the productivity of the fields where food is grown—both major concerns of Dogon prayers and sacrifices. This figure exhibits features found on a large group of Dogon sculptures. These include rimmed, almond-shaped eyes, an arrow-shaped nose, and an elegant coiffure with sagittal braids and shaved temples. Figures in this style often display a prominent jaw and chin and projecting mouth, although these features are less evident in this example. Such figures have relatively naturalistic proportions and a more rounded torso and limbs than other Dogon figures, which are often more geometric in their stylization. They are also often engaged in an activity rather than merely sitting or standing. Their slender limbs and the objects they hold, in this case the child, project away from the torso and create complex relationships between repeated solid forms and open space. Figures in this style have been attributed to the N'duleri region in the center of the Bandiagara Plateau (Leloup 1994:165-66, nos. 111-31). Other scholars of Dogon history, art, and culture prefer to see sculptural style as a reflection of particular lineages of blacksmiths rather than specific geographic locations (Gallay et al. 1995:25, 32). Until more research focusing on Dogon figure sculpture in its context is done, many aspects of its style, iconography, and meaning will remain poorly understood. KATE EZRA




Dogon peoples, Mali Wood, patina. H. 18 5/8 in. (47.3 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.166

Sculptures like this one raise many questions about the history of Dogon art and its relationship to other Malian art traditions. These works closely resemble the terra-cotta sculptures made in the Inland Niger Delta region around the city of Jenne, located only about a hundred miles from the Dogon cliffs. Shared traits include anatomical features such as a smooth, ovoid head, heavily outlined oval eyes, prominent nose and mouth, and broad beard, as well as cultural attributes like the square grid of scarification marks at the temples, the rectangular pendant, and the knife strapped to the upper left arm. Some of these features, like the knife, are also found on Bamana wood sculptures for the Jo society and on "Bankoni" terra-cottas, found near Bamako and farther south in Mali. Such similarities have prompted suggestions that some of the people today considered Dogon came from the Inland Niger Delta, bringing with them this style of sculpture (Roy 1983:7, Grunne 1991). Helene Leloup's investigations of Dogon regional, ethnic, and period styles have led her to propose that these Dogon works are the creations of a people known as Djennenke, who originally inhabited Jenne and who fled to the Bandiagara plateau in the fifteenth century, subsequently merging with other Dogon (Leloup 1994:115). Oral traditions and historical documents confirm that people have several times fled the Inland Niger Delta for the plateau (Gallay et al. 1995:33-37), taking refuge from Sonrai expansion in the second half of the fifteenth century and again in the early seventeenth century, and from the enlargement of the Bamana kingdom in the early nineteenth century. Radiocarbon dating of some wood sculptures has been offered as evidence that they were made in the same period as many of the Inland Niger Delta terra-cotttas, generally thought to be between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries (Grunne 1991, Leloup 1994). Some of the wood sculptures, however, including this one, were found in use in villages on the plateau in the second half of the twentieth century (Leloup 1994: 128), making it less likely that all of them were made several centuries ago. The combination of male and female characteristics in this figure, which features both a beard and breasts, is found on several other figures in this style (e.g. Leloup 1994:nos. 2, 14, 16). The sculpture's meaning and the significance of its gesture, reaching toward the knife strapped to its arm, are unknown. Although many questions remain about their dating and function, the "Djennenke"-style Dogon wood figures provide tantalizing clues to the complex art history of this region. KATE EZRA



Dogon peoples, Mali Wood, stories. H. 22 1/2 in. (57.15 cm) Museum purchase with funds from an anonymous donor. 99.179

Figurative sculptures are among the most common Dogon objects in museums and private collections, yet they are much less well documented than Dogon masks. The research of French anthropologist Marcel Griaule and his colleagues, who studied the Dogon extensively during the 1930s and '4os, found that sculptures represented ancestors, both actual and mythical, and provided supports for the souls of the deceased (Ezra 1988:21-22). In contrast, Dutch anthropologist Walter van Beek, who studied Dogon art and religion in the 198os, found that sculptures serve as intermediaries between people and a variety of spirit beings, including gods and ancestors. They are the locus of prayer and sacrifice to obtain desired goals, such as children, crops, wealth, and health (van Beek 1988). Although not required by the ritual, the sculpture is said to help focus the attention of both the supplicant and the god, and to prolong and intensify the spiritual contact between them. As one of van Beek's informants told him, "One cannot always pray and kneel at the altar, but the statue can!" (van Beek 1988:60). The sculpture thus becomes a permanent marker of the event. Sculptures, called dege, are kept in a variety of household altars, lineage altars, and ward shrines, or binu ginu, dedicated to mythical ancestors who unite several clans. Like many Dogon sculptures, this one, which depicts a man balancing an object on his head, captures a person performing an action. Dogon art may show women pounding grain in a mortar, feeding a child, or carrying a vessel on the head, all gestures that show their hard work and dedication to nourishing their families. Men are shown riding a horse or playing a musical instrument, activities that suggest their physical power, wealth, or ritual status. Sculptures often represent the supplicant performing a gesture of prayer, kneeling or with raised arms, although they may also represent the supplicant with the desired goal of prayer, for example a child or sufficient food or water, or with the trappings of wealth and status. It has been suggested that the flat-topped cylindrical object balanced on the head of this figure represents an altar for receiving sacrifices (Leloup 1994:nos. 90-92). This figure seems to belong to a group of Dogon sculptures that are closely related in style. They feature sturdy, rounded torsos, powerful flexed legs, and long arms. As in this example, they have small almond-shaped eyes placed close together, wide nostrils, a projecting pursed mouth, and a prominent chin or beard. This figure is further enlivened by parallel horizontal grooves that periodically interrupt the strong vertical forms and represent anklets, bracelets, shoulder ornaments, and the fingers of the right hand. KATE EZRA






Dogon peoples, Mali H. 47 31 ,8 in.( 020.3 cm) Wood. H Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.249

This enigmatic sculpture shows one female figure standing on top of another whose head has been replaced by a construct of slender vertical elements sandwiched between two circular disks. Superimposed figures appear in several Dogon sculptural styles, including Tellem (Leloup 1994: nos. 39, 40), Djennenke (Musee Dapper 1994:204), and a distinctive simplified geometric substyle that Leloup identifies as Komakan (1994:no. 67), as well as in the more canonical Dogon style of the present figure and one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Museum Rietberg 1995:no. 26). This suggests that the motif had significance for artists and patrons in many parts of the Dogon region for an extended period. Several hypotheses as to the meaning of the motif have been proposed: the figures are seen alternatively as twins in both their human and spiritual manifestations (Phillips 1995:no. 6.24); as the mythical brothers Arou and Dyon, who are said to have migrated from Mande to establish the Dogon in their present region (Laude 1966:130-131); as the spirit Nommo descending into the head of a Hogon, or spiritual leader, of a Dogon community (Laude 1973:110. 24); and finally as a series of ancestors evoking the continuity of the family (Leloup 1994: 158). Unfortunately, none of these interpretations has been confirmed either by Dogon informants or by information on the context in which such sculptures are used. The motif on the lower figure is likewise difficult to interpret. In this and several similar sculptures, the vertical elements composing the figure's "head" are almost entirely featureless, with only their bent shape and the indentation near the top suggesting a figure's head and body (Phillips 1995: no. 6.23, Vogel 1981:110. 4). In others, the depiction of distinct multiple figures arranged in a circular composition, or of a figure with multiple faces, is more clearly visible (Leloup 1994:nos 86, 87). In this and several other examples, the vertical elements are placed between circular disks, suggesting the base and seat of Dogon circular caryatid stools, which in turn may perhaps be interpreted as representing the linking of earthly and heavenly domains. Many Dogon figures share similar features with this work: strongly stylized bodies, sharply angled legs, and elongated arms bent at the elbow and wrists. These sculptures often present a unified composition consisting of repeating parallel diagonal forms created by the breasts, pointed abdomens, forearms, and thighs. Helene Leloup (1994) calls this style of Dogon sculptures Bombou-Toro, and suggests that it comes from the central part of the Bandiagara cliffs, near the large village of Sanga. KATE EZRA




6. STAFFS WITH BELLS 18th—i9th century Dogon peoples, Mali Wrought iron. H.: a. 67 in. (170.2 CM), b. 34 1/2 in. (87.6 CM), C. 51 1/2 in. (130.8 CM), d. 58 1/4 in. (148.6 CM), e. 55 in. (139.7 CM) a—c: Gift H. Russell Albright, M.D. 90.383, 90.384, 90.385. d: Gift of E. John Bullard in honor of Jacqueline Sullivan's twenty years of service to NOMA. 93.79. e: Gift of William A. Fagaly in memory of Doris Zemurray Stone. 94.319

This group of five iron staffs, part of a larger collected group of eleven, was reportedly found arranged in a circular configuration in a cave in the Bandiagara Escarpment. Both the earlier Tellem people (eleventh through fourteenth centuries) and the subsequent Dogon placed objects in the caves of the escarpment. Andre Blandin has suggested that large staffs such as these were made by the Tellem, and that their examples provided inspiration for later Dogon staffs (1992:72-73). However, while iron tools, ornaments, bells, and headrests have been excavated from Tellem burial caves (Bedaux 1988), no such staffs have been found in controlled, datable excavations. Without definitive dating and documentation of context, it cannot be known with certainty which of these peoples made the staffs, but given the absence of documented Tellem examples, they seem more likely to be Dogon in origin. The hand-forged staffs are composed of elements commonly seen in the repertoire of Dogon blacksmiths, but their large size makes them unusual. There is little concrete information on the use and meaning of such objects. The curving appendages protruding out of the vertical shafts evoke multiple associations, from spreading tree branches to supplicants with outstretched arms to projecting lizard or human torsos. The addition of figurative iron birds and smaller arms to these appendages, along with the many suspended bells, further complicate such optical allusions. In Dogon myth the first blacksmith is credited with bringing civilization to the world by descending in the celestial ark, equipped with the necessary elements. The blacksmith saw that there was no fire among the items to begin the world, so he stole a piece of the sun (Griaule 1965, Roberts 1988). Because of this brush with the sun, Dogon blacksmiths are still considered "hot," and must not walk in people's fields lest they cause the crops to wither. Instead, they use their extraordinary transformative powers to heal, divine, and create. Perhaps because of the prominent role of blacksmiths in Dogon mythology, some have asserted that a number of iron sculptures represent the first blacksmith or his twin, one of the Nommo primordial beings (Brincard 1982, Laude 1973). It is tempt-


ing to equate the rubbery-looking limbs often seen on Dogon figurative iron sculpture with the story of the first blacksmith or a Nommo breaking his sinuous limbs into articulated joints as the result of his fall from heaven. African sculpture is seldom narrative in nature, however, and such interpretations have been shown to be a product more of Western imagination than of Dogon exegesis (Ezra 1988, van Beek 1988). At the same time, even a scholar such as Walter van Beek, who is dismissive of Marcel Griaule's interpretation of Dogon origin myths (van Beek and Hollyman 2001:103), acknowledges the importance of blacksmiths as a source of the iron tools on which the Dogon depend, and notes that their workshops serve as ritual centers of Dogon villages. He points out that when a new anvil is installed in the village, the whole village gathers to feast and sing, to offer sacrifices, and to chant. That anvil may never be removed, even when the blacksmith decides to move his shop, or dies. The spikelike anvil indeed is considered the foundation, the root, of the village. If it becomes loosened, the village may drift (van Beek and Hollyman 2001:42). Iron objects are prominent in shrines dedicated to totemic ancestors (binu), in houses of religious and political leaders of Dogon communities (hogon), and in altars to Nommo (Ezra 1988). The staffs probably once ornamented one of these contexts, or perhaps a rainmaking shrine as blacksmiths and Nommo are regarded as twins and are believed to have certain powers in common, such as the ability to bring rain. The accumulation of hooks, dangles, and other forms on iron objects functions to focus and attract spiritual forces to Dogon shrines. The leaflike projections, common on rainmaking staffs made of iron, are "suggestive of growing plants, which for the Dogon people thrive on the moisture provided by Nommo, the primordial being who brought order, purity, and fertility to the universe and who is manifested in life-giving water" (Ezra 1988:81). WILLIAM J. DEWEY





Do association, village of Orodara, Tusyan or Win peoples, Burkina Faso Wood, kissi seeds, fiber, kaolin, mirror. H. 42 in. (106.7 cm) Museum purchase. 73.43

Distinctive square plank masks are produced for initiations for the deity Do (also known as Lo) in Toussiana, and neighboring areas in southwestern Burkina Faso. The predominant group of people in this area are Win and Pentobe, also known by the anglicized Jula name Tusyan. Do is the most powerful and ancient religion of local origin in Toussiana and in southern Burkina Faso (Roy 1987, HannaVergara 1996). In Toussiana, Do refers to the spirit and to the initiation society associated with him. There are two types of Do initiation ceremony. The first type occurs every two years, and was once compulsory for all members of the community (Hebert 1972). It lasts eleven days, and includes, for female initiates, excision, and for male initiates, circumcision and a change of name given by the boy's father. The second type of initiation occurs every forty or fifty years and involves only male initiates, who, again, are renamed during the ceremony. It is in this second initiation that the masquerades are performed. It is so important to participate in this event that even unborn male children are given names, which they then retain (Hebert 1959). Reinforcing and celebrating the unity of Do worshippers in the community, this ceremony reiterates the spiritual responsibilities of the clans who have leadership roles in Do. During the twentieth century there were two Do initiations of this type, one in 1933, the last either in 1982 or 1987 (Trost 1986, Sanon and Sanon 1995). This second type of Do initiation rite lasts a month and a half. Most initiation ceremonies and training take place in the bush, but a sacred grove and a small house near the house of the village chief are also sites of Do rituals, including masquerades and feasts. During the initiation ceremonies, the Do leader assigns the initiate a name based on his individual personal traits. These characteristics are matched with those of animals, in a ranking listed here from least to most important, and from most common to most rare: m'pie, heron; n'sera, bird with a curved beak that foretells misfortune; pie, hare; minugu, stork; toro, partidge; kinta, fish-eating bird; gango, panther; minta, red monkey; bongo, leopard; leguan, cat; sil, warthog; kitio, elephant, and kab, bush buffalo. Many variations on these names are possible (Hebert 1959). The initiate carves a mask, or has one commissioned, that represents his animal namesake. These plank masks usually have

horns or bird's heads. Wood helmet masks representing buffalos with bird figures attached, and leather masks representing monkeys and warthogs, are also associated with Do. Once the wearer dons his mask, he behaves like his animal namesake. The warthog, for example, is known as a gluttonous and boisterous animal; when he enters the dance area, everyone makes way for him. The buffalo, kab, is the most important of these animal figures. Everyone knows his power; in fact Toussiana locals say that he encompasses all the powers of the others, and when he leaves the dance they say "The great one is gone." The New Orleans mask representing the bush buffalo is an example of the most visually striking style of plank mask. The curving horns on top form an almost perfect circle over the nearly square plank. A small rectangular area at the base of the horns is accentuated by rows of seeds, calling attention to an inset rectangular mirror; similar small mirrors are considered conduits to the spirit world by local diviners, and they may have the same association on the mask, that is, to connect Do and his worshippers. (In other examples of this mask, however, a painted buffalo face appears in the same area.) The square plank is traversed by crossed lines of red paternoster seeds embedded in wax. The upper quadrancof this X formation is slightly curved to accommodate the two large eyeholes, which are also accentuated with seeds, and this slight curvature suggests the contours of a buffalo's head. The alignment of the buffalo's large face with the mirror creates a wonderful resonance between the masker, named after the buffalo, and the spirit force of Do, who has given him this most revered name. The mask is framed by a long fringe of blackened leather strands threaded through holes on the sides. The body covering of the masquerade is also made of these strands, which extend from the shoulders to the ankles. The leather strands on the mask are often lost when the object is collected; the New Orleans mask is rare in its intact fringe. When the initiation masquerade is over, the masks are hung on the outer wall of the initiate's home, where it is forbidden for anyone, particularly women, to see or touch them. Although locals say that the owner has to protect the masks for forty years, only remnants are visible on the house walls in Toussiana today. SUSAN COOKSEY






Mossi peoples, Burkina Faso Wood, iron. H. ti 1/8 in. (28.2 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.123

The Mossi people established themselves in Burkina Faso during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when they migrated north on horseback from the region that is now Ghana (Skinner 1964, lzard 1985). As they settled in their new homeland, they conquered and absorbed several ethnic groups and displaced others. Mossi culture, then, is an interesting blend of practices and traditions, some common to groups indigenous to Burkina Faso, some imported from farther south. The Mossi have always distinguished the descendants of the invading horsemen, called Nakomse, from the descendants of the conquered people, called Tengabisi. The king and village chiefs are all chosen from the Nakomse population, while positions of religious and spiritual authority belong to the Tengabisi. Mossi figures such as this one, called niande, belong to the Nakomse, and are used by chiefs in several different ways (Roy 1986: 152-69). The figures, both male and female, represent royal ancestors and are displayed at annual ceremonies that occur at key points in the agricultural cycle. The very ownership of the figures confirms the chief's right to rule, and their public presentation allows for a communal expression of allegiance and confidence in the chief's power. During funeral rites, which generally occur long after the actual burial, a figure may stand in for and represent the deceased chief (ibid:162). The figures are also important in ancestral ritual and sometimes accumulate a patina from substances offered as sacrifices to the ancestors, or from use in divination. According to Christopher Roy, sculpted figures of animals such as the hornbill and the ram are used in similar contexts, and are even more common than human figures. They represent both the qualities found in an ideal chief and the actual animals sacrificed in rituals that serve to maintain correct relationships between the human and the divine (ibid.:168). Mossi art varies considerably in style from region to region because of the ethnic diversity at the very foundation of the culture. Despite stylistic differences, female niande can usually be recognized by the saggital crest hairstyle and the scarification patterns on the face and torso. When displayed publicly, the figures are generally clothed with a wrap skirt, similar to those worn by West African women. EMILY G. HANNA




Lobi peoples, Burkina Faso Wood. H. 18 7/8 in. (47.9 cm) Museum purchase. 81.337

This finely carved and impressively large figure, of the type called boteba, was made by an unknown artist of the Lobi people in far-southwest Burkina Faso. The piece is more naturalistic than most of its kind, but I do not feel that necessarily means it is recent. All Lobi men consider themselves accomplished artists, and they carve prolifically; there are thousands of Lobi figures in collections worldwide, and thousands more in Lobiland. This, however, is the work of a more accomplished and perhaps more experienced artist than the usual Lobi figure. The Lobi are independent people, who fiercely resisted French colonial power almost until the independence of Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta), in 1960. They fought the French bravely and effectively and were in turn slaughtered by the hundreds by Senegalese mercenaries under French command. To this day Lobi communities have no chiefs or other political leaders. They are, instead, religious communities, being protected and blessed by a particular and well-defined number of spirits, called thil, that protect the community from harm. The spirits' blessings are conditional; to receive God's blessings the Lobi must observe strict religious laws. These laws, called zoser, may govern the foods they eat, the clothing they wear, the way they pray, the eating or cooking utensils they use, and many other agreements or covenants with God. The laws of God, not the laws of man, provide the social glue that binds the congregation. Because so many afflictions threaten life and prosperity in Burkina Faso, many thil are needed to protect the community; no one thil can defend against all dangers. When one enters a shrine holding the figures representing these spirits, one finds dozens, even hundreds of them there. Each boteba is accompanied by a mate of the opposite gender. Like humans, thil come in pairs, and boteba too are created in pairs. Somewhere, in some collection public or private, there is a male figure, by the same hand as this example, that was once its pair. The gestures of boteba often allow identification of the particular power they exercised. Some hold up their hands to block the door of the home to evil spirits. Some turn their heads to the left, to deceive the forces of darkness. Some hold their hands behind their backs—the Lobi gesture of mourning—so that their owners will have no need to mourn. This piece has no distinguishing gesture, placing it in the category of normal boteba: it provides broader, more generalized spiritual protection to the members of its congregation. CHRISTOPHER ROY



Jo association, Bamana peoples, Bougouni district, Mali Wood, string, cowrie shell, iron. H. 24 in. (61 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.254

This sculpture, of a kind known asjonyeleni or nyeleni ("little pretty one" or "little Nyele," a common name), was likely used by the Jo association (Ezra 1986:17). Localized in the south of Mali, Jo accepts both male and female initiates. It helps to ensure the continuity of life through the socialization of youths, the remembrance of Jo ancestors, and the conducting of annual rites of purification and renewal (Ezra 2001:133, Male 1995:316). Where Jo continues to be active, membership is mandatory for young males except those of the nyamakalaw or artisan "caste" (Ezra 1983:58). All but numu (blacksmith-sculptor) youths are prohibited from joining (Imperato 1983:35, Ezra 1983:106). Youths are prepared for initiation over a sevenyear period (Ezra 2001:132). They are divided into troops 00 kulu) and taught knowledge about Jo, and about their specific troop's objects, songs, dances, and skills of performance (Ezra 1983:96, 2001:132). During initiation in the seventh year, initiates are symbolically "killed," to return to their villages reborn as "children of Jo" (Jodenw). They then commence a period of itinerant performances in which they demonstrate publicly their accumulated knowledge (Ezra 2001:133). Most Jo figural sculpture is used by the numu jo troop, the blacksmith initiates (Ezra 1983:106). The nyeleni figures are either carried by the performers or placed behind them on the ground as a kind of backdrop. Nyeleniw (pl.) are said to increase visual interest, punctuating the performances and attracting the audience's attention. They are "things to look at" (mafilefenw; ibid.:168). In performance they are adorned with loincloths, jewelry, head ties, or other items borrowed from young women in the village (Ezra 1986:17). This particular figure retains remnants of red thread ornaments in both ears, and two cowrie shells dangle from the right earlobe. The pierced nose was probably also adorned.

Nyeleni figures, in their minimal form, illustrate Bamana notions of ideal feminine beauty and, by extension (since beauty is associated with morality), character traits desired in young, marriageable women (ibid.:7). This figure radiates such notions in its strong neck—Bamana associate the neck with "honesty and integrity" (Imperato 2001:12)—and the pronounced bulge may allude to fat rolls, a sign of physical beauty. A beautiful woman attends to her hair, and in the sculpture a projecting nodule at the forehead, and incised parallel lines, allude to an elaborate saggital-crest coiffure. Prominent breasts show the figure in its prime, able to bear and nourish children. As in other Jo figures, zigzag and lozenge-shaped designs embellish the torso, arms, and back and radiate out from the pronounced umbilicus. These marks may simply be nyegenw, designs used to enhance an object, or, although this is more unusual, they may indicate the scarification of Bamana women, to which their placement closely corresponds (Ezra 1983:158, 160-61). Ezra believes that bands at wrists and waists, as visible here, may be protective amulets or beaded jewelry (ibid.:153-55). Further, the band and lozenge motif at the waist may signify waist beads, considered "particularly seductive" (ibid.:153). Such elements are appropriate, for nyeleniw, referred to as "girlfriends" by Jodenw, may also express the male initiates' desires to marry and fulfill their new status as adults (Ezra 1986:18). TAVY D. AHERNE





Bamana peoples, Koulikoro region, Mali Terra-cotta. H. 19 3/4 in. (50.2 cm) Robert P. Gordy Collection. 88.27.

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This beautiful water jar (jidago orjifinye) is an example of the attention that the Bamana may lavish upon a utilitarian item. The vessel is probably a jidaga. Smaller and more decorative than jifinye, the jidaga is intended for use outside, in the public area of a family's compound. An essential component of a young bride's trousseau (Frank 200E50), it keeps water cool and accessible. The best vessels may be praised for making the water "sweet" (di) (Nakunte Diarra: personal communication, 1992). fidogow are visible to one's neighbors, and the quality of a jar reflects upon its owner. Of all the cooking and storage pots, then, jidagaw "receive the most aesthetic critique" (Frank 2001:50). Potters, or numumusow, are members of a specialized artisan "caste" known as nyamakolow, or "handle[rjs of nyama," a force or spiritual power that animates the world. Nyama is concentrated in certain elements of flora and fauna, as well as in bodily fluids such as blood and saliva. It is released through the creative and destructive acts of humans (Patrick McNaughton: personal communication, 1990). Spiritual as well as technical knowledge and expertise are needed to manipulate raw clay, and to transform it through fire into functional and beautiful objects. The abilities of potters are tested in, for example, the digging up of clay, a process fraught with the potential release of nyama. If the material is mishandled, one may be subjected to "barrenness, sterility, miscarriage, blindness, illness, and even death" (Frank 1998:79). Potters work within the parameters of established types but recognize the creativity of individual artists' work. Older jidagaw are decorated with lowrelief molded or incised designs. Today, however, molded elements are rare, having given way to slip-painted surface designs (Frank 1998:33). This jidaga is divided into three main registers. The neck and body show impressed zigzag designs that may represent female scarification patterns (Frank 1998:132). On the body of the pot, a cowrie shell and rows of raised nodules (possibly signifying breasts) visually set off four alternating anthropomorphic and reptilian forms. Finally two human figures, though abstracted, are clearly female. Zigzag patterning on their torsos suggests scarification, and both wear plaited coiffures. They may represent female ancestors, or women from myths or of local importance. The reptilian forms may be that of korow (land lizards) or /wow (large water iguanas), reptiles thought to protect against malevolent forces, to bring good fortune, and to symbolize fertility and wealth (Imperato 200E60, 77, 80). Such combinations of imagery also appear on other art forms that bridge public and private space (such as doorlocks), and are considered protective in nature (Imperato 2001). TAVY D. AHERNE





icomoKuN Korno association, Bamana peoples, Koulikoro region, Mali Wood, porcupine quills, animal fur, antelope horns, feathers, mirror, sacrificial patina. H. 17 1/2 in. (44.4 cm) HELMET MASK: WARAKUN OR

Gift of Kent and Charles Davis. 92.804

The visually aggressive form of the horizontal helmet masks known as warakun (head of beast) or kOmokun (head of Koma) can be explained by their role as instruments of the Kama power association. The association is open to all circumcised men, who as "children of Korno" (Komo denw) are taught selfknowledge, leadership and fighting skills, and abilities to work through the natural and supernatural realms (McNaughton 1979:22-23). Although Kama meetings and performances are not public—they are held at night in the bush—the association acts on behalf of individuals and the community, assisting at times of crisis and illness and responding to attacks of sorcery or spirits (ibid.:22). Formerly, Komi) also acted as a kind of police force and judiciary, detecting and punishing criminals (ibid.:20). Komi) is led by blacksmith-sculptors (numuw; McNaughton 1988:130), articulators par excellence of nyama, a potent animating force. The "master of Kama" (KOmOtigi) draws upon a body of esoteric knowledge and practical expertise that is gathered into efficacious "recipes" (daliluw) and used in combination with divination and/or masquerade to access nyama (ibid.:42-43, 130). Masks are carved

in the bush, and every sculptor has his own "recipe" for investing a mask with nyama (ibid.:I33). Herbal substances mixed with earth are applied to the mask, which refers to no one animal but is a metaphor for all that is bush. The huge mouth may be that of a hyena (thought cunning and intelligent), a crocodile (protective), or a horse (leadership, power) (ibid.:136-37, 143). Various horns or tusks are incorporated as evidence of "potential aggression" (ibid.:136) or as receptacles for power substances. Quills refer to poisons, wisdom, and the "capacity for violence" (ibid.). Animal fur links this "beast" with its bush origins. A mirror at the end of the snout may suggest sight into the spiritual realm. The small round forms are considered mosiri (decoration) (ibid.:143) but may also be basivi or boliw (power devices or objects), "reservoirs of power" that enhance the mask's efficacy (Patrick McNaughton: personal communication, 1990). Throughout its use, the mask will receive further sacrificial materials that "nourish" its power (McNaughton 2001:178). In performance, the Komo masquerade charges out of the bush, challenging its audience with quick, aggressive movements (ibid.:176). The performer may execute acrobatics, or dramatic feats of spitting fire and water (McNaughton 1988:142-44). He will also use unclear speech, which is translated by an accompanying bard, the Kombsuruku (McNaughton 2001:178). Mask, costume, movement, and sound are dramatically orchestrated to resonate with nyama, and, in its antisorcery functions, to "fight fire with fire" (ibid.). TAVY D. AHERNE





Kore association, Bamana peoples, Koulikoro region, Mali Wood, metal. H. 14 5/8 in. (37.2 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiarn. 77.272

Many Bamana masks and sculptures are associated with men's associations (jow), of which the bestknown are the Ntomo, Kore, Ciwara, Nama, K6n6, and Komo (McNaughton 1979:2-23, Colleyn 2001: 95). This sculpture has been associated with the Kore society, an initiation association predominantly concerned with the socialization of young men, whom it submits to rites of passage that emphasize their transition from childhood to adulthood (Colleyn 2001:95). Initiates spend a period in seclusion in the bush, where Kore elders teach them knowledge considered essential for an adult male: instructions in sexuality, herbal medicines, respect for elders, and ways to communicate with ancestors (ibid.:97). Kore initiates are divided into groups, among them the "clowns" or "buffoons" (koredugaw, koredubow, or korejugaw; Zahan 1960, Ezra 1983:105, 180; Colleyn 2001:99). In performances, koredugaw parody those associated with leadership and power, such as rulers, hunters, warriors, and Muslim leaders. They "have the right ... to act the fool and make fun of the most sacred objects" (Goldwater 1960:12). Pushing the boundaries of propriety, they expose human frailties, highlighting ideal behaviors through negative examples. Their performances are amusing but their messages are edifying. This koredugaso (hobbyhorse) may once have been part of the costume of a clown who mocked the sofow (horse warriors), important figures in Bamana history. Further, as a luxury in West Africa, horses were and are a potent symbol of leadership throughout the region. Sometimes masked and brandishing a wooden sword or sticks, the koredugaw mount hobbyhorses during their satirical performances. Some koredugasow combine horselike features with those of other animals, such as the anteater (timba; Zahan 1980:73, Colleyn 2001:126), which plays a role in Bamana origin myths and is considered an industrious, conscientious creature. This head's long ears and snout could allude to the anteater. Carved and incised patterns embellish the surface of the head, and the ears are pierced to receive ornaments. A metal band wraps the snout, suggesting horse trappings. Much attention was paid to the carving of this head, which may put its attribution as a koredugaso into question. Kate Ezra observes that hobbyhorses are simply carved, with a small hole at the neck for mounting on a stick (1983:105). She also states that more refined horse heads are used by a troop known as somaw or sotigiw (horse owners, horse masters), members of the Jo initiation association (ibid.:103-5). In a field photograph of sotigiw, however, their "horses" seem indistinguishable from koredugasow (Colleyn 2001:144, fig. 29). Positive attribution of this object, then, remains allusive. TAVY D. AHERNE








Ciwara or Jo associations, Bamana peoples, Sikasso region, Mali Wood, animal hair, cloth, string, iron. H. 23 in. (58.4 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.251

This crest mask is a wonderful example of the complex iconography and artistic creativity exhibited in Bamana works. It has been identified as used by the Ciwara association, which is concerned with agriculture. Ciwara masquerades appear just before the onset of the rainy season, in entertaining yet efficacious performances that articulate and harness the ancestors, spiritual forces, and nyama (spiritual energy, power) in order to assure successful harvests. Today they are increasingly a source of secular entertainment, performed by dance troops and age groups. Ciwara crest masks, known as ciwara kunw (farming beasts) or sogoni kunw (little animal heads), show great variety. Three main regional styles have been identified (Imperato 1970, Zahan 1980), and this particular mask is illustrative of the abstraction most often seen in the southern Bamana region. A phallic horizontal element merges with the arched back of an anteater (recognized by its tall ears and long snout). Anteaters are linked with farming activities through their habits of rooting and burrowing. Mounted upon the anteater are curved horn- and knucklebone-like elements whose meaning is unclear. As on other ciwara kunw, animal fur (evidence of the bush) and cloth (product of civilization) are lashed to the top. J. P. Colleyn has recently questioned the attribution of this object, identifying it not as a Ciwara mask but as a crest of the Jo initiation association with "integrated" ciwara (2001:163, cat. 152). Kunw, or "heads," are utilized in the performances of two Jo troops, the Sotigiw and the Kenyew (Ezra 2001:138-39). While those of the Sotigiw troop take the form of carved horse heads, those of the Kenyew are carved openwork crests (called kunw or konikunw; ibid.). The basic form, an arch, may be completely abstract or may incorporate stylized figural elements such as antelope heads. If this is in fact, as Colleyn argues, a crest once used by the Kenyew troop, its superstructure is unusual in comparison to the few kunw represented in collections. The wood crests are mounted to a wig or basketry cap (Ezra 1983:99). Initiates also embellish kunw with quills, beads, seeds, mirrors, fiber, and other materials (Ezra 2001:139). As noted, animal hair, secured by cloth and fiber cord, has been attached to the ends of the projecting elements on this sculpture. Kate Ezra states that Jo initiates consider kunw crests as mosin (decoration; Ezra 1983:100) but Viviana Plaques sees a deeper significance to their iconography, describing the arches as important elements of Bamana spiritual thought (signifying either rainbows or cocks' combs) (Paques 1954:68-72, 78, 101). TAVY D. AHERNE





Ciwara association, Bamana peoples, Bougouni or Diola region, Mali Wood. H. 16 3/8 in. (41.5 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.241

This crest mask is a visual medley of sweeping curves and rhythmic balance, typifying the Bamana concept ofjayan (clarity): a reducing down to essentials of form and meaning (McNaughton 1988:108, Brink 2001:239). In its abstraction it exhibits stylistic hallmarks of Ciwara crest masks from the southern Bamana region, around Bougouni (Imperato 1970, Brink 1981:25, Zahan 1981:22). The term "ciwara" (farming beast) references a constellation of meanings. It is at once the association devoted to agricultural fertility; the mythic being —half man, half beast—who taught humans farming; a praise name granted to young farmers who encapsulate the skills, strength, and grace of a "farming beast"; and the expression designating the performance and its trappings—crest masks, costumes, dances, and songs (Imperato 1970:8-10, Brink 1981:24-25). Once a widespread power association, Ciwara was primarily concerned with promoting cooperation between community members in the planting and harvesting of crops. In some rural communities this remains its primary focus (Wooten 2000, Colleyn 2001:202, Jansen 2001). It is now performed more often as entertainment, however. Thus some Bamana distinguish between Ciwara masquerades that they call cekOrobawfen (old men's things)—those that draw upon spiritual forces, energies (nyama), and ancestors for a community's benefit—and those they call tulonkefenw (playthings), which are performed for entertainment (Wooten 2000:21). The masquerade performances emphasize the links between human and agricultural fecundity and the cooperation between men and women felt necessary to ensure agricultural success (Brink 1981:25). Ciwara masks are danced in male-female pairs. They accompany workers into communal fields, praising


and challenging the young men. They also entertain at hoeing contests that recognize a champion farmer. The dancers are male, but they are joined by young women who fan the ciwaraw "to diffuse the power [nyama] that the beasts are believed to emit" (Brink 1981:25). The dancers hunch over and lean on canes that evoke forelegs, their movements mimicking an antelope's. Ciwara crest masks, called ciwara kunw (farming beast heads) or sogoni kunw (little animal heads), are metaphors for the qualities intrinsic to successful farmers. Various animals possessing such desired traits, and/or associated with the origins of agriculture, combine to form a ciwara kun. Among these is the pangolin (ngonso), which burrows into the earth; its curled, humped figure forms the base of this crest mask. Echoing the curve of the pangolin's body is the anteater (timba), another burrowing creature known for its diligent, conscientious nature (Brink 1981:25) and for the long, phallic snout with which it roots in the earth—an action equated with the penetration of the female by the male (Zahan 1980:39, 74, Zahan 1981:22, C011er 2001: 204). The mask's horns invoke the grace and strength of the roan antelope (daje; Zahan 1981:22, Brink 1981:25), which may also be referenced by the jagged, zigzag projection on the anteater's back (suggestive of the roan's mane, according to P. J. Imperato [1970:72]). The central geometric elements may refer to the zigzag path run by roan antelopes and/or the sun's route between the two solstices (Zahan 1981:22). Chip-carved, triangular markings cover much of the surface, and are said to represent the skin of the anteater (Imperato 1970:7).






Mende or Sherbro peoples, Sierra Leone Wood, iron. H. 23 1/2 in. (59.7 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.153

Associations appear throughout the cultures of Sierra Leone and western Liberia, some of them widespread, like the Poro and Sande, others more restricted both geographically and in terms of eligibility for membership. They all are distinguished from one another by their possession of special sources of power (in Mende, halesia, usually translated as "medicines") and links with particular spirits. These power sources may be physically represented in a number of different ways, one of which is the carved female or male figure. The ringed neck, ridged hairstyle, and diamondshaped face of this example, with its high forehead and eyes, and its nose and mouth confined to the lower half of the diamond, clearly place it stylistically as coming from southern Sierra Leone. Generally speaking, figures and masks in this style tend to be attributed to the Mende, the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone. Such figures are usually called minsereh, and are said to be associated with curing illness, especially mental illness. Among the earliest figures collected in Sierra Leone are a group now in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, acquired before 1900 by the British colonial officer T. J. Alldridge and described in his book The Sherbro and Its Hinterland (1901). Alldridge also describes a Sherbro association identified as the Yase, or Yassi, whose principal function was the cure of physical and mental disorders. The Yassi society still survives among the Sherbro. The figures it uses are called minsereh, and in Alldridge's time, he writes, female leaders of the Yassi society used them in divination. As a result of this single source, virtually all figures from the region have subsequently been called minsereh and associated with the Yassi. At the same time, however, they are usually attributed to the Mende, whose language is unrelated to that of the Sherbro and who do not use either the term "Yassi" or "minsereh."

The Mende, however, do have an association, the Njayei, that is very similar to the Yassi society, and this association keeps pairs of figures, male and female, known as lomba and kambei respectively (Hart 1993:52). Such figures are said to represent both deceased members of the association and in some sense the association's ancestral spirits, possibly the original founders of the local chapter (ibid.). The use of figurative cculpture within sacred societies is only documented for the Yassi and Njayei. Neither society is found in every village, however, and it seems unlikely that all of the figures found in this region were associated with one or the other of these societies. In fact at least some examples are known of chiefs or prominent female elders keeping similar figures as symbols of their role in "protecting" the women's societies. The attribution of figurative sculptures such as this one, then, is complicated in terms of both their origin and their function. The Mende and their near neighbors the Bullom, Sherbro, Krim, Cola, and Vai all share the same cultural institutions and carve in the same general style. In fact, Mende informants often say that the Mende learned to carve in this style from the Sherbro. As a result, carvings from individual workshops are usually far more distinctive than are the divisions based on ethnicity. This particular figure shares certain attributes with the figurative carvings on several Sande-society masks that incorporate pairs of figures: the rather "cubistic" treatment of the legs, the cylindrical body, the cone-shaped breasts, and the tubular arms. Unfortunately there is no collection data for any of these pieces so it is still unclear whether they are Mende or Sherbro. In short, without specific collection data it is impossible to tell exactly where these intriguing pieces were made or exactly how they were used. WILLIAM SIEGMANN





Poro society, Loma peoples, Liberia/Guinea border Wood, cotton, feathers, monkey fur, leopard fur, cowrie shells, metal and seeds. H. 28 in. (71.1 cm) Museum purchase: Ella West Freeman Foundation Matching Fund. 72.40

The Loma, or Toma, live on both sides of the border between Liberia and Guinea. In Liberia they are known as Loma while in Guinea they are known as Toma. The two names are respectively English and French renderings of the same name, and reflect differences in both European orthography and regional dialects. The principal men's initiation society throughout the area is the Poro society, which is represented by several different manifestations. On some occasions the Poro is represented by an auditory manifestation, which, when heard, requires that all nonmembers be secluded in their houses, where they may hear but not see the Poro "devil," Ngafui. The Poro is also represented by masked performers, however, and in the northern area the main mask is known as Landai. It has a huge wooden head with large articulated jaws and big teeth, which are stained red to represent the fact that it "eats" the boys during the initiation process. It has a "beard" of monkey fur and a large crown of feathers from a raptor. It wears a costume of raffia and red cloth. The form of the mask is said to have been borrowed from the neighboring Bande. Among the southern Loma this same sprit is represented by the mask Ngafui. Where the Landai mask is oversized, the Ngafui wooden mask is only slightly larger than a human face, but like the Landai it has an articulated jaw with large teeth, a bulbous forehead, a monkey-fur beard, and a crown of raptor feathers. The costume of this mask is usually more complex than that of the Landai mask, including a head band, epaulets and a front piece and back piece composed of red cloth, leather, cowry shells, amulet packages often containing Islamic script,


and usually leopard skin. These leather and cloth accouterments are related to those of war leaders and musicians, who wear similar costume elements. Ngafui's legs and feet are hidden under a large raffia skirt, and its arms are hidden also, by cow-tail whips. The same masks also appear among the neighboring Kpelle, in Guinea, from whom they were probably borrowed. The Kpelle call such masks Ngamu. Each town with a full chapter of the Poro society is said to have one of these masks, but they are rarely seen, and few are found in collections. In fact this is the only known Loma example in an American collection. Unlike the Landai mask, which performs in public, only Poro members can normally see the Ngamu or Ngafui. One of the few times that such masks can be seen by noninitiates is just before new Poro initiates reenter a town at the conclusion of their period of seclusion. Closely related to Ngamu is the Kaaipulubalang mask, more commonly called Ngamu nea, or "Ngamu's wife." In Loma this mask is called Kangafui. This is the so-called dancing devil that performs during all major celebrations, including visits from prominent people either from the government or from other communities, and the funerals of zoes and other important elders. This mask has a similar face form, though it lacks an articulated jaw or beard. The costume too is similar, except for the headdress, which is characteristically a long cow-tail brush atop a pointed cap. The mask may be less common than the Ngafui mask, but a small number are known in American collections. On the whole, all Loma masks remain rare.






Poro society, Loma peoples, Liberia Wood, feathers, cowrie shells, iron nails, monkey fur, cloth, string, shell casings, magical substances. H. 12 in. (30.5 CM) Museum purchase: Francoise Billion Richardson Fund. 2001.223

The Poro society is found over a wide area of Sierra Leone and western Liberia. It has often been described as a pantribal organization with local chapters. Miniature masks such as this have often been written about as though they were a means of identification by which a stranger in a community could be admitted to a local "chapter" of the Poro. Thus they are commonly referred to in older literature as "passport masks." There is probably some element of truth to the idea that the possession of such a mask validates a person's status as an individual of spiritual power, or zo, and that the mask is something of a vade mecum, since people often bring these objects with them when they call on others. The masks are not meant primarily as a means of identification, however; rather, they are a means through which the owner keeps in contact with his spiritual protector and benefactor. Individuals are thought to receive supernatural powers through personal relationships with individual spirits. The spirit must be offered periodic sacrifices and is consulted before important actions are undertaken. The miniature mask is one of several types of "medicine" (sale) though which the spirit world can be approached. Most of these medicines are nonfigurative objects, such as ram's horns stuffed with herbs, powders, etc. Miniature masks are more rare among the Loma than they are among neighboring groups such as the Dan and Mario. When they are found, they often but do not always indicate that the owner is associated with the masks that perform in public, such as Landai in the north or Ngafui in the southern parts of the Loma area. They are also used by members of many different societies, such as the Mina, or sheep's horn, and Kale, or snake societies, and from the form of a mask it is impossible to tell with certainty which society used it. This miniature mask has the same basic form as the larger mask shown here. Its back is packed with materials such as cowry shells, iron nails, shell casings, herbs, and earth. All of these materials are meant to incorporate powers in the mask, and protections for its owner. WILLIAM SIECMANN






Dan peoples, Liberia or C6te d'Ivoire Probable carver: Zlan or Sra Wood, fiber, iron. H. 27 in. (68.6 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.277

This quite lovely patinated object has already been brought to the attention of art-lovers several times, for example in Fischer and Himmelheber 1976: 157-69. William Fagaly (1983:30, 33) and Barbara Johnson (1986:73, cat. 16) have published on it also, and refer readers desirous of further explanation to the publications of Hans Himmelheber (1960) and Fischer and Himmelheber (1976). We would like to add another article by both authors (1991:73-88). The bowl of the ladle is adorned on its back with an etched decoration of a linear pattern referring to the Dan myth of origin. The cylindrical shaft or handle is shaped as the robust neck of an anthropomorphic figure, indicating health and energy. Toward the top of the throat are a few horizontal grooves representing wrinkles from more-than-ample nutrition, a further sign of prosperity and status. The hairstyle of the Janus head, elaborated in wood, is embellished at the crown with a string of fibers worked toward the ears in plaits. The slightly domed forehead is decorated with a raised vein or an incised honeycomb motif. The stripe-shaved eyebrows, the fine nose and eyes, the slightly emphasized jawbones, the small, protruding, thin-lipped mouth, and the well-formed teeth and fine chin all testify to the human and, specifically, female ideal of beauty, here translated in wood by the sculptor Sra or Zlan. The names are those of the supreme divinity of the Dan in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire respectively, and persons with exceptional gifts are accorded them. We are quite well informed about the function of such ladles. The creation myth of the Dan tells us how the Supreme Being created the ladle as the female equivalent for the mask, which is used exclusively by male members of society. The ladle is a ceremonial object, then, and at the same time a symbol of rank for the first wife of the chief of a subtribe, clan, or village. Filled with food based on rice and palm oil, it is offered by the mother to her first-born son during a ceremonial rite held to honor the boys' return to the village after their initiation. By way of the ladle's bowl, symbolizing the mother's belly, the boy is reborn and definitively taken up into the community of adults (Vandenhoute 1976:45). Spoons and ladles also seem to have been carved for other important aims. Owners of such examples are seen as "perfect women"—in other words as being exemplary in terms of labor in the fields, and as hospitable individuals with the know-how to organize large feasts. In Liberia such ladles are believed to be animated by a powerful spirit. On stylistic grounds we suspect that this object is from the hand of Zlan or Sra, a well-known sculptor with a working territory extending far beyond the borders of We territory. His We origin notwithstanding, he carves mainly in Dan style. This is not exceptional, seeing that during the dry season Dan and We sculptors often relocate to work, and that a dextrous sculptor could carve in various styles. ELZE BRUYNINX






Dan peoples, Liberia or Cote d'Ivoire Wood, iron. H. 9 in. (22.9 cm) Gift of Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford. 91.417

This face mask shows typical stylistic characteristics of northern Dan territory. It is in fact a rather classic example. In its general form, the mask can be described as a pointed oval. It has a high forehead and rounded eyes under faintly indicated eyebrows. An original repair to the forehead indicates that the example here is an important mask, possibly a sagbwe, which the northern Dan consider among the most sacred kind. Pieter Jan Vandenhoute has written extensively on the sagbwe masks in his doctoral thesis (over 100 pages, summarized in Bruyninx 1996:139-43). He ranks them with the gebande group, the most sacred masks, and not with the genone group, a slightly lower category. The distinction lies neither in the mask's dimensions nor in its appearance; it lies in the content that the Dan community gives to a particular mask. Masks in the second category can sometimes transfer to the first. Sagbwe masks are sometimes also called "firewatchers" or "runners." At least in the Cote d'Ivoire of 1938, their area of distribution was limited to the northern reaches of the Dan domain, a transition area between savanna and jungle. They are also seen among the Dan of Liberia, albeit under different names. The sagbwe mask complex is hierarchically structured. Future members are recruited during the initiation, and later undergo special training that includes competitive running contests. They are also trained in wordcraft, narration, and dancing. The highest in the hierarchy perform their function during the harvest festival, which is closely related to the fertility of the living human community. Sagbwe masks offer meat and harvested rice to the ancestors and distribute all sorts of "medicines" intended to encourage female fertility. After the festivities the mask-runners reign in the village and take turns watching over the people's security. They are described as beings who, during the dry season, emerge from the forest to prove their service to those who have fulfilled their duty to their ancestors. The young runners are wrapped in a suit that includes their hands and feet, and their mask is decorated with green leaves. A principal attribute is the whip that they carry during the day. During the dry season their main duty is to protect the village from fire. They also see to it that women extinguish fires after breakfast; if not, heavy punishment follows. At night, armed with spears and knives, they keep evil spirits and witches from invading the village, and in the early morning they organize warm-up exercises to keep the inhabitants fit and ready for their daily tasks. The mask, then, has a great impact on multiple facets of Dan daily life. ELZE BRUYNINX






Dan peoples, Liberia or C6te d'Ivoire Wood, caning twine. H. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm) Gift of Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford. 91.416

This mask belongs, like cat. no. 20, to the sagbwe mask complex. Among the Liberian Dan, this type is also described as a "runner mask" and takes the name gunye gel or gunyege (Fischer and Himmelheber 1976:10, Johnson 1986:12). This example, like the previous one, shows beauty characteristics such as the high, slightly domed forehead. Here, however, we see an additional vertical vein worked in relief. This vein, which in some examples extends to the nose, would not originally have been an element of decoration, or the sign of an aesthetic order, but rather a reflection of a certain kind of forehead scarification that was carried out in earlier times to aid sufferers from chronic headaches. Such people would consult a medicine man, who would make incisions on the forehead and fill them with a magical curative preparation. Appearing on masks, this "vein" would fulfill the same function, acting as a prevention against headache. The wearer performing under this mask would inevitably heat up, becoming more prone to this condition. Whatever the form type or functional category of a Dan mask, it remains in its essence ge, a word that also appears as gle, gide, and glu according to the area. Ge is thought of as an independent supernatural being created by the Supreme Being Zlan, and given to humankind in order to regularize relations among the living and between the living and the dead. Its ultimate aim, then, is to safeguard the continued existence of the Dan community. Ge leaves no facet of life untouched. A far-reaching dualism sits contained in this mask-being, which is at once benign and malicious, old and young, kind and brutal. It possesses all human characteristics and qualities in all possible degrees and variations, but always in a subliminal manner. Ge has disposal over the life and death of every individual, including the most prominent political and religious leaders. Consequently the mask stands above humankind, even above the ancestors, and is a vital life necessity within the Dan community. The markedly extensive mask-organization finds its reason for being in the ancestor cult. It does not fall within the framework of the Poro society, which does not exist among the Liberian Dan (Fischer and Himmelheber 1976:15). As Pieter Jan Vandenhoute writes of the Dan and related Mano, "During our research in the Ivory Coast, we were not only unable to establish the existence of this secret society, but in its place we encountered an appropriately organized mask cult, and even more, particularly in the northern subtribes of the Dan, a conscious opposition, and a formal prohibition of any kind of thing that would fall under the jurisdiction of such a secret society" (1989:20). ELZE BRUYNINX






We peoples, Liberia or Cote d'Ivoire Wood, porcelain, iron, rope. H. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.248

This mask with movable lower jaw, mentioned by William Fagaly (1983:28, 29, ill. 2), is a fine example of We art. Barbara Johnson has exhibited and published it as belonging to the gle va category, and describes it as follows: "In the past a gle va had an enormous reputation, and rarely made an appearance. It only settled large matters, such as stopping wars between villages. Some became so famous for their ability to negotiate settlements that they were requested across great distances and ethnic boundaries.... Today gle va settles disputes that cannot be settled by ordinary authorities" (1986:14, 65, cat. 7). Johnson supports her view with data from Hans Himmelheber, who has described the function of a similar mask (1960:8-9, ill. 2, Fischer and Himmelheber 1976:135, ill. 101). The mask situates itself within the framework of a secret association and is worn during judicial proceedings, contributing to the general peace and tranquillity. The mask has the name "leopard" and is of Liberian origin. The wearer belongs to a high rank within the association. This particular object is most probably a We object from Liberia, and had a similar function to that outlined above. One must not be led off course, however, by the supposition that similarity of form and/or name of a mask implies similarity of function. It has been more than fifty years since Pieter Jan Vandenhoute established that, exceptions notwithstanding, examples of a similar design do not necessarily exercise a like function (1948:23-25). This object falls within the category of what Vandenhoute calls the We stylistic region (Guere Ouobe), and then more specifically within "le style nucleaire." It exhibits a strongly prominent forehead; large, protruding, cylinder-shaped eyes; and an imposingly fashioned nose. Given that the eyes are not hollowed out, the wearer cannot see through them. Instead, he sees through rectangular slits that lie obscured within the cubistically designed formal elements. The cheeks are sculpted as large pyramidal projections. Both the pronounced upper jaw and the attached lower jaw (wherein lies the tongue) exhibit teeth; indeed one may say that the representation is more muzzle than mouth. The wearer of this imposing mask, wrapped in his costume and embellished with all manner of power-laden decorations, was undoubtedly a most impressive apparition. ELZE BRuYNiNx






We peoples, Cote d'Ivoire Wood. H. 54 in. (137.2 cm) Museum purchase: Women's Volunteer Committee Funds. 74.56

Compared to the many Dan and We masks in Western museums and private collections, the number of wood sculptures, mostly female representations, is rather small. The stance of most examples is static and upright; only occasionally do we encounter a sitting figure. The legs are placed a little apart from each other and the arms stand proud of the body. Usually the initial wooden block remains clearly discernible "beneath" the sculpted features, as it were. Sometimes the upper limbs are slightly bent forward and the palms of the hand face upward. In some cases the arms are sculpted against the body. In only a few cases, as in the asymmetric kind of pose seen here, are the arms sculpted differently from each other. Relatively early on, investigators mentioned the scarcity of wooden sculptures in the mask culture of the Dan and the We. The object here breaks with the basic hallmark of African sculpture, that is, symmetrical elaboration in the vertical axis. Aside from the forehead vein, the face has a curved tattoo on the cheek, a feature also sometimes seen on We masks. The forehead vein and the curved tattoo are typical of a type of mask from the area around Taobli, a village lying within a zone to which Pieter Jan Vandenhoute applied the term "sous-style Ouobe septentrionale" (1948:32-33). Vandenhoute also makes reference to a sculpture in the ethnographic collection of Gent University, which shows a formal relatedness to the example published by Eberhard Fischer and Hans Himmelheber (1976:155, no. 149). Both Dan and We women often wear tattoo motifs on the torso. The thickening at each knee represents a cast-brass knee ring worn by prominent women. Statues are counted among the valuable possessions of a head of village or subtribe. There are indications that at the beginning of the twentieth century, at least in C6te d'Ivoire, statues were being sculpted sporadically under the influence of similar traditions beyond the Dan and the We areas. The objects may have represented existing individuals, and would perhaps have been sculpted on commission. Sculptures in wood were and are prestige objects. They stand in the house of the owner, a person of note, as decoration and to emphasize his status. On special occasions they are set outside the house, showing all who pass that the inhabitant is wealthy and respected. Early in the period of Western presence, sculptures were made to order for colonial administrators, missionaries, and the like through the village chief, bringing extra income to both him and the sculptor. This also applied to the brass statues made by the Dan and We (Bruyninx 1993:76). ELZE BRUYNINX




c. 1800 Akan peoples, Ghana Terra-cotta. H. 7 1/2 in. (19 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.104

Near-life-sized terra-cotta sculptures—heads, busts, or full figures—are part of a complex of memorial sculptures created by Akan women artists to honor deceased leaders. That the practice dates back to at least the late sixteenth century is recorded by Pieter de Marees, a Flemish or Dutch visitor to what was then called the Gold Coast: "All his possession, such as his weapons and clothes, are buried with him, and all his nobles who used to serve him are modeled from life, painted and put in a row all around the grave, side by side" (1602:185). Later, Brodie Cruickshank, who was stationed on the coast during the first half of the nineteenth century, made a more detailed observation: They also mould images from clay, and bake them. We have seen curious groups of these in some parts of the country. Upon the death of a great man, they make representations of him, sitting in state, with his wives and attendants seated around him. Beneath a large tree in Adjumacon, we once saw one of these groups, which had a very natural appearance. The images were, some jet black, some tawny-red, and others of all shades of colours between black and red, according to the complexion of the original, whom they were meant to represent. They were nearly as large as life, and the proportions between the men and women, and boys and girls, were well maintained. Even the soft and feminine expressions of the female countenance were clearly brought out. The caboceer and his principal men were represented smoking their long pipes, and some boys upon their knees were covering the fire in the bowls, to give them a proper light (1853 II:270-71). Although de Marees locates the sculpture he saw at the gravesite, most Akan groups reserve for these figures a location nearby, called the "place of the pots." The New Orleans head has a thermoluminescent date of 1745-1875. It is aligned in style with the famous head now in the Musee Dapper (Falgayrettes-Leveau and Owusu-Sarpong 2003: cover, p. 94, de Grunne 1980:212-13); in fact the similar treatment of eyes, nose, and mouth suggests that the same artist may have made both sculptures.

The Dapper head has a thermoluminescent date of 1780 +/- 35. Two heads in the same style are published in Cole and Ross 1977:127 and in Lehuard 1978:31, and there are two similar, unpublished heads in the St. Louis Museum of Art, with dates of 1740-1820 and 1800-1870 (John Nunley:personal communication, 2001). Scholars have been reluctant to assign these pieces to a particular region; a generalized Akan attribution remains the best choice. Representations of the deceased still appear in Akan funerary observances, which now are largely Christian: portraits painted on tin, or framed photographs, are often incorporated into the headstone of a grave. The more elaborate monuments of royals may also include cement sculptures of the deceased and of select members of the court. DORAN H. ROSS

25. DRUM C. 1960 Fante peoples, Ghana Wood, pigment. H. 24 1/2 in. (62.2 CM) Promised gift of Carol and Dr. George Harrell. 2001.66

Akan popular bands, like their Western counterparts, are instrumental, singing, and dancing groups that are identified with one of a variety of distinctive music and dance styles. Also like their European and American parallels, these styles have a relatively limited lifespan as new forms replace old, although dated styles are occasionally revived for new audiences. Regardless, these voluntary musical associations are organized primarily for social and recreational reasons. They often perform purely for their own entertainment; they also may be hired to perform at a wide assortment of special occasions, including naming ceremonies, puberty celebrations, weddings, the installation of a new chief, important anniversaries of a chief's reign, and for a variety of local and national holidays. The most important performance context may be the funeral, and it is said that individuals often join these groups to ensure a successful sendoff (Nketia 1963:67-74)Akan popular bands are collectively called agoru, a word also defined as "playing; play, sport, amusement, especially singing and dancing. sociableness, friendliness" (Christaller 1933:144). The names of individual bands coincide with this general definition. J. H. K Nketia defines man, a common band name among the Asante, as "bluff." For the Fante groups called ompe he provides the translation "Who doesn't like it?" And sika rebewu epere means "When money dies, it struggles" (personal communication, 1976). Johann Gottlieb Christaller defines another group name, onni bi amanee, as "If you have no friend or supporter, it is misery" (1933:338)•

The visual and musical centerpiece of most of the popular bands is the "master" drum, typically anthropomorphized as a female with anywhere from one to eight breasts carved on the front (Ross 1988: 114-20). In lieu of breasts, some drums have a nursing female figure attached to the front, as in the New Orleans example. In either case the drum is invariably referred to as the "mother" of the group. Most Akan communities can only support two or three bands at one time, but this is sufficient to prompt competition in the artistic elaboration of the drums. Some examples feature as many as fifty different motifs carved in relief around the drum's body. The New Orleans drum was created by an as yet unidentified Fante carver active from the 1950s to the late 19705. A closely related piece by the same artist, with a near-identical nursing female but with a male support figure instead of legs, has been identified as coming from the town of Anomabu (Ross 2002:283). There is a single freestanding figure by this hand in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (ibid:285). Two other drums, in private collections, by this hand or workshop have two female figures supporting the body of the drum between them on their shoulders, as does a third example in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Brincard 1989:105). DORAN H. ROSS





Fante peoples, Ghana Wood, iron. H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) Anonymous gift. 93.360

J. H. K. Nketia, the leading scholar of Akan traditional music, situates the twin gong called nnawuta primarily with the drum ensembles of the traditional warrior groups called asafo (1963:198). This association may, however, be too restrictive; I have seen double gongs in at least two southern Akan court orchestras, and at least one double gong has been documented in an Asante shrine context (Cole and Ross 1977:100-101). In any case, Nketia notes that the gong player "performs functions similar to those of the master drummer" of the group,"who in emergencies would call the members to action, urge them on and keep up their morale" (ibicho6). Like many drums, the two-tone gong (with male and female voices) can literally reproduce the tonal language of Twi speakers, delivering messages ranging from martial praises and boasts to oaths and insults. Double gongs like this example are not typically found among the Asante, and do not appear in the various processional lists of the regalia of the Asantehene (the Asante king). In fact Nketia maintains that Asante warrior organizations "have not been revived since the events of 1896-1900 made it necessary to suppress them" (ibid:io3). Among all Akan zoomorphic representations, the kind of horizontal S-shaped tail seen on this feline is unique to the lion. As I have discussed in some detail elsewhere, it is part of the European legacy of heraldic lion imagery that permeates much of the elite arts of southern Ghana. Rene Bravmann was the first to point out, in relation to this very piece, that the lion is not indigenous to the Akan environment yet is common in Akan arts (1970: 37-38). Indeed, the leopard is the dominant feline in the forests of the southern Akan, while the lion is more common in the savanna regions to the north. Through the nineteenth-century influence of British, Dutch, and Danish political and corporate interests, however, and under a barrage of military emblems, commercial logos, and royal arms, heraldic lions eventually replaced leopard images as the symbol of the supreme feline predator (Ross 1982). The proverb associated with a Fante asafo flag from Egya confirms this hegemonic reversal: "Before the lion, the leopard ruled the forest" (Kobina Badowa: personal communication, 1981). Farther down on the grip of the gong are a snake, a lizard or crocodile, and what looks like a spear. While these images are often depicted on Fante asafo shrines and flags, I am unaware of any interpretation that combines all three. DORAN H. ROSS






Probably mid-2oth century Baule peoples, Cote d'Ivoire Wood, brass. H. lo 1/4 in. (26 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.128

This elegant sculpture, paired with an iron gong, was part of a diviner (komien) or spirit medium's equipment. Before his or her performance, the diviner tapped the gong with the beater, producing a musical sound that summoned the spirit, who literally possessed the diviner during the dance. Susan Vogel reports that diviners are trained to go into a trance at the sound of the beater hitting the gong, and that they will carry the gong and beater during a performance to use should they begin to lose the trance state (1997:229). While dancing and possessed, the diviner repeatedly taps the gong, so that the sound punctuates the performance. The use of sound to summon spirits to a divination is widespread in Africa; small bronze bells are used by the neighboring Senufo people, for example, and by many groups in Nigeria. It is particularly characteristic of the Baule to enrich experience with beautifully decorated objects. A plain stick might produce the same sound as this gong, but both the diviner and to some degree the audience get visual pleasure from the carved beater, and the diviner gets prestige from being associated with it. The occasion is also enriched by the diviner's elaborate costume and headdress, by the presence of carved figures, and by singing and music. The diviner both sings and talks, and moves and speaks in different ways depending on the character of the possessing spirit. Baule diviners are either men or women and can be possessed by either male or female spirits, so that their movement and dress keep changing and crossing gender in complicated ways. The beater is composed of a typical Baule carved human figure, cunningly shaped to fit in the diviner's hand, with a semicircular form, the striker, above it. The figure's elaborate coiffure fits in with Baule style and emphasizes the object's importance. Decorating the striker are several significant motifs. Ornamenting the curving sides are crocodiles, which often appear in proverbs and on bronze and ceramic objects. Just above the figure's face are depictions of sacred horned masks—masks that are forbidden for women to see on pain of death. These masks are sometimes depicted on other objects visible to women, however. When asked how this is possible, men have told me that women don't recognize these small reproductions and therefore are not harmed. Another explanation is that the sacred mask derives its power from blood sacrifice, which these small copies have not received; therefore they have not been activated and made dangerous. The artist has carved out the masks, leaving a decorative opening visible from the object's side. Baule artists often do virtuoso carvings to show and advertise their skill. Like the figure, this object was made for people who enjoy and appreciate beautiful things. JEROME VOGEL








Late 19th—early 20th century Baule peoples, COte d'Ivoire Wood, brass, glass, cloth, iron, pigment. H. 16 7/8 in. (42.9 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.232

The Baule people, numbering approximately 1 million, live in central Cote d'Ivoire. Their oral history states that they fled to their present homes from the Asante region of present-day Ghana as the result of a dynastic dispute. While some of their art closely resembles that of the Asante, their wood sculpture is distinctively their own. The Baule make figure sculpture of two kinds, which, although stylistically similar, are used in very different ways. Both groups are owned by individuals and are the abode of spirits. The first, called asye usu, are used by diviners and are often displayed during sessions in which the diviner is possessed by a spirit and goes into a trance. The second, blobo bion/bla, represent an individual's spouse in the other world. Both depict the human figure in the prime of life, with all the characteristics that the Baule consider beautiful. The statue must be visually appealing in order to entice a spirit to take up residence in it. Distinguishing the function of a Baule statue can be difficult; the main indication is the surface. Asye usu tend to show signs of sacrifices and to have encrusted or mottled surfaces. Blobo bian/bla are cleaned and oiled and tend to have smooth, shiny surfaces. For this reason we can conclude that the New Orleans figure was probably a diviner's statue, an asye usu or nature spirit. The figure sits in a formal and dignified pose on a stool, itself a sign of importance and prestige. Its elaborate coiffure and body scarification also symbolize a person of importance and dignity, and its beard is a sign of mature wisdom. The focus of attention is the large, carefully detailed head. The spirit is thus represented as a wise and prosperous counselor—even though nature spirits are said to be hideous, terrifying creatures, with backward feet and other frightful qualities. The sculpture is in no sense a portrait, then; as with much world art, the subject is shown in a flattering manner rather than a realistic one. Many elements of the Baule aesthetic are present in this figure, most evidently the careful workmanship, fine detail, and smooth finish. Fingers, toes, and hair are shown in refined detail. The formal pose, with arms attached to the body, is that of most though not all Baule statues. Rounded, closed forms seem to express a strong visual preference in Baule carving, ceramics, and metalwork. This figure is a fine summary of what the Baule consider admirable and beautiful, in an artwork and in a man. JEROME VOGEL






Late 19th—early 20th century Baule peoples, Cote d'Ivoire Wood. H. 15 in. (38.1 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.203

Baule masks fall into two broad categories, which correspond to the Baule division of the world into the village and untamed nature. Small face masks associated with the village depict human beings or domestic animals. Refined and elegant in their carving, naturalistic in style, and unfrightening in their movements and gestures, they are kept in the village, are dressed in cloth costumes, and may be seen by everybody. They are often called "women's" masks, since women see them and dance around them. These benign village masks contrast with large helmet masks associated with the wilderness, the home of dangerous and uncontrolled forces, including spirits that can kill. When the sacred masks, called bo nun amuin, embodying those spirits enter the village, women and children remain indoors and keep doors and windows closed, for seeing such masks is forbidden to them. The masks are summoned at times of crisis such as war or epidemic, and also at the death of an important man. (They danced, for example, during the final illness and death of C6te d'Ivoire's first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny.) They combine features of a number of wild animals: tusks, horns and teeth set into projecting snouts. The village masks, like the one illustrated here, are basically entertainment masks, appearing at celebrations and also at the funerals of important people, especially famous dancers. They most often represent beautiful women, though male masks exist as well. Sometimes they are portraits of particular individuals who are honored during their lifetimes. In modern times these masks also represent such public figures as beauty-contest winners or well-known singers. These masks are part of the human world. People are comfortable in their presence, and their appearance creates an atmosphere of joy and celebration. As men, women, and children enjoy them together, masquerades involving them reinforce village solidarity. While the New Orleans mask has horns, as do many human masks, they do not look dangerous or project menacingly, like those of the bo nun amuin. Hair and eyes are carefully carved. The finish is smooth and polished. The proportions—large eyes, long thin nose, and tiny mouth—are usual in Baule masks. Less typical is the extreme abstraction of the style; the face is divided into geometric forms, and is less naturalistic than most Baule carving. The mask's austere shape and severe decoration are unusual in twentieth-century masks but do appear in very old examples. Baule style in both masks and figures does vary considerably, however, and this mask is within the degree of variation. In its serenity, dignity, and elegance of form and execution it is very Baule. JEROME VOGEL


30. DOOR First half of 20th century Baule peoples, Cote d'Ivoire Wood. H. 61 5/8 in. (156.5 cm) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford. 72.43

Figurative carved Baule doors had completely disappeared in Cote d'Ivoire by the time of the nation's independence, in 1960, and forty years later the rapid modernization of the area has made it difficult to find traditional Baule architecture at all. Doors can now be found only in private and museum collections, where they are relatively rare compared to masks and figures. It would seem that they were always limited to the residences of important people and were indications of wealth and prestige. There is a significant group in the Abidjan museum and an important old collection in the Dakar museum with a catalogue, that is the best source of information on the subject. Carved doors are found primarily among the peoples to the north of the Baule, particularly the Senufo, Bamana, and Dogon. Senufo and Dogon doors are stylistically different from this one, usually being organized in a series of horizontal registers showing groups of small figures and animals that illustrate important events, like divinations and sacrifices. This Baule door treats the entire surface as one unit around the dominant image of one fish holding another in its mouth. While the large fish is centrally placed on the surface, the composition is given life by the way it curves subtly through the lower portion of the door and then more markedly nearer the top. Similarly, the small fish curves downward toward the head in a graceful and lively manner. These small deviations from symmetry save the composition from being frozen and rigid. A comparison with the postures of three-dimensional Baule figures shows similar uses of subtle asymmetry. Variations in the carefully executed surface ornamentation also work to enliven and decorate the surface. Speaking well is important to the Baule, as it is to many African peoples, and the use of proverbs is a dominant element in Baule spoken and visual culture. People often express their thoughts indirectly through proverbs and proverbial expressions, and some forms of visual art refer to proverbs through abstract designs; ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and even the ornamental scarification on wood figurative sculpture all use a visual vocabulary of recurrent symbols that refer to proverbs. The fish on this door refer to one of these proverbs, and would have been immediately understood by any Baule person with some knowledge of traditional culture. The image is also striking to the Baule because it shows a fish devouring a member of its own species—an aberrant situation. One should protect one's own. The serpent biting the smaller fish is a novel addition to this common motif.

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Fon/Hweda/Yoruba peoples, town of Ouidah, Republic of Benin Attributed artist: Akati Akpele Kendo, Master of the Long-Horned Ram (fl. 1858-89) Wrought iron, raffia, wood, organic materials. H. 56 in. (142.2 CM) Gift of Francoise Billion Richardson. 89.257

This striking osen memorial staff was created by a talented master blacksmith whom I will call the "Master of the Long-Horned Ram," in part because of his renderings of rams with long, twisted, inwardcurving horns. A remarkable artist known for his complex figural tableaux, lively depictions of animals, and unparalleled skills at ironsmithing, this smith may have been Akati Akpele Kendo, who forged the famous Fon warrior figure in Paris, dedicated to both Gu (god of iron and war) and King Guezo (ruled 1818-58). The latter life-size iron warrior was commissioned by Guezo's son, King Glele (ruled 1858-89), as a memorial sculpture to his father (Blier 1995a, 1998). The creator of the New Orleans asen, arguably the most accomplished and inventive iron artist in all of African art, also forged a number of other important staffs showing similar motifs, including examples in the BarbierMueller Museum, Geneva, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Blier 2004), and the National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. The iron warrior was collected by the French military during the French-Danhome wars of 189294, in the coastal town of Ouidah—the community where this asen was housed. It is unclear, however, whether these various iron works were forged there or farther inland, in the Fon capital of Agbome (Abomey). Members of the same smithing families often had workshops in several towns. Also, war sculptures like the Gu figure were transported to potential battlefields to help the military cause, and Ouidah was expected to be a French landing site. Questions of the artist's ethnicity are equally interesting. Akati Akpele Kendo was a Yoruba who was captured by the Fon and pressed into service for the Fon court; Ouidah, in turn, is a Hweda community, and the work's patron may have been either Hweda or Fon. It thus may be a cross-cultural work of Yoruba, Fon, and Hweda identity. Asen staffs were originally housed in a family memorial temple (Bay 1985), in this case in the compound of the Yovogan, a court minister who oversaw various interactions with Westerners (yovo). The title means "Head (chief] of whites," although in color terms "yovo" references not white but red (yovo), evoking the hue of sunburnt skin. Seated proudly on an elaborate European-style chair, with a top hat, umbrella, and long pipe, the Yovogan is shown behind a cloth-draped table holding liquor, one of the most important items of European exchange, here seen in an array of bottles both local and foreign in form. Liquor was primary not only in interactions with Europeans (the honorific shared bottle of liquor accompanied most engagements) but also in annual celebrations honoring the ancestors—in this case the late Yovogan—and encouraging the family's living descendants to be generous. Flags painted red, white, and blue reinforce the European connection—to the French, among others—as does the large cross at the rear. Wonderful renderings of a ram and a rooster allude to a forthcoming meal, associated either with the Yovogan's foreign clients or with the memorial service in which asen were prominently featured. SUZANNE BLIER






c. early 20th century Probable Fon peoples, Republic of Benin Wood. H. 11 '/4 in. (28.5 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.275

A striking feature of Eon art is the high number of one-of-a-kind sculptures with no vital formal precedent. This lively portrayal of a monkey operates through powerful juxtapositions: straight lines and curving elements, weight and lightness, solid forms and attenuated supports. The monkey holds a corncob in its mouth, and its deep, piercing eyes stare out from under its strong brow in a pose of striking vigilance. Monkeys carry a range of meanings in Eon artworks. In bocio contexts, monkey skulls are references to difficulty. In Danhome annual ceremonies, a court "fool" wearing a monkey mask would consume quantities of food (Forbes 1851:77), apparently a reference to gluttony. Monkeys are also occasionally depicted in lfa divination bowls, here perhaps suggesting the precariousness of material wealth. The best-known Eon portrayal of a monkey is a bas-relief commissioned for the palace of King Adandozan (ruled 1797-1818). This seated monkey chomping on a corncob while defecating is a somewhat startling work—particularly alongside the war scenes elsewhere on the palace walls—but carries a serious message: it depicts the Yoruba king of Oyo, long an adversary of the Eon, whose monarchs had to pay costly tributes to Oyo through the early nineteenth century, when Adandozan ended the practice (Glele 1974:17). The king of Oyo, like a monkey, was a glutton, this bas-relief suggests—greedy for what did not belong to him, just as monkeys were known to devastate fields of corn and other grains, leaving little for the farmer. Adandozan's successor, King Guezo, sometimes used the chimpanzee (glah-glah) as an honorific, because of the aggressiveness with which these simians drove farm laborers from their field shelters (Forbes 1851:119). J. A. Skertchly (1874:255) discusses another unusual work, a silver skull surmounted by a monkey climbing a tree. The motif, he suggests, came from an imported plate in the well-known willowpattern design, and was commissioned as a tomb monument for the famed "bush king" Daho—a descendant of the pre-Fon rulers of the area, who were an important focus of local ceremonies (Blier 1995b). In this apparently no-longer-extant work. Skertchly suggests, the monkey and tree refer to "the bush, i.e. Dahomey,(which] was so much liked that foreigners came to settle there, that, like the monkey, they might possess some of its riches."

What function this particular work served is unclear. It does not seem to fall into one of the more characteristic Eon sculptural genres—royal or popular bocio wooden power figures, royal Nesuhwe sculptures sheathed in silver, or sculptures linked to particular gods. More likely it was carved for purchase by a descendant of the ancient guild of carvers, one of those in and around Abomey who created works for new types of patrons—local canton chiefs, colonial administrators, Western travelers—beginning in the 1930s. It is tempting to speculate that the talented carver of this lively personification of a monkey may have highlighted its local associations with danger, gluttony, and theft (particularly as related to foreigners) specifically in relation to purchasers in this new art market. SUZANNE BLIER

33. VERANDA POST: OPO ILE C. 1910-1914 Yoruba peoples, palace of the Ogoga, city of lkerre, Ekiti region, Nigeria Carver: Olowe of Ise, (c. 1875-1938) Wood, polychrome. H. 55 '/2 in. (141 cm) Museum purchase: Ella West Freeman Matching Fund. 70.20

This veranda post was carved by Olowe of Ise (c. 1875-1938), a Yoruba court artist whom Western art historians and connoisseurs consider among the most imaginative and innovative African artists of the twentieth century. The Yoruba themselves held him in high esteem; his oriki or "praise poem" asserts that he was "outstanding among his peers" (see Walker 1998:24-29). Olowe was born in Efon-Alaye but while still a youth he migrated to Ise, where he served the arinjale (king) of Ise as a court messenger. Although his descendants claim that he was self-taught, he probably served an apprenticeship, learning the Yoruba canon and honing his carving skills. By c. 1900 Olowe was master of an atelier that produced architectural sculptures, vessels, masks, drums, and other objects for the Yoruba aristocracy and priesthood located within a sixty-mile radius of Ise. His work became known in England in 1924, when an elaborately decorated palace door he had carved for the ogoga (king) of Ikerre was displayed at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, London. It was part of a grand sculptural program that included the veranda post under discussion. At the close of the exhibition, and with the ogoga's consent, the British Museum acquired the palace door (ibid.:I3-33). Olowe's extraordinary carving skill and virtuosity are clearly demonstrated in this veranda post, which was originally installed in an inner reception courtyard of the ogoga's palace. Conventional veranda posts either have two or more tiers of compact figures whose dimensions are contained within the thickness of the capital or are composed of a single figure that is slightly wider than the capital. Olowe's veranda posts are distinguished by polychromy and by elongated figures that project well beyond the capital in all directions. In situ photographs of the veranda post indicate the importance of Olowe's sculptures to successive lkerre kings. The earliest extant image (ibid.:22, fig. 10), made in 1937 by Eva L. R. Meyerowitz, shows the New Orleans mountedwarrior post with a three-tiered capital and installed with four other posts, one depicting a kneeling female figure beneath a mounted warrior, one the queen with her twins, one the enthroned king and queen, and the fourth nonfigurative (ibid.:60-67; the other three figurative posts are in the collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford; the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester; and the Art Institute of Chicago. The location of the nonfigurative post is unknown.) Meyerowitz described them as painted with "beautiful mellow earth pigments, ochres, siena, black and white" (Meyerowitz 1943:66-70). The fourth post has a repousse geometric design. There are two doors in the background, one with repousse low-relief patterns, the other—the replacement for the door acquired by the British Museum—decorated with high-relief figures. The photographs testify to the importance of Olowe's old-fashioned sculptures: instead of abandoning the posts, each new king displayed them in the modernized palace, where they symbolized the power of Yoruba royalty and allowed the king's residence to remain the "fountain of the culture of its kingdom" (0jo 1966:13). ROSLYN ADELE WALKER



Yoruba peoples, Ekiti region, Nigeria Carver: Olowe of Ise, (c. 1875-1938) Wood, glass beads, brass tacks, pigment. H. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm) and 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm) Gift of Francoise Billion Richardson in honor of the inauguration of the Sadie Downman Billion and Olivier Armand Billion Gallery, named in memory of Mrs. Richardson's parents. 93.156.1—.2

Ere ibeji are small wooden sculptures depicting human twins who died in infancy or childhood. The sculptures are thought to serve as receptacles for the children's souls. Among the Yoruba, the incidence of twinning is exceedingly high; estimates are 45.1 twin births per 1,000, four times greater than in the United States and Great Britain (Nylander 1969:41-44). Infant mortality is high as well. While different Yoruba groups may be distinguished from each other by their worship of particular deities, the belief that twins are special beings who must be appeased is universal. Before ere ibeji were replaced by photographic images in the latter part of the twentieth century, they were common in family compounds throughout Yorubaland where they were enshrined on the family twin altar (see Houlberg 1973:20-27, 91, and Chemeche 2003, particularly the essays by Lamidi 0. Fakeye, John Pemberton III, and John Picton). The styles of ere ibeji vary from region to region and according to an artist's personal style (see Chemeche 2003:plates 1-307). Generally, though, twin figures share small size, averaging around ten inches high; a standing pose with hands at the sides, either free of the body or touching the thighs; and sexual maturity. Although the twins themselves will have died young, the figures representing them are in the prime of life. The twin figures of Olowe of Ise depart from this model, however, in both their larger-than-average size and their pose—as in this pair, whose hands hold their breasts in a welcoming or nurturing gesture. These twin figures are reminiscent of the two small females depicted standing at either side of their royal mother on a veranda post that was originally installed in the palace of the ogoga (king) at Ikerre (discussed at cat. no. 33). These figures may represent those ancestral twins. ROSLYN ADELE WALKER




35. IFA DIVINATION BOWL: OPON !CEDE Early 20th century Yoruba peoples, city of Osidlorin, Ekiti region, Nigeria Carver: Dada Areogun of Osi-llorin (c. 1880-1954) Wood. H. 24 3/4 in. (62.9 CM) Museum purchase with funds in honor of E. John Bullard's twenty-fifth anniversary as director of NOMA. 98.52 Areogun of Osidlorin was one of the foremost Yoruba carvers of the twentieth century. Apprenticed for sixteen years to the master carver Bamgbose of Osi, and then working for some years with Fasan, a carver of Isare, Areogun gained a reputation as a carver of great technical skill and artistic imagination. Father Kevin Carroll, who lived in the northern Ekiti area for over a decade and knew Areogun, recalls that one could find his work in villages as distant as a day's journey from Osi (1967:79). He was a prolific carver, as his name implies; "Areogunyamma" literally means "One who gets money with the tools of Ogun and spends it liberally." (Ogun, of course, is the Yoruba oriso or god of iron.) The doors and veranda posts that once enhanced the houses of chiefs and rulers in northern Ekiti are now found in museums and private collections in Europe and the United States. Areogun's awareness of architectural proportions also appears in the many Epa headdresses—a large figure of a seated mother with twins, for example, or an equestrian figure surrounded by two tiers of smaller figures depicting wives, musicians, warriors, and other attendants—that he carved for festivals celebrating the cultural history of a Yoruba town. As one who worked with metal tools, Areogun was a devotee of Ogun. He was also an observer of the divination system called Ifa, a term referring to the orisa; to the deity Orunmila, who was present at the time of creation and knows the destiny that every individual has chosen before entering the world of the living, and who gave the divination system to his children; and to the divination rite itself. Respecting the rites of Ifa divination, Areogun would cast kola nuts before beginning a major commission, or would consult a priest of Ifa to know what sacrifice should be made to Ogun in order that his work would

proceed successfully. Every priest of Ifa has a large bowl, an opon igede or igbaje !fa. The interior of the bowl is divided into four divisions surrounding a central compartment. These contain the priest's ritual artifacts, such as the ikin Ifa, the sixteen sacred palm nuts used in "casting Ifa"; ibo, small stones and cowrie shells; an iroke To, a carved wooden or ivory tapper; a small bag of iyerosun dust, the dust from anthills; and other materials, as well as portions of offerings made by the priest to Orunmila. Areogun carved several opon igede, which, while similar in shape, bear surface ornamentation distinctive to each. While Areogun used a number of images time and again on door panels and Ifa bowls—women pounding yam, two male figures struggling over a woman, couples engaged in sexual intercourse, musicians, a cyclist, and others—their number and sequence vary on every opon igede. They are images of life in this world, aiye, the world of change, exchange, transformation, movement, intercourse, struggle, and concord. These images appear on the lid of this bowl. On the base of the bowl Areogun depicts devotees of the orisa—the pantheon of Yoruba gods, such as Ogun, Sango, and Osun—grasping their various ritual artifacts. It is through the worship of the orisa that life is sustained and given meaning. What is distinctive about the iconography of this particular Ifa bowl is the top register, which is composed of a series of human heads. It is tempting to speculate that they suggest the ancestors, dwellers in orun, the realm of the spirits, the gods, and the not yet born. If so, Areogun has given us a remarkable depiction of the totality of the Yoruba view of the universe. JOHN PEMBERTON III




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36. IFA DIVINATION TRAY: OPON IPA Early 20th century Yoruba peoples, city of Osidlorin, Ekiti region, Nigeria Carver: Dada Areogun of Osi-Ilorin (c.1880-1954) Wood. L. 18 1/4 in. (46.4 cm) Gift of H. Russell Albright, M.D. 90.389

This splendid opon !fa, or divination tray, by Areogun of Osillorin resembles one the same master carver created for the Ore of Otun in 1939, which William Fagg photographed at the palace in Otun, Ekiti, in 1949 (Vogel 1981:122, fig. 24). At the top of the opon is the face of Esu, the deity who is the guardian of the ritual way. The other seven images are often found on the borders of other opon Ifa, as well as in the panels of doors, that Areogun carved for the houses of rulers and chiefs. He often juxtaposed women kneeling or seated, holding bowls and carrying children on their backs, with warriors holding crossbows or blowing trumpets and a herbalist priest grasping his osun, his staff of office. These images not only convey the world as Areogun knew it as a youth, during the intratribal wars of the late nineteenth century, but also contrast the roles and powers of women and men—one covert, the other overt. Women for the Yoruba are containers of power. Their authority, or ase, derives from their role in sustaining society through their ability to give birth and nurture children. The power of men is visible, manifest in the instruments through which they establish and maintain social and political structures, as well as the health of individuals through their knowledge of the medicinal properties of field and forest. Opposite the face of Esu is a small seated figure holding a bowl to his chin. Typical of Esu figures, his hair descends down his back somewhat in the shape of a phallus. On either side of Esu's face are strings of cowrie shells, which continue along the inner edge of the border. Cowries were used in financial transactions and thus signified wealth, status, and success. Ifa divination is at the heart of Yoruba ritual life. The rite is relatively simple: the diviner holds sixteen palm nuts—ikin Ifa—in his left hand and attempts to grasp them with his right hand. If one remains, he draws two short lines in the iyerosun dust that he has spread on the flat surface of the divination tray. If two remain, he places a single mark. After eight successful casts and the appearance of two parallel series of four marks, the priest

recognizes the configuration as referring to one of the 256 Odu Ifa, a vast corpus of oral literature. As the priest chants the verses of the Odu, the suppliant is surrounded by the wisdom of the Yoruba, in terms of which he or she reflects on the nature of the suffering, and the uncertainties of what to do, that have brought him or her to consult Ifa. Divination is not sooth-saying, predicting the future, but a means of enabling a troubled soul to understand the present and take effective action, through offerings and sacrifices to seen and unseen, known and unknown, human and spiritual powers impinging upon his or her life. In a verse from an Odu known as Eji Ogbe, for example, a suppliant hears the story of Orunmila, who feared that he would die an untimely death and sought the help of Ifa: I lift up my arms In joyful satisfaction. Ifa divination was performed for Orunmila; The father was told that he would not carry his responsibilities To the end of his life. Orunmila was to told to perform sacrifice, And he performed the sacrifice. As a result he became impregnable. He said, "I lift up my arms In joyful satisfaction. Ifa divination was performed for Orunmila; The father was told that he would not carry his responsibilities To the end of his life. I will carry my own responsibilities to the end of my life. I lift up my arms In joyful satisfaction" (Abimbola 1977:45). JOHN PEMBERTON






19th century Yoruba peoples, Southern Ekiti region, Nigeria Wood. H.11 5/8 in. (29.53 cm) Victor K. Kiam Bequest. 77.256

The Yoruba perform Ifa divination with sixteen sacred palm nuts, ikin Ifa. After making the casts to identify the passages he must chant from the vast corpus of oral literature known as Odu Ifa, the diviner—babalawo, "father of secrets"—places the palm nuts in a shallow dish, the agere Ifa, while he chants. Divination is essentially a search for an answer to human suffering in one of its many aspects, and an expression of a concern to set things right. It proceeds on the assumption that the world is intelligible, filled with benevolent and malevolent powers, and that it is possible to understand why one is suffering physical pain, mental anguish, or spiritual unrest and to do something about it. Through the rituals, ritual artifacts, and poetry of Ifa, a person or group, such as a family or even an entire village, is provided a context of meaning for understanding their situation, seeing it anew, and taking action. In the rhythm of the rituals, the restless soul is quieted. In the verses of the Odu Ifa, suppliants are made aware that others have suffered as they suffer, and that offerings and sacrifices can be made to bring beneficent powers to their aid or to keep malevolent forces at a distance. And in the iconography of the diviner's ritual artifacts, they see images of lives fulfilled, as in the powerful image of the equestrian figure. Ifa divination is not so much a matter of seeking a causal explanation as it is a contextualization of one's experience within a cultural, familial, and/or personal history and memory. Through verbal and visual images, Ifa divination seeks to provide insight and to free the imagination. Such is the contribution of this superbly carved agere Ifa. For the peoples of Ekiti, the hunter-warrior was an image of leadership. Honored as founders and defenders of the sixteen Ekiti kingdoms in northeast Yorubaland, warrior horsemen were celebrated in the carvings of veranda posts, palace doors, shrine sculptures for the orisa, and the headdresses of Epa masquerades, as well as in the ritual artifacts of Ifa diviners. The rider, prepared for combat, sits with ease on his mount. The compact composition of the sculpture, the exaggeration of the heads of both horse and rider, and the melding of their bodies create an image of shared power, linked identities. In 1912, in a workshop in southern Ekiti, the German ethnographer and explorer Leo Frobenius collected an agere Ifa now in the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Leipzig (Abiodun, Drewal, and Pemberton 1991:69, fig. 62). It is remarkably similar to the agere Ifa illustrated here, certainly from the same workshop and possibly by the same hand of an unknown master artist. JOHN PEMBERTON III






Yoruba peoples, Igbomina region, Nigeria Wood. H. 17 V2 in. (44.45 cm) Gift of Marc Rabun. 89.344

As recently as the mid-twentieth century, carvings like this one were found abundantly on shrines for the orisa, the Yoruba pantheon of gods. The reference to a particular deity was sometimes clear: sculptures for shrines for Sango, for example, might show thunderbolts carved on each side of the upper part of the head, while those for Ogun, god of iron and war, might bear a carving of a metal instrument, a spear or cutlass. In the absence of such identification, however, a carving like this one could have appeared on any number of shrines. The one iconographic detail on this figure is an Islamic amulet, a tiara, suspended from the neck. This gives the figure no significance as Yoruba religious art, however, let alone as Islamic religious art; in fact such images are forbidden by the Koran. But the tiara provides a clue to where the figure was probably carved, since carvers in the Igbomina Yoruba area often used such amulets as decorative details on carvings for deceased twins—ere ibeji— and on shrine sculptures for many of the orisa. Their artistic use was justified by the fact that orisa worshipers occasionally wear Islamic amulets and one frequently sees them around the necks of infants and young children. They are worn, then, simply as amulets—protective devices against malevolent powers—rather than for any Islamic significance. The stylization of the figure's face and coiffure, and the slender body, square shoulders, and length of the legs, further suggest that the carver was associated with the compound of Inurin in Ila-Orangun (Pemberton 1987:121-26). The separation of the feet on their platform sandals, however, is more often found on carvings north of Ila, as in those from Ajasse (Chemeche 2003:figs. 136, 173). One must remember that carvers traveled, and so did ideas and objects. It is difficult, then, to identify with certainty where a carving originated without data reliably gathered in a particular locale. The theme of standing female figure with bowl appeared widely throughout Yorubaland. On a shrine it would have referred not to a particular deity but to the devotee: it is an image of being a devotee, one who pursues the ritual way of life, who acknowledges the reality of known but unseen powers that shape her existence and self-understanding. It is an expression of her ase, her power as a devotee of a particular orisa—a power manifest in her physical well-being, the composure of her face, the beauty of her hair. Hair is a woman's "crown." In Yoruba the word for "head" is on. The on ode is the physical head; the on mu is the "inner head," the personal destiny that one has chosen before entering the human world. Hence the prominence of the head in Yoruba figurative sculpture. Elaborate hairstyle, forceful eyes, and strength of expression are the artist's way of expressing the inner, "spiritual head," the ase that a devotee possesses through her orisa. JOHN PEMBERTON III




Yoruba peoples, Ketu region, Nigeria Wood, paint, glass beads. H. 10 1/2 in. (26.67 cm) Museum purchase: Robert P. Gordy Fund. 90.35

This charming little sculpture is by an unknown artist in the Ketu region of southwestern Yorubaland. The hair style, the treatment of the ears and facial features, the simple pattern of the skirt, which is painted, clearly indicate the hand of a Ketu carver. What is striking about the sculpture is the large size of the lidded bowl in relation to the diminutive size of the woman. However, this seeming imbalance is offset by the child on the mother's back and the forward thrust of her skirt. The artist had an "eye for design," oju-ono. The severe vertical line of the woman's body is intersected by three diagonal lines, one from the head of the mother to the bowl's outer edge, another from the head of the child, across the mother's shoulders to the bowl and the sharply descending line from child's head to the front edge of the mother's skirt. The prominence of the large, heavy bowl, which one can scarcely imagine her holding with such apparent ease, is balanced by the standing figure whose skirt sweeps beneath the bowl extending the sense of the base upon which she stands. It is a remarkable achievement in composition. As a shrine sculpture, the mother and child with offering bowl is well known throughout Yorubaland. The white beads suggest that she is a devotee of one of the orisa funfun, deities whose offerings are white in color or cool, such as white pigeons and the juice of snails for orisa Obatala, the deity who creates the human form, or orisa Osun, goddess of medicinal waters. Both orisa were well known in the Ketu area. Such sculptures are symbols of the devotee. They are visual expressions of what it means to be a devotee of a particular orisa. She holds the offering bowl close to her abdomen, itself a container of power, the source from which her child was born. She offers her gifts to the orisa who in turn bestows on her the power to give birth. The bowl and its contents are an offering, a sacrifice symbolizing both the power of the god she worships and her own power in bringing forth a child. Thus the sculpture is an image of devotion to a life giving power and of the devotee's own power to bring forth life. JOHN PEMBERTON III





19th-20th century Osugbo society, Yoruba peoples, ljebu region, Nigeria Wood. H. 59 3/4 in. (i51.8 cm) Museum purchase: Robert P. Gordy Fund. 89.283

This door was probably made for an Oshugbosociety lodge in the ljebu Ode region. Doors of this importance from the area are rare; I know of only two others (from different workshops), one in the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Munich (Kecskesi 1989: 234, Witte 1994:fig. 4.16), the other in the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal (Dobbelmann 1976:11g. 156, Witte 1982:171, fig. 6, Witte 2004:143, pl. 129, Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989:123, pl. 124). Other comparisons can be made with royal gbedu drums and Ifa trays from the region. The door's upper register symbolizes the judicial powers of the Oshugbo. A coiled snake has the large eyes characteristic of ljebu Ode wood carving, notably on Ifa trays (Witte 1994:73, pls. 4.18 and 4.19, and 75, pl. 4.20). Like the mudfish represented below, the snake is at home on earth and in water; as signs, both refer to the ancestors living in ile, the primordial element comprising earth and water. In Oshugbo symbolism mudfish and snake also refer to the ancestors who founded the first community and its Oshugbo lodge. The snake bites a male figure who may be a criminal condemned by the Oshugbo. This interpretation is corroborated by the presence of a chameleon (agemo)—a reference to the Agemo society, which in this region seems to carry out Oshugbo sentences. The ljebu interpret the chameleon's hiss, when it is threatened, as a curse (Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989:120). An equestrian armed with a sword may signify vigilant Oshugbo members. The small frog, also at home in water and earth, may represent another earth spirit. The door's middle and lower registers show figures with "emanations" of parallel lines at the cheeks and the top of the head, indicating supernatural status. Such figures reappear in the doors in Munich and Berg en Dal, and also on the region's drums and Ifa trays, where their legs often become fishtails, complete mudfish, or snakes. They often hold these mudfish legs with their hands. In an example in the door's lower register, the lower body becomes a fishtail and each hand holds a mudfish. In the central register, an equestrian holds two smaller figures at the throat. (The gesture does not express choking; the mudfish-legged figures hold their legs in the same way, with all fingers outstretched.) I know of no other example where a figure with emanations from the head is an equestrian. On a gbedu drum in the Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich (Abiodun, Drewal, and Pemberton 1991:pl. 71), probably by the same artist as the door, we see the figure from the door's lower register, but now, like this equestrian, holding two kneeling persons. The same figure appears on the drum's back, this time holding two mudfish, and the drum's sides are decorated with figures having various combina-

tions of mudfish and -tail arms and legs. The equestrian in the door's central register, then, is apparently a variation on the mudfish-legged figures holding their own legs. The mudfish legs have become two servants and the horse symbolizes the figure's royal status. The interlace patterns between the registers, which shift into a fish-scale design, seem to refer to the fishlike bodies of royal ancestors. In sum, I believe that the door's figuration refers to the royal ancestors as earth spirits. The earth is represented by the mudfish and snake symbolism and the superhuman status of the royal ancestors is indicated by the emanations from their heads. HANS WITTE



Early i8th century Osugbo society, Yoruba peoples, Owu region, Nigeria Copper alloy. H. 23 in. (58.4 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.158

The casting of an object as large as this female onile figure in copper alloy is a rare achievement for a Yoruba blacksmith of the early eighteenth century. No wonder we find in the literature no more than seven or eight examples larger than around twenty inches (fifty centimeters) high. Three of these can be traced to the town of Owu, where the artistic and physical requirements for this production were apparently available. The statues show a human figure in a style related to the work of the famous brass-casters in ljebu Ode. Owu was situated between lbadan and Apomu, some forty miles north of ljebu Ode. Each of these figures shows a hairdo consisting of two or four rising triangles. Henry Drewal remarks that this is "a widespread and important hairdo in ljebu associated with priests of the gods and high ranking women" (1989:165). The figures have large, bulging eyes, a long nose with fleshy nostrils, and large lips. A ribbon-shaped decoration runs over the forehead and is prolonged over the nose bridge. All are naked, and all sit, legs apart and sex exposed, on what seems to be a conical earth mound. They make the gesture of the Oshugbo society, left fist on top of right. All have thick necklaces (some with two very large beads), a thick girdle, and the Oshugbo bracelet on the left wrist. Five examples represent a female figure; one is a male with erect penis. Owu was an old and important town with impressive fortifications. It was a loyal vassal of the Alafin of Oyo. After a war between Owu and Ife, an army from the ljebu region, which possessed firearms, joined the Ife and besieged Owu. The men of the Oshugbo society in Owu managed to send secretly three of their large onile statues to their brothers in Apomu, lkire, and Ede for safety (ibid.:




158). Owu fell in 1820. The Olowu of the town was able to escape at the last minute with a small party of followers and found refuge in Abeokuta. Owu was completely destroyed and disappeared from the map. The name "onile" has caused some misunderstanding, having beem thought to mean "Owner of the Earth," and to be the name of an earth goddess venerated by the Oshugbo. Drewal, however, has emphasized that "onile," given a different pronunciation, means "owner of the house" (ibid.: i-6). The term indicates pairs of freestanding images in copper alloy—a male and a female figure—that together symbolize the ancestors who founded the local community and organized the first Oshugbo lodge there. Together with many other spirits, these ancestors dwell in the earth. Onile figures have been made in all sizes. Ideally they were cast at the founding of the lodge, or brought by Oshugbo members from an earlier settlement. They are prepared with powerful substances and are thought to possess an enormous accumulated vital force. The images are kept in the inner sanctum of the Oshugbo meeting house, hidden from the view of ordinary members; even their guardians must cover their eyes when they first venture into the dark inner shrine to pour offerings of blood on the figures. Wiping the same blood around their own eyes, they may gaze upon the images then (ibid.:16o). The impressive size, fierce expression and aggressive nakedness of these onile statues from Odu easily make us understand the awe and respect they would have received from Oshugbo members. HANS WITTE


Oro society, Yoruba peoples, city of Ijebu-Ode, ljebu region, Nigeria Copper alloy, iron. H. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm) and 15 3/4 in. (40 cm) Gift of Kent and Charles Davis in memory of her father Richard E. Gerard. 97.638.1/.2

The form of an eluku Oro staff, with two or sometimes three human figures, male and female, one above the other, shows the close relation between the Oro and the Oshugbo societies. Oshugbo members have personal staffs (edan Oshugbo) with a single male or female figure. Both Oro and Oshugbo staffs are cast in copper alloy round an iron pin, and in both cases two staffs are linked by a chain to form a pair. Furthermore, the human figures on Oro staffs often bear Oshugbo crescents on their forehead; they make the Oshugbo gesture and carry edan Oshugbo in their hands. The Oro society is responsible for "enforcing the penalties assessed by the Oshugbo in their judgements, meting out fines, confiscating forfeited goods, punishments, and carrying out sentences of death in the most serious cases such as those involving capital crimes" (Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989:143). The Oro society also plays an important role in burial ceremonies. Secrecy shrouds not only Oro ceremonies but also the iconography of the society's implements. The best-known instrument is the bullroarer, which, however, is more heard than seen. It warns women and children to stay indoors when Oro is carrying out its functions. The iconography of Oro staffs, with their two or three superposed human figures, remains open to speculation (ibid.:143). It seems clear, however, that the combination of male and female figures on each staff prolongs the basic Oshugbo ideology that male and female forces should collaborate to impose traditional law for the social well-being. The staffs are said to be carried by Oro members when they go out to punish criminals condemned by the Oshugbo. The New Orleans staffs were certainly made in the area of ljebu Ode. The male figures on top of the staffs hold a couple of edan Oshugbo. The female figures beneath use both hands to present an empty rectangular box. The lowermost female figures on a pair of Oro staffs in a private collection in Zurich, made in the same workshop and perhaps by the same hand, also hold such a box, but their contain one or two small globular objects. The same collection in Zurich contains a group with an onile figure and two small attendants, one of them also carrying an empty rectangular box. Since that group was most probably made not in an Ijebu workshop but in Egba territory, such boxes seem familiar in a general Oshugbo and Ogboni context. Perhaps they served to offer parrot eggs during ritual ordeals. HANS WITTE





Igth窶配oth century Yoruba peoples, township of Osogbo, Oyo region, Nigeria Brass. H. 17 74 in. (43.8 cm) Museum purchase: The Francoise Billion Richardson Fund. 90.306

Orisa Osun is the goddess who dwells in the Osun River, provider of medicinal waters. She is the beautiful mother of those who desire children. On the occasion of the annual festival for Osun in the lgbomina town of Ila-Orangun, her priestesses balance on their heads shining brass bowls, filled with water and leaves from a stream that flows into the Osun River. As they return to the shrine in the Olosunpetu compound, they chant, Praise! Praise! Mothers of Osun. Olade-mole [Osun], my mother. Osun is water in a brass pot. The brass necklace enhances the Osun worshiper. Osun is a rich woman who lives in a magnificent courtyard. My mother forbids sickness. She was born with a long neck [a mark of beauty]. Oladekofu [Osun], my mother. It is because of brass She has long arms. A rich woman who lives at the back of Akudi's courtyard. Praise! Praise! Mothers of Osun. Water in a deep river. The olorisa, or chief priestess, carries a brass fan similar to the one shown here. Etched on the surface of the fan are stylized images of aquatic creatures. The large figure in the center seems to be a waterbug, its wings extending down the length of its long body. On either side are abstract designs depicting turtles, lizards, fish, and snails, as well as two birds perched on the forearms of the giant waterbug. Typical of Yoruba artistry, the organization of the images shows a delightful combination of symmetry and asymmetry. The handle is composed of a series of simple geometric designs. The iconography of the fan refers to the mystery and source of an Osun priestess's power, the ase by which she mediates between the goddess and her devotees. Osun is hidden in the depths of the river, yet she rises to the surface to bestow curing waters upon those who come to her. She is the source of life, fulfilling the hopes of those who desire children. "Osun moves sleeplessly," it is said: she is never at rest, never exhausted. Like many of the images on the fan, Osun priestesses are literally in touch with the goddess, carrying her precious waters in brass containers to their shrines so that their medicinal powers may heal the sick child, relieve the anxiety of the barren woman. The priestesses are mediators, crossing boundaries, bearing gifts, bestowing power. JOHN PEMBERTON III





Early 20th century Yoruba peoples, Oyo region, Nigeria Cloth, metallic thread, glass beads, cowrie shells. H. 59 in. (149.86 cm) Museum purchase: Friends of Ethnographic Art Fund. 92.54 The spirit of the ancestors embodied in the voluminous costume of the masked performer Egungun occupies a precarious intersection between the world of the living and the universe of the departed. A unique cultural tradition practiced by the Yoruba of West Africa and their descendants in the African Diaspora, particularly in Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and the United States, Egungun is a visible manifestation of the spirits of departed ancestors who periodically revisit the human community for remembrance, celebration, and blessings. "Egungun" refers to the ancestral spirits known affectionately as aro orun, dwellers of the other world, each lineage with its own unique type. These spirits constantly watch over and protect their earthly descendants. According to Oba S. A. Babayemi, the late Olufi of Gbongan, Egungun bless, protect, warn, and punish their earthly relatives depending on how their relatives neglect or honor them (Babayemi 1980:2). The appearance of Egungun in a community is usually a source of joy and is invariably accompanied by pomp and pageantry, drumming and dancing, singing and celebration. The ensuing festival goes on for several days. It is a period of rededication, renewal, and the strengthening of the bonds uniting families and communities with departed ancestors. The festival is generally accompanied with prayers and blessings, pride and honor, because it is a time of festivity and entertainment, a time of apprehension of forces of evil and of engendering deep belief in divine guidance and protection" (ibid.). Egungun serve various functions in society. In the past, certain types energized, supported, and accompanied their descendants on military expeditions. Other Egungun types were used in persecuting miscreants and social misdemeanors, while still others settled inheritance disputes, including those over both tangible and intangible properties. In yet another category are the entertainers, egungun afarinjo. The most serious types are performed in honor of Yoruba divinities; these include Egungun Olosun, Egungun Oloya, Egungun Onisango, Oloolu, and Kanmoloogun, among others.




Egungun have many costumes, each distinguished by the selection of materials in their construction. Elaborately carved wooden superstructures set at the top of the head are the most common. Although most of these superstructures have holes in them, the masked performers look out through nettings, slits, and layers of transparent fabrics, which conceal the identity of the dwellers of the other world. The costumes are constructed of disparate fabrics, both locally woven and industrially manufactured, in addition to metal, beads, leather, bones, and potent empowering materials and substances (oogun) that are attached to the sculpture. Today the fabrics chosen are literally the best that money can buy, and include damask, velvet, silk, Indian madras, and cotton, both handwoven and machine spun. Egungun performances, then, are often accompanied by the swirling of fabrics and colors, augmented by intricate body movements and carefully orchestrated dance steps. At best, Egungun is both a fanciful parade and a concrete manifestation of the acrobatic displays of spirit in motion. According to Yoruba oral tradition, Eesa Ogbin Ologbojo, the eponymous ancestor of Yoruba carvers, was the first masked performer in the court of the Alafin of Oyo. The first costume was constructed of several layers of sash, or ooja, borrowed or appropriated from women—hence the tradition of intricate assemblages of choice fabrics. The finished sculptural costume is a three-dimensional montage of quilted fabrics, leather and wood, fossilized animal bones, metals, and beads. The threaded beads in the costume therefore symbolize regeneration, birth, and departure, as well as the cyclical return and renewal of potent energies for the spiritual revitalization of human society. Like spring, Egungun personifies continuity. Ojo roba'ku laa d'ere—only in death do we attain immortality. BOLAJI CAMPBELL



Late 19th—early 20th century Yoruba peoples, ljebu region, Nigeria Glass beads, cloth. H. 35 in. (88.9 cm) Museum purchase: Robert P. Gordy and Carrie Heiderick Funds. 91.29

Ade la fin'moba Ileke la fin'mo'joye Rulers are recognizable with the crown Much as titled chiefs are recognized in their beaded regalia Apart from their aesthetic function of beautifying (bu ewa kun), beaded objects are prestige items reserved for important members of the society, such as rulers (oba), priests (a/awo), titled elders (oloye agbalagba), mediums (adosu), and those who have distinguished themselves in different spheres of life. Beads (ileke) are signifiers of social distinction, selectively distinguishing the nobility from the commoners, the knowledgeable (alawo) from the novices (ogberi), the ordinary from the extraordinary, the common from the refined, and the sacred from the divine. Often treated as markers of social distinction, beads give that ultimate sense of completeness (pipe) to a costume, a place, an object, or a thing. Beads are also treated affectionately, as one treats a child, hence the Yoruba expression Ileke lomo, ko gbodoja: Children are like strung beads that should not and must not break. This concept and metaphor invoke the notions of cooperation and resilience needed in human society. Threaded together, beads stand for unity, togetherness, and solidarity (Drewal and Mason 1998:80). This beaded garment, or agbada ileke, epitomizes and celebrates the prestige, power, and authority of a rich and politically savvy Yoruba ruler in the era of modernization (olaaju). In their formal arrangement, the vertically segmented patterns (awe/abala) of the regalia recall the polyrhythmic aesthetics of striped woven cloth (aso 0P—the most valued Yoruba cloth—as well as other aspects of Yoruba decorative arts, particularly those practiced or influenced by women. Certain stylistic ele-


ments of orisa mural painting and indigo tie-dye patterns (adire), for example, have both been greatly influenced by the woman's shoulder cloth or sash (oojaliborun). The sash, used in tying a child to the back, represents on one philosophical level the bond of solidarity and cooperation integral to the Yoruba world view, and on another the umbilical cord, okun omo iya, metaphorically invoking the notion that all Yoruba are "children of the same mother" since they all trace descent to Oduduwa, the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba peoples. This aesthetic consciousness is reinforced by the brightly colored interlocking motifs elegantly placed on the tunic's shoulder regions and chest area. The artist further intensifies the visual impact of the garment by placing four birds in its middle area and two more on its sides. The bird icon refers to the covert powers of the great mothers (awon iyaa mi osoronga) and to the sixteen metaphoric elders (alagemo merindinlogun) who established the ljebu kingdom. Two zigzag patterns (orokun aro) separate the interlocking motifs of the chest area. These may refer on the one hand to the swift punitive action of the ruler and on the other to thunder, which by association refers to Sango, the orisa who defends the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized, a role that Yoruba rulers must exemplify. The juxtaposition and blending cif warm/hot (pupa) and cool/dark (dudu) colors in the garment celebrates the power (ase) of ljebu rulership and acts as a metaphor for its adaptability, impregnability, and particularly its ability to neutralize, survive and transcend friends and foes alike—a chameleon trait much needed in dealing with foreign domination. Epitomizing that power, the garment is a visual metaphor, a concretized oriki describing the ruler as a worthy descendant of the great chameleon, omo alagemo merindinlogun.








i9th-2oth century Yoruba peoples, city of ljebu Owo, Nigeria Cloth, glass beads, brass, iron, leather. H. 20 3/4 in. (52.7 cm) Gift of Kent and Charles Davis in memory of Robert P. Gordy. 87.72 The wearing and display of this family heirloom would have been an open acknowledgment of membership in an important lineage in the ancient Yoruba town of Owo. The udamalore is a ceremonial sword, owned, used, and valued by an exclusive cadre of titled chiefs, the ode operin—those in the category of "accomplished hunters of elephant." Only they or their descendants could use the object in public procession during the lgogo festival in Owo. The tradition of displaying ceremonial swords in public may have been introduced into Owo political institutions by the Edos when Owo was under the suzerainty of Benin. The ceremonial sword represents an oriki or praise poem concretized. It is simultaneously a visualization and celebration of historical lineage accomplishments and a valuable asset. The visual imagery on the sheath of this particular sword clearly supports the notion that the owner was a devotee of Ogun. It also demonstrates that he was not just a wealthy individual but a great warrior, and possibly an accomplished member of the Yoruba society of his time. In consonance with the significance of four in Yoruba cosmology, the sheath is divided into four panels, each displaying a human figure, with or without an animal. Two panels show men with red bodies and in dark pants. Each has one hand on his waist and in the other hand holds the barrel of a gun. The figures wear long-tasseled caps, signifying membership in the guild of hunters. Above their heads are quadruped animals, treated in white (fun. fun) and in cool (dudu) colors. These may be dogs, a favorite delicacy of Ogun, and the animal usually offered in sacrifice to the deity. The other two panels display a man standing arms akimbo and another on a black horse. The horse is a status symbol and, before the introduction of motorized vehicles into Nigeria, a mark of sophistication. The dominant red, green, and black colors of the sheath further validate its association with Ogun, the orisa of creativity, warfare, and heroism, patron of hunters, warriors, and all workers and users of iron implements. According to Yoruba oral tradition, any object made in iron is both a dedication to the divinity and a quintessential site of his worship. Like those on the beaded crowns (ode ileke) obscuring the individual identity of the ruler, the beaded fringes on the sheath make further reference to royal connections, as well as to the sacred palm frond (moriwo) regarded as the special cloth and clothing of Ogun. The abundance of the beaded fringes is a visual articulation of the wealth, sophistication, and prestige of the owner of this unique object of leadership. BOLAJI CAMPBELL





Yoruba peoples, Nigeria Cloth, glass beads, leather. H. 11 1/2 in. (29.2 cm) Robert P. Gordy Collection. 88.55

The apo ij-a—the Ifa divination bag—is an important insignia and quite possibly one of the most valuable containers of the treasured tools of the babalawo, the Yoruba diviner, priest, and healer. The face on this bag was designed in two colors, white (funfun) and blue (chichi). The white hues in the object refer to the ethical purity, honesty, and transparency of Orunmila, who symbolizes truth and the means of its realization. As Orunmila's cognomen indicates, he was a witness at the choices made by each individual at the dawn of time—eleriipin. Similarly, he is also regarded as the great counsel who advises one as one's relative: adani n'imoran bi iyekan eni. Anyone interested in u.nderstanding forces shaping their life and destiny, then, must of necessity go through Orunmila. The dark blue refers to the depth of his knowledge and wisdom, and to the enduring quality of the ancient system of Ifa divination, still regarded in the Yoruba universe as the most dependable body of knowledge for unriddling the mystery and problems of existence. Made with the proverbially dual face of Orunmila centrally positioned in the upper middle of the bag, this object is the mark of a highly successful professional practice. The placement, symbolism, and meaning of Orunmila's face could be likened to those it commands on Ifa divination trays, where it is a presence usually invoked at the start of every divination. On each side of the face are interlocking chains in funfun and dudu colors, over a pink or light red background. Immediately below the face is the image of a reptile, which represents Esu, Orunmila's most trusted ally—ubiquitous messenger, agent provocateur, and alter ego. Its head is tangentially placed below the face's lips, which represent the portal for much evocative utterance of ase, the catalytic energy that makes things happen. The reptile could be a lizard (alongba) or wood gecko (tewogbeji), both of which represent the performative force and power (ase) employed by Esu while triggering the activities of the temperamental orisa of the Yoruba pantheon. Appropriately depicted in its favorite element, the reptile is bathed in a glowingly warm-colored palette (pupa), which is occasionally interspersed with carefully arranged rolls of white (funfun) as a means of dousing the temperament of one fully charged with action, power, and energy. BOLA)! CAMPBELL






19th century Yoruba peoples, town of Efon-Alaye, Ekiti region, Nigeria Wood, pigment, Reckitt's blue, ground stone, powdered egg, snail shell, kaolin latex. H. 44 1/2 in. (113 cm) Museum purchase: Carrie Heidrich Fund. 87.33 The Yoruba towns in northern and southern Ekiti are famous for annual festivals known as Odun Epa. During the festival one or more family groups or quarters in a town will sponsor the appearance of a dancer, who balances on his head a large wooden headdress, sometimes weighing as much as fifty pounds and standing close to five feet in height. When several dancers appear, they do so in sequence, usually on a single evening but sometimes over a few days. A festival may also focus on a single major masquerade, however, accompanied by children wearing smaller masks. An Epa mask consists primarily of this carved wooden headdress, which may depict a leopard leaping upon an antelope; a warrior with spear, seated or astride his horse; a priest of herbal medicines or divination; a woman with twin children surrounded by an entourage of drummers and other women holding offering bowls; a single woman wearing and holding the emblems of her authority; or a ruler on horseback, his large umbrella-like hat encompassing the cluster of figures around him. Collectively these images are expressions of social and cultural achievement: the primary acts of farming and hunting; acts establishing and securing communal life, through bloodshed in war or through sacrifices to unseen powers; the celebration of the inner power —the ase—of women, the basis of social existence; and the heralding of the political power, also ase, of rulers.

In the Ekiti town of Otun, an Epa headdress depicting a standing female figure was called Eyelase, "Mother-Who-Possesses-Power." The New Orleans Epa headdress shows a similar figure, whose ase—power or status—is visible in more than the necklaces and chieftaincy beads above her breasts, or the signs of office she grasps in her hands. Her ase is expressed by her swollen abdomen, the fullness of her breasts, the child on her back, and the crownlike coiffeur rising above her head. According to the person responsible for the care of Eyelase, an Epa headdress "remembers the great ones, the ones who have died," but does not necessarily refer to a particular person, although its creation may have been inspired by a particular individual who embodied what is being celebrated. The praise songs chanted by the mask's followers as she appears from the forest of the Epa often sound as though a specific person is being heralded, but the songs are essentially about the ase, the essential authority, of women, who are the "ground bass" of society. The abstract face of the helmet mask on which she stands may suggest the ones who have died," but the superstructure is a celebration of the inner power of woman that sustains life. The carving is in the style of the Adeshina family of carvers of Efon-Alaye. The individual maker himself cannot be identified, but he is clearly a carver with an eye for design and composition, or oju-ona. More important, he possessed what the Yoruba call oju-inu, "inner eye"—that is, an insight with which he has rendered his subject. JOHN PEMBERTON III





Early 20th century Yoruba peoples, Ketu region, Nigeria/Republic of Benin border Wood, pigment. H. 12 1/4 in. (31.1cm) Gift of H. Russell Albright, M. D. 90.391

Gelede festivals are unique to the peoples of southwestern Yorubaland, from Ketu and Shabe to Awori and Anago. They are held at the time of the arrival of the early spring rains, and are performed in honor of "our mothers," awon iya wa, also referred to as "our mothers, the witches," awon iya wa aje. Henry and Margaret Drewal have described the festivals as "spectacles." The variety of costumes, the drumming and the dancing, engage the entire community in which the festival is performed (Drewal and Drewal 1983:7ff). The concept of "our mothers" refers to the inner, secret power of woman in its creative and destructive aspects, especially in elderly women, female ancestors, and in certain female orisa. It is woman's power to give birth, and so to sustain the patrilineage, but she can withhold that life-giving power if she chooses. This is her ase, her "authority," within Yoruba society, an authority that men must respect and to which they must pay homage. While the titled elder of a Gelede society is a woman, the members of the society, and those who dance the masquerades, are men. The costumes of the Gelede masquerades consist of a carved headdress and a cloth, the latter often depicting a type of dress worn by women performing domestic chores or reflecting social status. The dancing is usually in pairs and mimes the manner of women's dancing, often as parody. As in this Gelede carving, a woman's face is depicted as youthful, her hair skillfully plaited. She has ewa, physical beauty, but her real beauty is revealed in her composure: it is her iwa—an inner beauty, an essential moral quality—that is the subject of the carver's art. A pair of warthogs adorn the woman's head (Fagg and Pemberton 1982:86-87). While Gelede festivals often include animal costumes, such as wild-warthog dancers, imado, who prance about for the entertainment of spectators, the introduction of the warthog motif above the serene face is a fascinating feature. All Gelede headdresses have a superstructure. Some costumes depict the roles women play, such as carrying bowls upon their heads to market; others are elaborate creations depicting cyclists, blacksmiths working at their forge, or acrobats. All social roles are represented, even shameful prostitutes, who are depicted in contorted or lewd positions. Many of these carvings are metaphorical puns on the elaborate head-ties, gee, with which women crown their heads: snakes and birds attacking a mongoose, cactus plants exploding into the surrounding space, knives and/or feathers flaring from the sides of the head. As with the wild warthogs on this particular headdress, all are commentaries on men's perceptions of women, their ambivalence about the inner powers of women, the dangers women may pose beneath their beauty and lifesustaining gifts. Thus it is incumbent upon men to honor "the mothers." JOHN PEMBERTON III RESONANCE FROM THE PAST





16th-17th century Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria Brass. H. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm.) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford. 80.194

Of all the animals represented in African art, the leopard appears more often and more widely than any other, its only possible competitor being the elephant. In the art of Benin, the leopard appears on plaques, as hip masks, in freestanding brass and ivory objects, as aquamaniles—ewers—used to wash the king's hands during palace ceremonies, and as embroidery on warrior tunics to identify the king's soldiers and suggest their ferocity. Along with the elephant, the crocodile, the python, and the vulturine fish eagle, the leopard is usually a symbol of legitimate authority and is employed in contexts supportive or reflective of political power. As elsewhere in Africa, it is the leopard—not the lion of Disney's Lion King—that symbolizes the king. A graceful and intelligent predator, the leopard readily lends itself to the production of politically useful metaphors. Linked to those who have power over life and death, it is the animal familiar of kings, rulers, and those charged with maintaining law and order. But the leopard is also fierce and dangerous. Folklore and proverbs express this aspect of the animal: a wife who verbally abuses her neighbors, for example, is said to be more hostile than a leopard." The Edo distinguish these two perceptions of the leopard in their vocabulary: there is ekpen, the totem of the king and the emblem of royal authority, and there is atalakpo, the fierce forest animal (and also the stealthy hero of folk tales). This pragmatic distinction makes it harder to ascertain which aspect of the leopard is depicted in plaques like this one. Is the pouncing leopard, or the leopard in the trees, depicted on such plaques a representation of the king or of the forest animal? Probably the latter. The leopards shown being hunted in the leopardhunt plaque are not metaphors of the king either, and the same can be said of the leopard stabbed by a Portuguese or biting a Portuguese motif, on ivory tusks. The leopard image, then, is not exclusive in the meanings attached to its representation. Casual expressions familiar to everyone in Benin City include "The leopard's child has mature claws," referring to a precocious child, and The leopard's child scratches the leopard's forehead," referring to indulgences granted to an unruly child—only a child, in other words, can get away with insulting his father. "The leopard has a good body but not a good character" is said of someone handsome but mean. And a southpaw is called the left-handed leopard." JOSEPH NEVADOMSKY




Second half of 17m century Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria Terra-cotta. H. 7 1/2 in. (19 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.143

Over fifty of these terra-cotta heads, in varying sizes, appear in private collections and museums. The predynastic Ogiso (literally "sky king") rulers of the ninth to fourteenth centuries may have used these heads on their paternal ancestral altars. The earliest forms, in terra-cotta and brass, display a ridged coiffure, naturalistic features, and a formed beaded neck choker. More recently the kings of Benin have used large cast-brass heads with ivory tusks as memorials, and chiefs have used either wooden heads or heads covered with hammered brass, according to rank, for the same reason. Naturalistic terra-cotta and egg-shell-thin cast-brass heads, then, seem to have given way over the centuries to the heavy, ponderous commemorative brass heads of the nineteenth century. The head is the seat of wisdom, thought, and judgment, and the lower back of the skull is thought to be the repository of the human soul. The persistence of the head in sculptured or cast forms is easy to understand, then, especially for use as ancestral commemorative heads honoring the deceased and decorating household or lineage shrines. Many of the terra-cotta heads exhibit a circular hole in the crown, probably for the receipt of an ivory tusk, as in the later brass castings. There is some doubt, however, as to the ability of the thin early terra-cotta or brass castings to accommodate these heavy projections. The standard chronology and interpretation are that ancestral commemorative heads have existed since early times as a way of remembering the deceased and beautifying ancestral shrines. According to some local traditions, terra-cotta heads were the most widespread commemorative sculpture. A few today are found in the wards of the brass-casters and elsewhere. Breaking away from this association with clayey ancestral soil and early rulers, the Obas of the second dynasty introduced the brass commemorative head as their own distinctive shrine decoration, and this form became more elaborate and stylized over the centuries. These heads are seen by most scholars as purely commemorative in function, but they may also be trophies of war, since it is suspected that some were placed on the altar of war in the courtyard of the old palace. A sketch by an early European visitor clearly leads to this deduction. The brass castings that resemble this terra-cotta may indeed be trophy heads representing conquered rulers. It is difficult to know if a change in media from terra-cotta to brass indicates a change in function. There is enough evidence to support the view that both terracotta and brass heads overlapped in use if not in purpose. Perhaps the power and wealth of the kings of the second dynasty resulted in commemorative heads serving as both trophies of war and kingly memorials. JOSEPH NEVADOMSKY RESONANCE FROM THE PAST





6th—igth century Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria Brass, iron. H. 7 in. (17.8 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.184

The king, chiefs, and other dignitaries of Benin wear a variety of brass and ivory ornaments as part of their elaborate costumes for palace ceremonies or, in the past, for war. These include elaborately carved cylindrical bracelets in ivory and hammered brass, as well as ivory and brass chest and waist pendants. But the most common are hip ornaments worn singly at the left hip, hanging over the knotted tie that secures the wrapper or skirt. In their form they are similar to brass pectorals sent to vassal rulers such as the Ata of Ida and the Olowo of Owo, kingdoms on the northwest and northeast boundaries of the empire. Waist pendants depict a variety of animals, particularly leopard and crocodile heads, or may be coat of arms—shaped brasses showing figures of mudfish, warriors on horseback, and Portuguese soldiers. Hip ornaments, on the other hand, are most typically face or leopard masks from 6 to 8 1/2 inches high. Most are images of an idealized king, and the leopard is a symbol of the king, but some ivory hip masks worn by the Oba depict Idia, a famous queen mother of the sixteenth century. The New Orleans hip mask is characteristic of the type. It is cast in hollowed oval form and encircled round the jaw with a rufflike collar, which may have Portuguese associations. Circle hoops for crotal bells are attached. The face has full naturalistic lips beneath a flared nose. Large, almond-shaped eyes show incised lashes and metal inserts as pupils. Above each eye are three raised or keloid scarification marks; their meaning remains obscure but they may denote sex (three for males, four for females). The openwork crown represents coral beads adorned with three coral clusters. A coral band punctuated with several large coral cylinders secures the crown. Mediterranean coral, which was imported by European merchants, is added to the once traditional agate (a semiprecious stone) as a sign of chiefly rank and wealth. (Nowadays, coral necklaces and bracelets are fashion statements worn by women at weddings and receptions.) Only the king and his senior war chief wore coral crowns; their wives adorned their "chicken's beak" hairdos with latticed coral and coral flowerets in recognition of their exalted status. Variations in hip masks of this kind include a necklace of suspended mudfish or orrirri, an electric fish that signifies the Oba's awesome power; an incised rope pattern that represents the continuity of life; and a nose inlaid with a copper strip along the medial ridge, a protection against malice and danger. Those performing the burial rites at funerals often bear such markings in charcoal to protect against the jealousy of the deceased and the disruption posed by the death of a family or community member. JOSEPH NEVADOMSKY 82





century Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria Brass, iron. H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm.) Gift of Francoise Billion Richardson in memory of her sister Armande Billion. 90.32


Throughout the world, animals serve as basic metaphors for human thought and action, and the art of the Benin Kingdom is rich with animal representations, from crocodiles and chameleons to mudfish and vultures. All are found in royal art, on shrine statuary, and in folk tales. The leopard, for example, is considered a symbol of the king; for rulers, like leopards, have power over life and death. AppliquĂŠ leopard faces on Benin warrior costumes referred to the dangerous aspects of the Oba's nature. Chained leopards used to be paraded in front of the king on ceremonial outings, and on certain ritual occasions the Oba wore a belt of small ivory pendants several of which depicted a leopard's facer. When a king of Benin dies, it is said that the leopard has gone to its lair. The Edo distinguish the "leopard of the home" from the "leopard of the bush." In the past, a hunter who killed a leopard brought it to the palace and announced that it was a leopard of the bush. If he failed to prove this, he was executed, since it is forbidden to kill the leopard of the home, a metaphor for the king. Once a leopard was identified as a leopard of the bush, however, it became just a dangerous forest beast. The slaying of a leopard was permitted only as an offering, particularly in the cult to the Oba's head. A guild of leopard hunters had dispensation to kill these animals for such purposes. A brass plaque shows two members of the leopard hunters' guild protected by armor made from the skin of the pangolin, the only creature that could resist the leopard's crushing power. Leopard hip ornaments were badges of honor bestowed on war chiefs, serving both as protective devices and as symbols of the power over life and death. Leopard's teeth and skin could be presented to military commanders only by the Oba, and were thought both to offer protection in battle and to confirm his power to delegate to the recipients the right to take life. This leopard hip ornament was worn either by a senior war chief or a Benin court official on the left side of his belt or wrapper. The face is incised with circles representing the leopard's spots; other castings have more prominent hemispherical bosses or inlaid copper tacks. The sharp protruding incisors are clearly visible. A rufflike collar under the chin is edged with a row of open circles that once held small crotal bells, which jangled when the chief or warrior walked. The leaflike ears are typical of leopard hip-ornament castings as are the eyes, rimmed with raised lids, and the stylized cat's-whiskers motif. JOSEPH NEvADOMSKY






Ezzamgbo Igbo peoples, Nigeria Wood, monkey fur, cloth, kaolin, pigment, iron nails. fiber, human hair, pitch. H. zo in. (50.8 cm) Museum purchase by exchange, gift of Drs. Rene and Stephanie Bravmann, Dr. Lorraine Friedman, Mrs. Jean Heid, Bryce P. Holcombe, Jr., Mrs. Edward J. Howell, Mr. and Mrs. Benno Hurwitz, Victor K. Kiam, Ida and Hugh Kohlmeyer, Mrs. George F. Lapeyre and Franklin H. Williams. 2002.191

This is a rather puzzling mask, in part because of the unusual doubled eyes. The short beard suggests a male spirit, an interpretation reinforced by the mask's dark coloration: in pan-Igbo practice male masks are often dark, whereas females are often white or light-faced. The two pairs of eyes, one over the other, argue that this is a powerful being. In Ezzamgbo and other Igbo areas, strong and wise male spirits are usually rendered as Janus-faced or even three-faced helmet masks; this doubling or tripling signals the ability to see backward, forward, or in three directions simultaneously—an indication of superior power and intelligence. In this mask, though, doubled eyesight—perhaps greater than normal insight, or wisdom—takes a rare form. We can only speculate on why; my guess is that the artist, whose hand is known in many other masks, was deliberately attempting something new and different. Mask carvers have often been called upon to come up with fresh and original forms; indeed this is one way masking groups can compete with and outplay rival groups, a competitive spirit also reflected in innovative costuming, music, and choreography. Parts of the mask are identifiable: the diagonal, downward-extending broken lines from the inner corners of the lower eyes, for example, suggest scarification commonly affected in the first half of the twentieth century by several peoples in the northeastern region of Igboland. The exact name, context, and meaning of this mask, however, did not survive its travels from Nigeria to the United States. In fact little is published or known about the use or meaning of masks among Ezzamgbo peoples generally. The dark/light paradigm noted above, we may suppose, suggests that the mask may have been involved in a play with several male and female characters, perhaps not unlike the Okperegede plays of the nearby Izzi Igbo (see Cole and Aniakor 1984:147-53). In those plays a powerful three-faced father tries to protect his wife and, especially, his innocent, comely daughters—all in white-faced masks—from the attentions of two or three males of varied personality: erratic, amusing, troublemaking, bumbling, or aggressive. Depending on the numbers of maskers and their skill in portraying varied roles, this masquerade can be a dynamic, sometimes amusing, and affecting drama. Such a context for this mask, however, is pure speculation. HERBERT M. COLE




55. CREST MASK: OGBODO ENYI Izzi Igbo peoples, village of Abakaliki, Nigeria Wood, pigment, iron, coins. H. 13 3/4 in. (35 cm) The Robert P. Gordy Collection in memory of Frank Kennett. 88.36

The elephant crest mask is a familiar type whose character, actions, and meanings are quite clear in general outline, if not always in their specifics. Much of the research was conducted in 1983 by Bonnie Weston, and is published in Cole and Aniakor 1984:153-59. (See also Cole in Ross 1992:211-25.) Weston indicates that many villages had a series of these masks, which were danced by different agegrades, starting with children. (Dozens of masks left Igboland to enter European or American collections during or after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70.) The older the age-grade, the larger the mask. Given its size, the present mask was presumably owned by an adult grade, but probably not the most senior grade, whose masks were often larger and more abundantly decorated. These masks imaginatively reinterpret the form of the elephant. The trunk is transposed to the forehead, and is much shorter than an actual elephant trunk; the tusks are beside the mouth; and above the snout, yet below the trunk, there appears a human nose. In fact the mask is a fusion of human and animal traits, a composite that is part of the extensive West African corpus of "three-part horizontal" masks (see McNaughton 1991). The Igbo may describe the head projecting from the back of the mask as decoration, or may say it represents the "children" of the masked spirit or of the next generation. Occasional villagers told Weston that the heads were portraits of honored people (in Cole and Aniakor 1984:157). In the name of the mask, ogbodo enyi, the word "enyi" is ambiguous: depending on how it is pronounced, it means either "elephant" or "friend." ("Ogbodo" meanwhile means "spirit.") In fact the elephant mask is also a friend, purifying its community and leading its age-mates in projects that benefit the whole group. Unlike many Igbo masks, ogbodo enyi apparently came out not in an ensemble but alone. Then, however, they often led their age-mates and musicians in perambulations through the village, stopping periodically to dance in a frenzied state for gatherings of people. Senior age-grade maskers are said to visit all major lineage compounds, where they are given gifts. In earlier times, perhaps in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Ogbodo Enyi were described as harsh, violent, and threatening spirits. Like other "heavy" masks in an earlier era, especially in precolonial times, those danced by senior age-grades were most probably powerful agents of social control. More junior masks probably regulated the behavior of their own age-grades while directing projects to benefit the community. In around 1975, women began to commission and dance these masks. In male-dominated Igbo masking, this is a very unusual departure, one perhaps signaling both the breakdown of strict divisions of labor and the relative liberation of Igbo women. HERBERT M. COLE 86





ca. mid 20th century Ibibio peoples, Oron Group, Cross River, Nigeria Wood, pigment. H. 24 in. (61 cm.) Gift of Francoise Billion Richardson in honor of E. John Bullard's 20th Anniversary as Director of the New Orleans Museum of Art 93.78

Many clues suggest that this Ibibio mask may have been used in a women's masquerade. The stylistic integrity of the piece suggests that it was not simply a fleeting experiment that quickly went out of fashion. Also, the four figures on top of the headdress are clearly in the same style as the Oron ancestral shrine sculpture known as Ekpu figures, of which we have numerous examples. So how can it be that so few examples of this type of mask exist today, and that we lack documentation of its use? Female ritual associations exist among many ethnic groups surrounding the Cross River, in the southern portion of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. Singing and dancing naked in the night, divination, and the required exclusion of men characterize their performances. The most famous and well-documented case of this type of activity was the Women's War of 1929, a series of events whereby women protested the policies of the colonial government in well-organized demonstrations that used ritual strategies, such as dancing naked, to protest the taxation of women. The colonial officer P. A. Talbot considered these associations, which are typically concerned with issues that involve women, as "the only safeguard of Ibibio women against the tyranny of their men-folk" (1915:190). Female ritual associations, known as Abang or lban-lsong, have been well documented among the Efik of Calabar (Onyile 2001:1-25 and are known to exist among the lbibio as well. These traditions are believed to have originated from Ekpa, an Ejagham tradition that is still active today. Ekpa utilizes masked performances during the daytime and a form of ritual, naked dancing at night (Carlson 2004:244-46). The Ibibio headdress would have been balanced on the performer's head with the help of two scarves attached to the square holes in the projecting earlike shapes. The decorated base, with its triangular designs, suggests that it was not covered by a costume. Therefore the face of the dancer may not have been covered as well. In both Ejagham and Efik performances, unlike in male masquerades, the female performer's face typically remains in plain view. Only the Agot masquerades in the lkom/Ogoja area of the upper Cross River region of Nigeria conceal the identity of female masked dancers. The tableau of figures on this Ibibio mask resembles Ejagham women's masquerades more closely than the Efik dances, which use a single figure. The three hornlike projections suggest the power associated with animal horns, as in skin-covered masks, or the ornate beauty of a woman's elaborate coiffure. The abstract designs on the spherical "head" represent the shaved patterns of another type of coiffure. These hairstyles and other, related forms of body decoration were associated with female rites of passage and may be related to the ideographic writing system known as nsibidi. If this mask is indeed a tribute to women, the umbrella of

the main figure could also be understood as a highly visible marker of the Mbobo (women's fattening house) and the prenuptial rites of women. Many of the documented forms of women's masquerades are performed at the funerals of important women. With one larger figure surrounded by three smaller figures, the iconography of this mask could represent an ancestor or a lineage, alluding to the tradition of the Ekpu ancestral figures. The Ibibio concept of masks is closely associated with the concept of the ancestral shrine (Akpaide 1982:24-39). The headgear on the four figures suggests individuals of high status. More important, one of the figures wears a tufted hairstyle similar to that given to the corpse of an important woman during her burial. AMANDA CARLSON








Late 19th—early 20th century Kalabari Ijo peoples, town of Abonnema, Nigeria Attributed to the Pokia family atelier of Ifoko Wood, wicker, pigment, iron. H. 42 in. (106.68 cm) Museum purchase: George S. Frierson, Jr. Fund. 97.160 The Eastern Ijo have always depended on trade, but competition intensified when European vessels began plying the coast of the Niger Delta in the late fifteenth century. About two centuries ago, the Kalabari Ijo introduced elaborate ancestor screens to memorialize the wealthy and often colorful tycoons who headed trading concerns known as "war canoe houses." The term for these memorials—duein fubara, or "forehead of the dead"—implies another role: the Kalabari Ijo associate a person's so, the fate that governs his or her fortunes, with the forehead. Sculpture provides a means of controlling disembodied spirits by fixing their position (Horton 1965: 7-8). These intricate constructions embody the cultural exchanges that accompanied centuries of trade. Their joinery demonstrates knowledge of European carpentry and their rectangular format may reflect exposure to European prints and photographs; Benin plaques could have suggested the flanking of the central figure by descendants, enhancing its air of authority (Barley 1988:30-46, Fagg 1963:fig. Ito). Accessories like European hats and Indian cloth wrappers evoke the merchant princes' role in generating commerce. Other details, however, are distinctly Kalabari: schematically represented backbones identify the figures as ancestors (Horton 1965:8-9), and they flaunt such indicators of status and might as war paint, trophy heads, weapons, and tusks. Most also wear miniature masquerade headpieces, attesting to their attainment of rank in local Ekine or Sekiapu masking societies. The personalized attributes and the theatrical presentation—with protagonist, supporting characters, and bit players appearing on a Punch and Judy stage—suggest intriguing stories about particular rulers. The New Orleans example offers us clues, if not a complete narrative. Robin Horton, who photographed this screen in the 19505 (ibid.:fig. 4), notes that it represents lju, or Jack, an ancestor of one of the oldest Kalabari houses, also called lju, which traces its origins to the seventeenth century. Contemporary members of the house recall lju as a

nineteenth-century figure who resisted an assault during a raid by the Okrika Ijo. His successor, Tubofia, earned the nickname Standfast Jack, a corruption of "Stand for Jack," while representing the elderly leader in his dealings with European traders, and the lju house is still alternately known as Standfast Jack (Jones 1963:206, 217-18). The secondary figures sport an unusual type of headgear that appears to be feathered, while the heads above wear conical hats that resemble the sansun type, a prerogative of spirits known as village heroes and their priests. This argues against the idea that they represent slaves (Oelmann 1979:38 and note 6); perhaps they depict powerful priests, who enhance the reputation of the ancestor by indicating a close relationship with an important deity. P. A. Talbot, a colonial officer who served in the Niger Delta, specified that the Pokia family of Ifoko (Fouche Island) produced the memorials of this kind, and the figures on the New Orleans duein fubara strongly resemble those on a screen that he gave to the Pitt Rivers Museum, in Oxford, England (Barley 1988:28, 73, fig. 12). The backdrop lacks the intricacy and detail of the Pitt Rivers screen, however, suggesting that it has suffered damage or has been replaced. Garrick Braide, an iconoclastic Kalabari Christian prophet, destroyed numerous shrines around 1915 (Talbot 1916). He held particular sway in Abonnema, so this screen might have narrowly escaped destruction or have been produced after his influence faded. Talbot records the memorial rites for an earlytwentieth-century member of the Amachree dynasty, including a mock battle that the housepeople of the deceased had to win before installing their new screen in an "arbour-like" shrine (1932:237-38). Power struggles continue within and among Kalabari houses, for a recent website reports a decision issued by the Nigerian Supreme Court that unequivocally states who has a right to serve as head of the lju house (This Day Online). MARTHA O. ANDERSON





peoples, Nigeria. Wood, pigment. H. 62 in. (157.5 cm) Museum purchase: Francoise Billion Richardson and Robert P. Gordy Funds. 2004.18 IjO

Oh, Tebesonoma Oh, Tebesonoma Morning it's Tebesonoma Evening it's Tebesonoma Of Tebesonoma'sfightingfame we've heard a lot —A song from the story of Ozidi (Clark-Bekederemo 1991:236-37) According to Ijo lore, the epic tale of Ozidi originated when a priest of the high god of a Western Ijo clan awoke from a trance to enact a drama that incorporated song, dance, and mime. Versions of the story, which traditionally takes seven days to narrate, appear throughout the 4o-speaking region. Some place the events in Benin, the distant kingdom that serves as a kind of "long ago and far away" setting for many Ijo fables. In avenging his father's murder, Ozidi confronts a series of great warlords. Their names—including Oguaran of the Twenty Fingers and Twenty Toes; Kemepara, or Half Man; Egebesibeowei, or the Scrotum-Carrier; Azezabife, or the Skeleton Man; and Tebesonoma, or Seven Heads—suggest that they are bush spirits. The Ijo describe these spirits as ugly, deformed, and gigantic creatures with volatile tempers—in short, they are very scary (Anderson 2002). Likewise, the narrative confirms that although the frightful Tebesonoma has only two hands and two feet, he has a head "as wide as a house" and is so tall "that he almost disappear[s] in the air, like a tree." In fact Ozidi looks up at him like "one scanning an oil palm tree to see if it has ripened" (Clark-Bekederemo 1991:236-38). Many Central and Western Ijo shrines are dedicated to the warriors in the tale, but they may well have been honored as spirits before the tale was introduced. Identifying undocumented carvings with any of these characters proves difficult, for bush spirits typically take the guise of bold warriors with no apparent physical abnormalities. Multiheaded images abound in Ijo sculpture, but can allude to traits like vigilance and clairvoyance; it would be wrong to assume that any carved figure with seven heads—a number that carries magical connotations and recurs frequently in Ijo art and ritual—refers to the character known as Tebesonoma, or even that those with fewer heads do not depict him. The tale, however, suggests that multiheadedness has other implications:




Tebesonoma burst in singing his song. And on his head, ululating daemons were ululating, and others dancing, were dancing. At the same time, some were yelling.... So it was on that head of his: two only had to stir and both were holding their own dialogue, two there only had to pop up and they were conversing between themselves. Their noise was like a market. Those of them who were cooks were cooking, those of them who drank were guzzling. The hustle and bustle of it [ibid.:236-37]. A cock stands atop Tebesonoma's head, adding to the dreadful cacophony by calling "kokoroko!" When Ozidi prevails over Tebesonoma and casts down his head, shrines multiply by the thousands, and the ghastly head continues to make such a racket that even the unflappable witch, Oreame, has to concede that Tebesonoma is terrible. The multiple heads of this monumental, even gigantic figure—which certainly represents a bush spirit, if not Tebesonoma himself—hold a platter that in turn supports an animal. The latter could be anything from a crocodile to a leopard; men could earn warrior titles by killing large or vicious animals, and great Ijo warriors were thought to have turned themselves into leopards and other animals to escape injury. Alternatively, the animal could be a dog; dogs sometimes acted as guides for spirits and were associated with hunting. All the shrines Ozidi created when he decapitated Tebesonoma supported him in battle, making him such a fearsome foe that no one would fight him. Like Ozidi, the Ijo count on enshrined bush spirits to support their followers in everything from wrestling competitions to war, and to protect them from both human and superhuman threats. MARTHA G. ANDERSON



Enyatu society, Ejagham peoples, Ukelle Area, Ogoja Division, Cross River State, Nigeria Wood, antelope skin, fur, ochers, iron, kaolin, pigment. H. 16 1/2 in. (42 cm) Gift of Mrs. P.R. Norman in memory of her husband, Roussel. 79.198 The fabrication of skin-covered masks is unique in Africa to the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon, where these objects are used by mask societies for funerals, ceremonies of state, entertainments, and victory celebrations. Along with the Ejagham, other groups associated with skin-covered masks are the Widekum, the Boki, the Ekajuk, and the Bekwarra. This unusual triple-faced helmet mask is sculpted from a single piece of wood that has then been covered with animal skin—antelope, the most common leather in such masks—which is secured in place with nails and string to enable it to shrink and conform to the contours of the carving. The dried skin is then stained and decorated with pigments derived from natural vegetable materials. Art historian Keith Nicklin, a specialist in sculptures from the Cross River region, has offered the following observations on this New Orleans mask (personal correspondence, 1976, 1977a, 1977b). On one side— considered the front by the Ejagham, for "the male always goes before the female"—is a large, darkcolored male face, which represents bravery and strength; on the other side is a pair of smaller, light-colored female faces that suggest weakness and submission and are thought to represent the male's wives. Where the male face has open eyeholes to see through, the two female sets of eyes are blocked. These latter two pairs are differently conceived: one is wooden, covered with white kaolin, and has round iron tacks for the irises; the other has lozenge-shaped metal inserts with piercings for the irises that may at one time have held iron tacks, like the other female face. Raised scarification marks at the temples and painted tattoos on the skin complete the facial decoration. Marcilene K. Wittmer has said of this mask, "The male face has what appears to be a patch of leather with fur attached, which is appropriate because that is the material used for a toque-type hat found on almost all male skin-covered heads from near the Nigerian-Cameroon border eastward to the Widekum of the Grasslands escarpment" (personal correspondence, 1976). Wooden pegs inserted in the head simulate plaited hair. A hole in the top of the head may have held feathered rods inserted for decorative purposes. The teeth, with central incisors deformed, are indicated by wooden chips mortised into the mouth. A long cloth masquerading gown was originally attached over the unusual wrapped bundles of caning all around the base of the neck. From details of form and style, Nicklin suggests that this mask may have been executed in the first decade of the twentieth century by the renowned carver Ogwogwo Egana, who died around 1950. WILLIAM FAGALY






19th-20th century Bangwa peoples, Cameroon Wood. H. 37 5/8 in. (95.5 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.172

Large figurative sculptures from the realm of the Bangwa, in the southwestern part of Cameroon known as the Cameroon Grassfields, are among the most impressive works from Africa. The Bangwa live in nine independent kingdoms, among them Fontem and Fotabong, that continue to thrive within the modern nation state of Cameroon. The kingdoms share similar political structures, with the ruler (fwa) at the apex of hierarchies of royals, subchiefs, and noblemen. Figures like this one, with its fine encrusted patina, are called lefem and portray kings, queens, and important members of the community. They share their name with the Lefem society, an association of men of royal descent who pay high fees for the privilege of membership. Lefem—also called the "gong society" in literature, because iron double gongs are among its most important ritual objects —maintains the link with the ancestors and appears at the installation of rulers and during other important annual ceremonies. During these rituals, the figures, which are kept in storehouses, are displayed in sacred groves. They not only memorialize important persons but also safeguard continuity and communication with the deceased, thus embodying the realm of the ancestors. The portraits were created during a person's lifetime, and in the case of a king soon after his installation. Although carved by different artists and workshops in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, their stylistic characteristics and iconography have remained constant. Portraits of rulers and other important men show them sitting serenely on




stools, their broad torsos with pronounced shoulders slightly bent forward and their gaze directly engaging the onlooker. The arms are muscular and the hands are placed firmly on the knees. As befits men of influence, the solid legs are spread apart and fuse with the base, which in this case displays relief carvings of animals—perhaps leopards, associated with leadership, or toads or frogs, alluding to abundance and fecundity in Grassfields iconography. The base itself rests on fragmentary animal (leopard?) heads. The sculpture's features—the typical rimmed eyes, the slightly heart-shaped face, the narrow curved mouth (an unusual element that distinguishes this figure from others—are delicate and elegant. Dress and adornment follow the conventions. A broad belt (in the case of a king made from a leopard pelt), neck ornaments representing necklaces with beads and cowries, and ivory bracelets and leg ornaments indicate the high rank of the portrayed. In his right hand the figure holds a calabash, associated with libations of palm wine during rituals. In most instances the names of the portrayed have been forgotten, or were not transmitted when the works left the Bangwa and entered museums and private collections in the West. The identity of the artist or workshop remains a mystery as well. The figure closely resembles a portrait of a king by the same hand, which was collected in Fotabong in 1903 and is now in the collection of the Lindenmuseum Stuttgart. CHRISTRAUD GEARY



Kom or neighboring peoples, Cameroon Wood, cloth, beads. H. 19 in. (48.3 cm) Bequest of Carmen Donaldson. 99.109.34

Male and female helmet masks appear in many masquerades in the Cameroon Grassfields. In the kingdom of Kom, in the region's north, and in some neighboring smaller kingdoms, such as Oku, the heads of important lineages may own ensembles of up to twenty wooden masks of prescribed types, both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic in form. Their functions vary. Some masks serve as powerful protective medicine and appear during large memorial celebrations. Other anthropomorphic masks like this one belong to rulers and perform during celebrations at the palaces. While the exact origin or function of this mask is unknown, it clearly comes from the northern Grassfields. The flat, crescentlike crest represents a common male prestige headdress, reminiscent of the miterlike royal headdresses in the kingdoms of Kom and Bamum to the east. This flat, minimal rendering of the headdress is typical of carvers in the small chiefdoms to the north and west of Kom, such as Nkambe and the Aghem federation. The carving is fully articulated, with large, almond-shaped eyes, gaping mouth, and semicircular protruding ears. Noteworthy for its rounded forms, it compares favorably with other helmet masks from the region. The color scheme—black, blue, and white—of the beadwork covering the mask is unusual; these masks tend to include red and other bright colors. Here white beads delineate features such as the eyes and mouth. Fine diamondshaped and triangular patterns embellish the surface. The outlines of a human figure and an animal— apparently a leopard, an animal associated with leadership—grace the headdress. This unusual and fascinating decorative element indicates that the mask may have been created in the second half of the twentieth century, when two-dimensional renderings became more commonplace. This crest was only part of the mask persona: during performances, a meshlike net would cover the masker's face, and a tunic, often with medicines attached, would complete the dress. Masks like this one testify to the ingenuity of Grassfields artists, and to the fact that many of the masquerades live on; fascinating masks are being created to this day. CHRISTRAUD GEARY






20th century Korn peoples, Esu chiefdom, Fungom region, Cameroon Wood, bones, teeth, horns, feathers, fiber rope, kaolin, magic bundle. H. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm) Museum purchase: Robert P. Gordy Fund. 2000.20

According to its provenance, this powerful mask, which is recently carved, comes from the chiefdom of Esu, in the northern part of the Cameroon Grassfields. The surrounding region—named after the small chiefdom of Fungom, one among many similar small chiefdoms in the orbit of the powerful Kom kingdom—remains relatively unfamiliar in art-historical writing, but its carvers have produced some of the finest Grassfields sculptures now in museums and collections. One still encounters the designation "Bafum" for this region, a term that was used during the German colonial period, at the beginning of the twentieth century, but that has no meaning for the current inhabitants. Whether an Esu artist actually created this stunning work remains an open question, however, and in fact another route of distribution seems more likely: among the peoples of the northern Grassfields, institutions such as cult societies, with their associated masquerades, have been traded freely from one chiefdom to another and thus have spread over a large realm. Chiefs and important men purchase from neighboring chiefdoms the permission to perform a masquerade, and to receive the associated rituals and esoteric knowledge; the new owners may also commission the masks, or may receive them as part of the purchase. This mask, then, may have come to Esu from Oku or other carving centers in the Grassfields. The Ngang society is common in kingdoms to the east and south of Kom, and has been adopted in many regions. It combats witchcraft and sorcery by antisocial individuals, who may do their evil business alone or in groups. Witches are greatly feared and are seen as the root cause of all misfortune, disease, and death. Masks like this one are closely associated with Ngang. Able to discover and destroy witches during his outings, they attend burials of members of the association and appear at other Ngang ceremonies. The mask's persona is frightful; the animal-like features and ferocious mouth seem to allude to simians, among which baboons are particularly feared as reincarnations of the dead. Unkempt and wild, the mask is the personification of the uncivilized being that comes to the village from the bush, the dangerous, undomesticated area where witches assemble and dwell. The masker draws his enormous powers from the medicines attached to his headdress, including animal bones and small containers of powerful medicines. Animal horns and skins, bones, feathers, and flasks of medicine render the masker's gown into an equally powerful tool to discover witches, at the same time protecting him from their destructive forces. Before and after his performance, the masker himself is treated with protective medicines. His appearance leaves spectators in awe and fear, yet at the same time convinced that he will keep evil at bay. GHRISTRAUD GEARY 96





Bamessi chiefdom, Grassland region, Cameroon Terra-cotta. H. 19 in. (48.3 cm) Gift of Kent and Charles Davis in honor of the marriage of their daughter Inglish to Jay Matthew DeVoss. 2000.39

Palm-wine pots from the chiefdom of Babessi came to European and American collections in increasing numbers during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Their impressive shape and large size make them favorites among the many wares from this artistic center in the Ndop Plain, not far from the provincial capital of Bamenda. Bamessi potters create an array of objects ranging from simple cooking vessels for everyday use to intricate pipe bowls and elaborate vessels. Throughout the Grassfields region, Babessi has been famous for its pottery, which circulates to many other chiefdoms through established channels of exchange. Although large palm-wine containers were made all over the Grassfields, Babessi pots have been highly appreciated for their beauty and durability. In Babessi, pottery is exclusively the domain of women. Of the many women potters, most are over childbearing age, indicating not only that they acquired their skills over years but also that their economic roles changed within their lineages once they had given birth to their children. Now they "give birth" to works in clay, and it would be interesting to examine the symbolic aspects of this process. Among the female potters there seems to be a division of labor according to rank. Women of the chief's lineage tend to produce elaborate pottery with animal and human representations, while commoner women make simpler wares. Babessi pots are distinct from those of other pottery centers in the region, for the women work by an additive technique not used elsewhere: decorative motifs such as the ones on the neck of this pot are made separately, and are sometimes adorned with small holes produced with a reed. The potter then applies them to the thin-walled pot when the clay is still wet. The lower part of the pot is rouletted. In palm-wine pots the upper rim typically loops around and has oval and smaller round openings. The decorations on the pot's neck draw on a pan-Grassfields iconography that includes numerous zoomorphic motifs. According to Nicolas Argenti's fine study of pottery in the region, they represent the spider and dragonfly motifs, commonly found on Babessi vessels (Argenti 1999). To this day these elaborate pots are used to serve the wine of the raffia palm (mirnbo) during gatherings of men's societies and at royal courts. Palm wine is part of all important ceremonies, for it has ritual efficacy. During such events, members of the societies share the palm wine that is kept in these vessels according to intricate ritual, evoking the ranks and responsibilities of all participants in the event. CHRISTRAUD GEARY






Bamessi chiefdom, Grassland region, Cameroon Terra-cotta. H. 12 in. (30.5 cm) Museum purchase: Robert P. Gordy Fund. 2000.21

The chiefdoms of Babessi and Bamessing (also known as Nsei) are only a few miles apart in the Ndop Plain, and both specialize in the production of pottery. Expertise in pottery-making has been handed down through generations of artists. Highly appreciated by the two centers' traditional, local clientele, this pottery now reaches other markets as well. As early as the beginning of the twentieth century, when Cameroon was a German colony, production for foreigners became an important occupation for the potters. Nowadays Bamessing mainly supplies Bamenda, the provincial capital and a location of handicraft stores, while Babessi pottery tends to be sold to Foumban, the center of art trade for the entire region and one of the major art markets in West Africa. Tourists, expatriates, and art dealers from around the world regularly visit both towns. As demand has increased, the repertoire of the potters has proliferated, and now includes objects such as ashtrays and figurative works, which delight foreigners and local Cameroonian elites alike. To make a work interesting to different clienteles, the potters often introduce only slight modifications in traditional designs and forms. This bowl, made to appeal to both local and foreign patrons, comes from Babessi. Its size and shape indicate that it is a serving dish. Like similar dishes (ku ntshi) from Bamessing that may have served the Babessi potters as inspiration, it stands on an openwork pedestal. The lid with its arched handle is based on Western designs. The motifs are ambiguous, including what look like faces with round eyes on the shoulder of the container. The handles end in human heads, a motif that in Bamessing only male potters may create, whereas female Babessi potters are allowed to execute anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms. Once only chiefs, men of high rank, and members of men's societies had the right to use such elaborate serving dishes during assemblies. Today, imported china and enamel pots and dishes have taken over the function of these containers, although elaborate terra-cotta vessels still play important roles during rituals. CHRISTRAUD GEARY






Fang peoples, Gabon Wood, caning. H. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.112

The Fang peoples populate an area of southern Cameroon, northern Gabon, and equatorial Guinea. They are subdivided into distinct groups: the Beti in the north, the Bulu in the center, and the principal Fang, their major makers of sculpture, in the south. Their major sculptural form is the bieri reliquary guardian, but they have a tradition of mask-making as well. This rare figure strongly resembles the bieri in style and form, but its diminutive scale precludes any practical function as a reliquary guardian. In addition, it lacks the attachment post that projects from the bieri's posterior. "Conceived as a head, figure or a half-figure," Louis Perrois reports, miniature sculptures "served an ornamental function as arm emblems of dignitaries (asu-e-ya-minkun, i.e. the mask on the upper part of the arm') or poet musicians" (Perrois 1985:218). The cane loop tied to this figure's arms—used for strapping it onto the arm of the wearer—supports this thesis. The double-horned headdress is most uncommon. WILLIAM FAGALY




66. MALE



Fang peoples, Ntoumou region, Gabon/Cameroon Border Wood, bone. H. 26 3/4 in. (68 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.154

These three carved figures, representing the main stylistic groupings of such sculptures, were once inserted into the lids of cylindrical boxes that contained the skulls of the village founders as well as skulls and bones of other distinguished persons. The post projecting down from the buttocks of each figure was hooked over the top rim of the box and into its lid. Represented variously as heads, heads with torsos, and complete figures such as these pieces, the sculptures symbolize not only the mythical founders of the tribe but also the very soul of the Fang peoples. They are never considered merely ancestor figures. The boxes they surmounted, made of sewn bark and called eyima bieri, possess the power to protect the whole clan and to heal the sick. Concealed from the view of women and the uninitiated, the figures are venerated on altars in small sanctuaries or in restricted areas of the houses of secret-society leaders. They are rubbed with palm oil daily, and the gradual accumulation of oil over time saturates the wood, giving the surfaces their characteristic wet, shiny appearance. Only during the festive conclusions of initiation ceremonies are the bieri brought out of their sanctuaries, so that the ancestral spirits may participate in the ceremony and receive their proper honor and respect. Louis Perrois has described the ritual: "The carved heads or statues are removed from the bark chests (nsekh) upon which they rest and are manipulated to the sound of drum and xylophone (medzang) from behind a cloth stretched between two trees, a little like our puppet theaters. This rite appeases the ancestors who, for the length of the ceremony, return to life and express themselves through the dance. The statue can be decorated with necklaces of beads and feathers (aseng)" (Perrois 1969:68). WILLIAM FAGALY









Fang peoples, Gabon Wood. H. 23 1/8 in. (58.7 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.209

Wood, copper. H. 19 '/2 in. (48.9 cm.$) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford. 79.338

Fang peoples, Gabon






Kota-Ndassa/Wumbu peoples, Republic of Congo Wood, brass, copper. H. 22 3/4 in. (57.7 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.245

The ritual sculpture of the Kota includes two categories of ancestor figures with overlays of copper and brass. One has a stylized face on the front surface, while the reverse side has no metal overlay but is simply marked with an accessory motif, most often in a geometric lozenge-shape); the other has two opposed faces, both quite carefully decorated. The first category of figures is known by the generic name mbulu ngulu (basket reliquary with an image); objects of the second category—considered much rarer and sometimes as more ancient—are subsumed under the name mbulu viti (basket reliquary with an ancestor), (according to K. Laman, writing in 1919 [Andersson 1953:339D. Ancestor figures of Janiform type, especially those in which one of the two faces is of "naturalistic" design—very convex, with a vast domed forehead and swollen cheeks—and the other is oval in shape and entirely concave, pertain to a substyle of the Mossendjo region in Congo Brazzaville. The New Orleans mbulu viti shows a remarkable quality of execution, both in its perfectly balanced general structure, surmounted by a broad crescent-shaped crest (ntsuo, the moon) and faces (mpa) framed by a sort of coiffure ending in elegant curls (which Andersson calls "locks," aboa), and in the attention given to the metal decoration. On the convex side—which certain authors speculate is the male face—the metal plates are very finely fastened to the wood, the covering parts being chased in studded edges that conceal the joints. Below the domed, olive-shaped forehead (prim) the face on both sides is furrowed, with a small nose (yuulu) • appointed with well-defined nostrils. The eyebrows are marked in light relief, curiously doubled; the eyes (rniisi) are quite drawn out to a walnut-shaped slit, the small pupils studded in metal. On the swollen


cheeks, two oblique striae in relief may represent mustaches; they frame the slightly opened mouth, provided with pointedly carved teeth. The sides of the object are adorned with a double decoration: close to the face, a first band is fashioned in oblique striae, while toward the back "locks of hair" finely broaden to terminate in pointed curls. The crest is marked on one side by nine studs with hemispheric heads, on the other side by only six. This detail might indeed signify that the more richly adorned side would represent the male figure. Kota informants relate that the transverse crescent is linked to the clan identity of represented ancestors, so that it acts as a sort of coat-of-arms. In terms of both form and detail, the side provisionally taken as the female has a face of great simplicity. A fine, elongated oval, it is traversed from top to bottom by a broad plate with at its center the nose, an austere tetrahedral volume. The eyes are merely two brass studs. On both sides of the axial plate the artist has affixed an ensemble of fine metal strips, ably set and joined in a radiating motif of remarkable symmetry and regularity. The sides, with the same silhouette as those mentioned above, are wanting of any decoration aside from the contour lines, which are worked in repousse. The cylindrical neck (kii) is surrounded by a plaque in lozenge motif. The base, which the Kota consider the entity's shoulders (ekwawo), is only decorated in metal on the upper section (a striated motif in repousse; on the female side, a striated motif in a frieze of triangles). This figure would have been attached to a large wickerwork basket containing important relics of the lineage (see the remarkable field photographs in Chauvet 1933). LOUIS PERROIS




Kota-Ondoumbo or Sango peoples, Gabon Wood, brass, copper, shell, rope, natural fiber. H. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Klarn. 77.234

In the region north of Ogooue, between Franceville to the east and Lastoursville to the west, several peoples related to the Kota of both the south and the north (Mahongwe, Shake, and Bushamaye) have developed a ritual art of great formal stylization. These figures are used within the framework of the bwete rites, dedicated to ancestors of the lineage. Rather modest in size, they consist of a long cylindrical neck topped by a very small head in which eyes and nose are the only anatomical delineations. The first effigy of this type, found not far from Franceville in around 1885 by a collaborator of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (Brazza 1887:329), is today one of the major pieces in the collection of the Musee de l'Homme, now transferred to the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris (no. inv. 97-39-1). Many other effigies of this type have since been discovered all along the Sebe valley. The ancestor's small face, oval in form, has a nearly flat, carinate forehead decorated with a studded cross motif. The face is demarcated by the double arch of the eyebrows, which meet at the nose, itself a vaguely tetrahedral volume recalling the construction of the Kota-Obamba mbulu ngulu). On both sides of the nose, two series of four lamellae adorn the "cheeks." The lower part, symmetrical with the forehead, is decorated with a lozenge motif at the position of the mouth, from which hang two studded oblique lines. (This motif may be compared with the "mustache" lamellae of the Kota-Mahongwe effigies.) On each side, cylindrical tenons take the place of ears. At the back, the tressed coiffure is usually quite simple and not always plated with brass. The cylindrical neck is entirely set with spiral strips down to the level of the reliquary bag into which it is sunk. This "package" contains not only osseous human fragments but also other ingredients of a magical nature (shells, forest fruits, various talismans). This ensemble is wrapped in pieces of tapa (beaten bark), or sometimes in cloth or plant fibers, before finally being carefully tied with thin ropes that hold fast both the contents of the bag and the wooden effigy. The mbumba bwete was kept in the darkest part of the room of the family head. It could be taken outside to mark the end of mourning, or to accompany rituals concerning healing, hunting, or the search for sorcerers. It was a "dangerous" object that only the initiated had the right to look upon and handle. LOUIS PERROIS



Lumbo peoples, Gabon Wood, iron, rope, palm-frond fiber, mirror, pigment. H. is 3/4 in. (40 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.235

Among the various traditional styles of Gabon, and more particularly of the Ogooue valley, certain types of object meet in a shared kinship of construction. Such is the case with ancestor guardian figures: this female torso figure from southern Gabon, originating from the Lumbo people and probably the Mayumba region, harks back to similar effigies carved by the Nkomi of Fernan-Vaz (observed as long ago as the 1880s to the south of the lakes of Bas-Ogooue, by Monsignor Le Roy, and recorded in the Archives de la Congregation du Saint-Esprit, Chevilly-Larue). Both demonstrate the same position of the shoulders (projecting slightly forward) and arms (well spaced from the trunk, hands at the level of the abdomen). The torso itself, with juvenile chest, is not without formal relatedness to the statuary of central Gabon. The head, of rounded shape, has a concave face beneath a low forehead; the almond-shaped eyes frame a triangular nose (Tsogho feature). The oval mouth is open, revealing sharp teeth. The ears are incorporated into the coiffure and decorated with metal earrings. These effigies are often embellished with small plaquettes of metal and mirror, the wood being covered with a thick, whitish pigment. The patina here is particularly thick, and is fissured in places. The bust is pushed into a reliquary bundle, enveloped in a mass of palm raffia and fibers attached with cord. As among the Sango and the Tsogho, the osseous fragments are coated with padouk, the red powder of palm oil; here and there they show brass inserts and they are accompanied by various magical ingredients to preserve them from the insults of intruders. The mark of this kind of object's sacred "charge" is ordinarily the bright red feathers of the Gabonese parrot (the same feather adorns the hairdo of each initiate during course of the rites); the feathers that would have topped this particular figure have no doubt been lost. Nkhosi effigies constitute a particular category of the small minkisi statuettes from the peoples of South Gabon and neighboring Congo. While minkisi may be in wood, terra-cotta, or clay, and embody spirits of the bush (summoned during rites of divination, ordeal, healing, etc.), nkhosi are sculpted in wood and represent an ancestral spirit. LOUIS PERROIS




72. SACRED PILLAR: MOVENGA Bwiti association, Tsogho peoples, Gabon Wood, glass, brass, pigment. H. 53 '/8 in. (34.9 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.170

This sculpted pillar, or movenga, was once the small side-column of an ebandza sanctuary of the Tsogho of Central Gabon (Mimongo region). Such pillars are also known among the Fang, but those are different in manufacture and hark back to the syncretic Bwiti initiatory association that was rather diffusely present in North Gabon in the 19405 and '5os. Each Tsogho village contained on the one hand a sanctuary devoted to the men of the Bwiti (or Bwete, according to some authors) association and on the other a chapel for the women of Boo or of the Ombundi, secret societies from which men were excluded. These traditions exist even today, even if the temples are less numerous than in bygone years. The ebandza is a construction some twenty-six feet long and thirteen feet wide, provided with a raffia-leaf roof that tumbles quite low over the entrance (Gollnhofer, Sillans, and Sallee 1975:34ff). Put together in just a few hours, it nonetheless incorporates several sculpted elements of considerable importance, which are recuperated and reinstalled in the new chapel upon each displacement from the village (a frequent occurrence in times past). These elements are the eengo or central support post, heavy and massive, often with an openwork design at mid-height and sculpted in the form of a human female effigy (but considered as male and female); the movengo side-pillars, of which one—to the left on entry—is a female image and the other, on the right, a male; and an altar—ana-a-ndembe or artaa-kono—made up of two posts, carved and painted with symbolic figures and motifs (moon, sun, stars, rainbow, etc.), and connected by a horizontal board. According to Bwiti initiates, the ebandzo temple is in its ensemble a symbolic representation of the human body: the central pillar is the neck, the lateral pillars are the arms, and the ridgepole—usually marked with the motif of a dugout toward the front —is the spine. The sheets of bark that make up the side walls are the skin. The only furnishings are a few narrow benches along the walls and the kwango stools. The sanctuary is mainly used at night, lit by torches burning okoume resin; it is always enrobed in smoke.


The dugout motif—an elongated hollow lozenge shape—recalls the skiff that carries the soul of the deceased over the mythical river Moboghwe (a primordial stream also considered the woman's womb) to the beyond (the village of Kombe, the sun). The dugout motif also stands for the feminine sex itself—source of all life. One finds all these symbolic elements, in one form or another, in the different adolescent initiation rites (Bwiti, Ya-Mwei, Kono). The pillar shown here is of great sculptural quality and symbolic complexity. The lower part is decorated with several dugout motifs, with a coating of pemba white clay on the outside and red mondo pigment on the inside, the lozenges being disposed in a star shape around the cylindrical trunk. Above, the female statuette supports itself on a sort of faceted socle. The effigy, pure Tsogho in style, is completely tinted in red (mondo red ocher and momweni vegetal pigment—crushed seeds of the rocouyer tree). Standing upright with arms bent at the elbow and held close to the body, this is an image of Disumba, the primal female entity. The other side-pillar would have shown her male counterpart, Nzambe-Kana. Atop the figure's coiffure (comprised of a broad, faceted crest), the pillar is ably carved in a ringed-chain motif symbolic of the human body (specifically the intestine). It terminates with a reminiscence of the dugout motif. The left side of the temple's entrance, where this pillar would have been found is that of the female principle of the world; the dancers always file in on the left, then exit on the right. This ensemble is an astonishing visual resume of Tsogho mythology, of which an initiated may speak or sing for hours, accompanied by the ngombi harp. The symbolism of the colors is of course essential: the black tint is related to death and misfortune; the coating of white—applied in abundance to the surfaces of the statuettes and of the dancers' bodies alike—is the color of "latent" life, of the spirit, of the breath. Finally the color red, wedded to woman, is the symbol of life as manifested in birth and bodily vitality. LOUIS PERROIS



Punu or Lumbo peoples, Gabon Wood, pigment. H. 8 9/16 in. (21.8 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiarn. 77.129

The Lumbo, the Punu, and the Viii of Gabon's southern coast, like the peoples of the mountainous region of Mayombe, used to use small statuettes in rites that certain missionaries described as "fetishist." This sculptural art, produced by the Punu and the Lumbo, included not only the famous Okuyi "white masks" but also many other quite fine personal objects (spoons, hunters' talisman-pendants, chiefs' canes, fly-swatters, etc.—see Musee des Beaux Art de Caen 1982:28ff) and busts and statuettes of the nkhosi type. The sculpture had a divinatory function or acted to protect lineage-related relics. Ranging in height from six inches to sometimes as much as twenty-seven inches, these were ritual tools that the nganga—the diviner/healer—used to impress his public: the spirit invoked was supposed to have taken up residence, as it were, in the sculpture. During rites related to sorcerer hunts, once a guilty individual had been designated, the ngango would oblige him either to swear his innocence or admit his guilt in front of the statuette. If the suspect claimed innocence, he was then obliged to submit to an ordeal of test-by-poison. Beneath their elegant appearance, then, these objects are formidable and fearsome nonetheless. The small female statuette presented here is rather unusual in its roundedness, both in the structure of the figure and in the handling of the volumes. The rounded position of the arms, widely separated from the torso and with hands at the abdomen, is in visual harmony with the shape of the legs, very much bowed in an arch. Perhaps this is an evocation of a woman on the point of childbirth? In that case, the statuette would have had a prophylactic role in magically facilitating delivery. For that matter, a certain number of Lumbo "maternity" figures are known to us. F. Hagenbucher-Sacripanti reports evidence of a rapport between femaleness and magic in South Gabon and in the Pointe-Noire region of Congo (Hagenbucher-Sacripenti 1973:109). Further, the nganga nkisi ma:si, that is to say those who heal and assist the ngango (who is always male), are mostly women. If the magician does not have the blood of victims specially sacrificed for the rite at his disposal, he may use menstrual blood or blood obtained from a recent birth. The face has wide eyes with globular eyelids and arched palpebral fissures topped by eyebrows in relief, constituting a double curve meeting at the bridge of the nose. The latter is prominent and broad, with distinctly shaped alae. The mouth, with thick drawn-out lips, is then rather atypical; the ears are large and stand out. The hairdo has a single crest, very high and bouffant, with striae evocative of plaiting. LOUIS PERROIS




Mukuyi society, Punu/Lumbo peoples, Ngounie River Area, Gabon Wood, metal, pigment. H. 13 5/8 in. (34.5 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.157

This "white" mask of the Okuyi stilt dance is characteristic of the style of the Punu-Lumbo of the Ngounie valley, a tributary of the Ogooue, in southern Gabon (Perrois 1979:236ff). It harks back to a "classic" type with a face whitened by kaolin, projected foreward and resting on a collaret, surmounted by an elegant blackish coiffure, with a high central crest and two finely braided lateral sections. Note, too, that from the one ear to the other the face is hugged tight by a braided collaret forming a sort of "hilt" beneath the chin. Of course, with time, the original white color has become beige-pink. As for the red pigments, they have lost their sparkle. Only the black tint of the headdress has been well preserved. We know that these masks represented female entities from the spirit world, fantastical beings who intervened in the villages on important collective occasions: bereavements, palavers, the birth of twins, times of epidemic, hunts for malevolent sorcerers, and so on. The Punu-Lumbo artists were always striving for a harmonious beauty in their masks, and equally so in the making of personal objects (chiefly staffs, embellishments for domestic doors, etc.) and statuettes. This mask shows great sculptural finesse, with much fine elaboration of both face and headdress. The face, with a broad curvilinear forehead, tapers toward the bottom and has carefully modeled cheeks and a pointed chin. The rounded eyelid arches, underscored by eyebrows in light relief, are perfect in symmetry and set off by the perpendicularity of the nose. The half-closed

eyes, with their rather globular eyelids, are also quite rounded. Also noteworthy is the elegance of the palpebral fissures, arched and discreetly emphasized by two carvings at the upper and lower borders of the eyelids. The nose and mouth are quite realistic in design: the nose rounded at the tip, with well formed "wings"; the mouth with pulpy lips, drawn to the fore, made up with a reddish coating, and faintly opened to show the teeth. The ears are stylized but are nonetheless treated with curqinear detail to the helix, antihelix, and even the antitragus, the various parts of the ear's external anatot. As in many masks of this region's Mukuyi association, the forehead is marked with a lozenge motif in relief, with nine protuberant "shells" symbolizing the group's nine primordial clans. This identifying mark is repeated at the temples, the nine shells here being arranged in a square adjacent to the ears. The hairdo has an ample, pleasantly proportioned central crest, entirely blackened and covered with a somewhat glossy, at times shiny patina. This high central crest, bordered on the sides by longitudinally braided chignons with perfectly regular striae, is flanked by two other crests, smaller and arched to just behind the ears, so enveloping the entire upper portion of the face. Several series of parallel striae, laid obliquely with respect to the longitudinal or transverse axis of the crests, allow this wooden sculpture to evoke the fine braids of hair in real hairstyles. LOUIS PERROIS





Kongo peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Ivory, wood. H. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.117

Kongo chiefs carried staffs (minualo) representing their authority; a chief could even send his staff with a messenger to authorize the message. Such a staff might carry at its top end a carved element or finial, which might be purely ornamental or might indicate the kind of powers associated with chiefship. This finial, crudely carved in ivory and showing a kneeling female figure, bears holes indicating that other materials were once attached to it, probably to indicate what those powers were. The wooden plug may have sealed in "medicinal" elements that not only signified but were thought to incorporate such powers, in the manner of an nkisi. The kneeling posture indicates subservience; the hands holding the implied breasts suggest maternity. The figure may refer to the matrilineage headed by the chief or elder who owned the staff, but matrilineal descent is only one of the organizing principles of traditional Kongo society. Prayers were addressed to paternal ancestors, for example, rather than to maternal ascendants. Another possibility, but no more than a possibility, is that the figure points to the large number of female dependents that an ambitious chief needed to provide him with labor and numerous offspring. An indigenous text of the period says, "If a chief had many followers and much wealth but his following and his wives died off, and his powers were not as they had been, his authority faded away and people no longer respected him." Chiefs were effectively suppressed during the colonial period, when no competing authority could be tolerated. WYATT MCGAFFEY






19th century Yombe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Ivory. H. ii 74 in. (28.6 cm) Museum purchase with funds from an Anonymous Donor. 95.369

The so-called scepters or batons carried by some chiefs in western Kongo were in fact minkisi of chiefship. That is, they were ornamented containers of medicines that were believed to confer specific powers appropriate to chiefs. Like most minkisi that have suffered the vicissitudes of collection, this small carved-ivory tusk, which once must have served as such a container, has lost the package of medicines that would once have bulged visibly from its interior, and no record has survived of what those medicines might have been. Other chiefs relied on different forms of minkisi to the same effect—perhaps standing figures, or baskets of special ingredients. By association with his empowering nkisi, a chief, like a nganga, personally partook of its powers and became in some respects a sort of nkisi himself. The batons, therefore, were much more than ceremonial or honorific insignia; they were actual instruments of power. That power, the power expected of chiefs, was above all violent, the power to execute wrongdoers, to combat witches, and so to defend the community. The witches in question were antisocial persons believed to employ what we would regard as imaginary powers, acquired from the land of the dead and perhaps embodied in malevolent minkisi, to advance their own interests at the expense of their neighbors. In Kongo then and now, all harm is thought to be caused by such people, and little distinction is made between real and imaginary powers, real and supposed criminals. To combat them, the chiefs of a century ago dramatized their own capacity for violence in spectacular ceremonies, including public executions. Their medicine-stuffed batons or scepters were usually carved to show the elements of such an execution, showing a "criminal" bound and gagged—sometimes already decapitated. Ivory is capable of very delicate carving, but its use may also carry a reference to the elephant, which, along with the buffalo and above all the leopard, is associated with exceptional and fatal power. The chief in this example is chewing a root called munkwisa, whose juice has a bitterness "from which the body shrinks." It is said to keep off witches and is a sign of chiefship; the chief's soul was sometimes said to reside in it. The band around the head of the carving represents the chief's cap of office, woven from raffia or pineapple fiber. WYATT MACGAFFEY




77. POWER FIGURE: NKISI Late 19th century Yombe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, mirror. H. 9 3/4 in. (24.8 CM) Gift of Philip Thelin in memory of his grandparents, Chief Justice of Switzerland and Madame Henri Thelin-Panchaud de Bottens. 94.213

This wooden figure is the residue of the original material apparatus required to invoke the powers of an nkisi, a force from the land of the dead able to treat specific afflictions when properly approached. Originally, as the focal object in the ritual, the figure would have indicated to the eye at least some of the powers in question, in the form of attachments to the figure. These attachments are now missing, but the limited expression that the sculptor has given to the figure's arms indicate that most of the body was probably concealed by such attachments, which might have included pieces of animal skin, shells, bits of basketwork, shreds of cloth, feathers, and many other things. In addition, the figure was once empowered by "medicines" (bilongo) contained in a packet attached to it or in a separate bag or box. These would have included small animal, vegetable, and mineral materials, chosen because their names, by a kind of punning, suggested and invoked the particular powers attributed to this nkisi. In many minkisi (the plural), for example, we might find leaves of the lusakasaka plant, that it might "bless" the supplicant (from sakumana, to bless); a grain of luzibu, that it might "open" matters that are hidden or closed; kalazima, charcoal, that it might "smite" evil-doers; and, always, white kaolin clay (mpemba), to represent the presence of powers from the land of the dead, Mpemba. All such signs would be tightly bound in a container of some kind to indicate that they were under control and available for manipulation. Compared to the complex significations of the added materials, the sculpture itself conveyed more restricted information. In fact the sculptor might not even know for which nkisi it was to be used by the ritual expert (nganga) who had commissioned it, and who would assemble its attachments and medicines after taking possession of it. As in this example, the sculptor might choose to expend care and skill on the exposed portions of the figure—the face and the elaborate hairstyle—both to show off his ability and because a good carving made the nkisi more impressive and therefore more effective. The aggressively out-thrust jaw and thick neck are typical of the style of western Mayombe, but since the arms display no aggressive gesture, the figure is probably not intended to be threatening and may be feminine. The hairstyle and the figure carried on the back also suggest that this is a woman, and therefore that the nkisi was dedicated to helping women. The "child's" arms are crossed in a standard gesture of closure and protection. Besides its material apparatus, the complete nkisi entity included songs to be sung in its presence, invocations addressed to it, and behavioral restrictions observed by its nganga and the beneficiaries of the ritual. Lacking these, the figure in itself is powerless, a relic of another time, another place, another way of life. WYATT MACGAFFEY 112





Mboma peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Steatite. H. 14 '/4 in. (36.2 cm) Museum purchase: George S. Frierson, Jr. Fund.89.10

During the nineteenth century, people on either side of the Congo estuary began to carve figures in the soft local soapstone, using techniques and often models derived from the much older tradition of sculpture in wood. By 1930 this art had died out, and today both scholars and local informants debate the uses to which the figures were put. All are found on graves, and some were clearly intended as memorials to honor the deceased; they were probably called ntadi, a word that comes from tadi, "stone," but may also refer to tala, "to look at," meaning that the figures were witnesses in this world to the deceased in the other. Some, however, have "medicines" added, so must have been used as minkisi, and some—especially those carved in a more "realistic" or documentary style, probably derived from European examples—were apparently made as souvenirs and "luxury goods" to be bought by inland chiefs, who took them home from successful trading expeditions to the coast. Such pieces recorded remarkable things and experiences of the time, such as a sewing machine, a toby jug, or a clerk at his desk. Whatever the purpose of the objects, they were probably put on the grave along with other special possessions of the deceased, such as his musket or his umbrella, lest he miss them and come looking for them. The present example records one astonishing experience datable to the 188os, when Europeans, seeking to penetrate the interior and to improve a transportation system otherwise dependent on human carriers, tried to introduce horses, donkeys, and mules to the region. The experiment did not succeed, because the animals succumbed to sleeping sickness carried by the tsetse fly, but it had a powerful effect on Kongo imaginations. Horses like this one were terrifying, and it was supposed that in the dark world of the night they could be used, like dogs, to pursue unknown evildoers. An nkisi even developed at this time, called Mabimba, whose body was carved in the shape of a horse; a contemporary text says, "It is much invoked to deal with thieves, quarrelsome people, and witches who harm others at night. Mabimba knows how to find them." Unfortunately no example of Mabimba has survived, but perhaps this ntadi was carved not only as a memento of the latest sensation but also with some magical purpose in mind. WYATT MACCAFFEY






Bembe peoples, Republic of Congo Wood, porcelain. H. it in. (28 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.113

The Bembe live in the environs of Mouyonzi, in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). They number between 8o,000 and loo,000 people and their language belongs to the Kongo group. The sculptures they make and use comprise both power statues and ancestor figures. Power statues are employed by the healer/diviner, the nganga. Ancestor figures come under the guardianship of an elder male member who usually occupies a leading function in the clan; they symbolically underline the importance of the clan and as guardians of fertility and healing are brought outside for important occasions. This sitting male figure holds in each hand a bell with four clappers. The head has an unadorned coiffure with delineated hairline. The large beard, without mustaches, borders the face, and the eyes are represented with inlaid pieces of glazed earthen work. Chest and abdomen are covered in a pronounced carved relief representing geometric scarifications (geometric and keloid motifs). The hands, toes, and male genitalia are elaborated in some detail. Bembe figures are as a rule between 4 3/4 and 7 inches in height. At 11 inches, the present example exceeds the usual norm; its format may imply that it represents a particularly important ancestor. Usually these figures stand or crouch. Only exceptionally, as is the case here, is the figure fully seated. Many Bembe figures hold an attribute, usually a symbol of authority, in one or both hands. Through this means one can make suppositions as to the position in the community of the man or woman represented. The statuettes holding weapons, such as a knife or rifle, refer to a chief or warrior. Figures holding a staff are also indicative of a leader. Figures holding one or several bells, like the example shown here, represent an important nganga, for the nganga uses wooden bells to attract the attention of supernatural forces or spirits during divination rituals. The carving of the arms in a half-raised position creates a suggestion of movement. This sort of active attitude is in contrast to the rather static character of much African sculpture in wood (Felix 2003:218, 221; Herreman 1999:25.) FRANK HERREMAN




80. POWER FIGURE: TEGE OR TARA A MPU Teke peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, metal. H. u 5/8 in. (29.5 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.122

The Teke live on the banks of the Congo River, in the area of Malebo-Pool. Each of their villages is led by a chief who also designates the local religious leader. This latter has under his guardianship both ancestor relics and power statues. Both authorities, civil and religious, watch over the welfare of their community and are in charge of the initiation process of the youth. Statues are used in many rituals intended to bolster the community's fertility and general health. The Teke make varied use of power statues, nkisi, which are charged with medicines, bilongo. They are said to have passed on this use to their neighbors the Beembe, Lan, Sundi, and Yanzi peoples. One can also see mild to major degrees of Teke influence in the morphology of statuary from these neighboring groups. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish work of the Yanzi from that of the Teke. Moreover, Teke sculptors have also sold statues to neighboring peoples who then use them as ancestor or power statues (Stoullig-Marin 1988:566.) This sitting sculpture was obviously carved with a great deal of care. A male figure, it has a crest-shaped hairdo and beard, both signs of high rank. To the forehead are applied two copper spikes (tags) of European origin, considered a costly decoration by the Teke. The characteristic Teke vertical scarification lines are carved at the temples and cheeks; an incision over the bridge of the nose may also represent scarification. The statue's surface is "toned," giving the face a relatively natural wood color and the rest of the figure a darker shade made by surface scorching. The Teke, like their neighbors, carve seated figures; in this example the hands rest on the knees. This statue resembles another, now in the collection of the British Museum, that was photographed in Teke territory at the beginning of the twentieth century (Lehuard 1974:123.) Like the sculptors of other Kongo peoples (and of the Yaka and the Suku), Teke sculptors take account of the place where the bilongo will be attached in or on the statue. In this example, a vertical cavity has been provided as a holding place. This feature tells us that the sculptor intended this piece as a power statue or nkisi, but since no trace of medicine is present, the figure may never have been used in this way. It is also possible that the medicines (of supernatural nature) were assiduously removed before the statue came into the hands of the subsequent owner. FRANK HERREMAN






Mbala peoples, Republic of Congo Wood, pigment. H. 25 1/4 in. (64.1 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.236

Living in the Congo Basin south of the confluence of the Kwango and Kwilu rivers, the Mbala cover a wide area, although their populations are often intermixed with other peoples. Much of their sculpture, too, is mixed with that of their Suku, Ngongo, Hungaan, and Pende neighbors, yet there is a distinct Mbala style of freestanding statuettes characterized by a plaited, crested coiffure often extending down the figure's back. This example would appear to be a Mbala charm figure associated with particular bisungu mikisi, or "great" medicines owned and cared for by a given family lineage. Bisungu originate when some type of transgression enters a lineage's blood and one of the lineage members is "seized"—is afflicted by illness or death. The family consults a diviner who reveals the affliction as the manifestation of a particular charm-curse, which the lineage must ritually contain while also observing its rules. The ritual and its accompanying paraphernalia are associated with the curse that resulted in the sickness, and with the threat of future occurrences. The northern Suku and their neighbors keep some twenty possible charm-curse, or bisungu, institutions. The reddened body color derives from a clay called babala, which in the past was not only applied as a cosmetic but also painted on apparel and gifts (Torday and Joyce 19o7:82). Still other types of Mbala sculpture, such as the famous drummers and mother-and-child figures, were used in chiefly installations and kept in a chief's treasury. ARTHUR BOURGEOIS






Yaka peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo or Eastern Kongo peoples, Maquela de Zombo region, Angola Wood. H. 8 7/8 in. (22.5 CM) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.115

This object is directly related to two other examples possibly by the same hand, one in the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (NMAFA 87.59.1), the other in Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1969.5.200). All are characterized by an outstanding degree of naturalism together and similar body patterns, but both of the comparable examples present a standing maternity theme rather than a kneeling figure. Other kneeling female figures are distinctive of the westernmost extensions of the Yaka style, in Angola, where they often are shown with an iron ring about the neck. It is possible that this and the other examples are from the Maquela de Zombo region of Angola and are ethnically Eastern Kongo rather than Yaka (Bourgeois 1984: 231-33). ARTHUR BOURGEOIS






Pende peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, fibers, pigment, raffia. H. 12 in. (30.5 cm) Museum purchase: Women's Volunteer Committee Fund. 74.13

This mask, in the typical Central Pende style, portrays one of the male characters who perform in the Pende's entertaining masquerades. Originally masquerades had an explicit religious function, constituting a place of communion between the worlds of the living and of the dead. Rather than incarnating or personifying the dead, masks served as reminders of deceased family members, who were said to return to the village to dance among their living descendants. In Pende society today, secular masquerades continue to contribute to the well-being of the community and the building of group solidarity. The Pende broadly distinguish between village or dance masks, generically called mbuya, and fraternity or initiation masks, called mingangji. Central Pende sculptors have created a wide variety of mbuya masks portraying a diverse set of personas. The identification of a specific mask character depends largely on aspects of the costume, including the headdress and accessories, and the choreography. Field research by Z. S. Strother has revealed that the invention of a new mask begins with the conception of a new dance, and entails a close collaboration between dancers, drummers, and sculptors (Strother 1998:24-31, 43-43). The faces of Pende masks reveal theories of physiognomy and gender that contrast the calm, peaceable, obedient, and socially oriented feminine with the brash, aggressive, and even violent masculine. The Pende believe that physiognomy reflects inner character and spirit, and their masks reflect a contrast between smooth, rounded female faces and sharp, angular male faces. (Despite the influence of these theoretical considerations on the production of masks, however, there is plenty of room for personal initiative and creativity in Pende mask-making, a continuous process of invention and innovation.) The vaulted forehead, protruding cheekbones, and chiseled teeth in this New Orleans mask suggest ideal masculine character-traits such as ambition and violence. Although the mask's exact name cannot be determined outside of the performance context, its facial features along with its raffia coiffure may identify it as representing a mask genre called Pota or Ginjinga, both known for their acrobatic and extravagant dances. These feather-light masks with unpierced eyes are not worn vertically in front of the face but are positioned sloping off the forehead, leaving the eyes, nose, and mouth free for sight and respiration. CONSTANTINE PETRIDIS






Pende peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, iron. H. to in. (25.4 CM) Gift of Drs. Marian and Daniel Malcolm in memory of Bryce Holcombe. 85.164

The Pende have lived in the savanna of south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo since migrating northward from Angola in the seventeenth century. Lacking a centralized government, they are organized instead into many chiefdoms of varying sizes and influence, each under the leadership of a chief and a council of elders. To distinguish themselves and make their elevated status visible, Pende chiefs own insignia such as this adze (Strother 1999:221). Ceremonial adzes are a widespread form of leadership art in the Congo Basin region. In the past, a Pende chief wore a decorative adze with a fine blade and a sculpted shaft over his left shoulder while traveling. The adze not only added to his style but gave him the power to speak with authority. The chief would sometimes send the adze with a messenger to reprimand one of his subordinates, or to summon someone to trial. The meaning the Pende attach to the iron blade protruding like a tongue from the head's mouth has not been determined, but among neighboring peoples it would refer to authoritative speech. The seminaturalistic style of the sculpted head topping the shaft of this adze indicates that it was carved by a sculptor of the Central Pende living between the Kwilu and Loange rivers in the province of Bandundu. Representing one of three major regional styles in Pendeland, the adze is characterized by a diamond-shaped face with a vaulted forehead, continuous arching brows, an upturned nose, and a pointed chin. According to Z. S. Strother, however, the Pende themselves see these traits as belonging to the realm of genre rather than style (Strother 1998:95-99). The horned coiffure on the head of this adze imitates a hairstyle proper to chiefs and other male title-holders. The lizard or crocodile depicted on the shaft alludes to the belief in the chief's powers of sorcery, warning possible malefactors that the chief is invincible. A legend recounts that when the chief drives his adze into a tree he is able to transform himself temporarily into a crocodile, leopard, or other animal. CONSTANTINE PETRIDIS






19th century Chokwe peoples, school of Muzamba, Democratic Republic of Congo/Angola Wood. H. 20 7/8 in. (53 CM) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.255

Like the other Chokwe chief figure in The New Orleans Museum of Art, this one may be attributed stylistically to Muzamba, in the Chokwe heartland in central Angola. Chokwe carvers have always shown interest in depicting different stages of life in their masquerades, where, for example, the character Mwana Pwo is identified as "young woman," Pwo as "woman," and Kashinakaji as "old man" or "old woman." Similar distinctions are found in figurative sculpture. In this particular figure, the treatment of the face, and the overall feel for body lines and proportions, seem to suggest a character in his youth. As such, this is a portrait of a chief at his prime. The "classic" Chokwe stance of a firm, upright torso, flexed knees and arms, and overproportioned feet and hands enhances the ruler's portrait as one who is fully able to perform and accomplish great deeds on behalf of his people. Diviners, mask performers, young initiates, and others still adopt this stance during the ritual dances that mark moments of personal or social transition. The crown on this figure is of a type still worn by Lunda, Chokwe, and other related chiefs in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zambia. These crowns are constructed over a basketry frame and covered with cloth; they are often fully beaded with symbolic patterns in contrasting colors. Variations on the elaborateness of these crowns indicate differences in rank (Palmeirim 1998). Some rulers may also possess more than one type of crown for formal and less formal occasions. The crowns are empowered with medicines, and at the chief's death of a chief, his or her crown may be buried as well. A few figures closely related to this one in European museums and private collections show the chief holding a musket, an ax, or wearing hunting implements. This has led to their identification as hunter chiefs, and some authors have suggested an association with Chibinda Ilunga, the Luba hunter who revitalized Lunda notions of royalty, introduced the concept of sacred kingship, and became a Chokwe culture hero. Without field documentation it is impossible to discern whether this figure directly relates thematically to the other hunter figures, although the hunter-chief association is always at play in ceremonial performances accounting for a chief's abilities. There is no field documentation to show how these royal figures were kept. From the use of stylistically and typologically unrelated figures by chiefs today, we can speculate that nineteenth-century examples were kept in royal palaces, inside treasuries, under the care of ritual experts. mANuEL A. JORDAN PEREZ




86. CHIEF-MUSICIAN FIGURE Chokwe peoples, school of Muzamba, Democratic Republic of Congo/Angola Wood. H. 11 3/8 in. (29 CM) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.135

This figure is stylistically and typologically related to other royal court figures that the Belgian art historian Marie-Louise Bastin has attributed to the School of Muzamba, in the Chokwe "country of origin" in central Angola (1978, 1982). Its elaborate crown with arched structural elements (chipenya mutwe) identifies its bearer as a senior or paramount chief. A 1903 photograph published by the Portuguese officer A. de Fonseca Cardoso (1919) shows a Chokwe chief called Chauto, from Moxico (adjacent to Muzamba), wearing a similar arched and winged crown, constructed out of bands of sheet metal held together with leather. Crowns of the type featured on this figure were also constructed out of basketry with twig superstructures covered with strips of cloth in contrasting colors. Although the figure's facial features are more stylized than in other examples of figurative court art from Muzamba, they are meant to approach naturalism. The firm, frontal torso with squared shoulders conveys power while the overproportioned hands indicate ability and readiness for action. The chief is portrayed as a seated musician playing a lamellophone or "thumb piano" (sanza or chisanji). According to Bernard Mukuta Samukinji (Zambian Chokwe field-research assistant, personal communication, 1991), a representation of the chief as a musician is not intended to illustrate his ability to play a musical instrument; that is the role of court musicians, and a chief is too important and power-




ful to perform such tasks. As with similar portrayals of chiefs carved on the rungs of Chokwe chiefs' thrones, the message conveyed is that the chief has control over matters pertaining to oral communication. Indeed, a lamellophone player working for a chief's court is a musician but also a master of storytelling, proverbial knowledge, and royal history. In this figure the image of a musician merges with that of a Chokwe chief to stress the chief's authority over information and its sources. Similarly, the figure mirrors a chief's responsibility to communicate with his constituency, keeping them informed of all matters of social interest or concern. The figure's seated position with legs apart complements the theme of open communication. To some Chokwe, to sit with crossed legs in a ritual or ceremonial context is bad manners. Worse, it may indicate that the individual is lying or hiding something. This figure sits in a manner perceived as auspicious for a proper exchange of information. The round base, carved as a part of the figure, represents earth, the layer below which dwell the ancestors. Symbolically, then, the chief sits on ancestral ground, reaffirming his role as mediator between the worlds of the spirits and of the living. On the figure's head, the crown's dynamic arches and design elements act as a receptacle for cosmic forces that further empower the chief. MANUEL A. JORDAN PEREZ




Chokwe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, glass. H. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 CM) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.110

This Chokwe caryatid stool features a seated female figure with elbows on knees, cradling her head in her hands. The pose is repeated in various Chokwe art forms—chief's chairs, carved combs, staffs—to represent male or female ancestral spirits. In the practices of divination, a figurine carved in such a pose is called kalamba kuku wa lung ("kalamba kuku" meaning ancestor or ancient one; "lunga" is "male"), and is used to indicate some form of spiritual influence from a male ancestor (Areia 1985). In sculpting caryatid figures for stools, Chokwe carvers favored female ancestral figures (kalamba kuku wa pwo) and often portrayed them in the same seated pose. Male or female, the pose is generally associated with elders, with the actual burial position of chiefs and important members of the community, and with people seated deep in thought. The elbows-on-knees, head-cradled -in-hands image has become so popular in Angola over the years that a commercial interpretation of this Chokwe sculptural form has emerged as the "pensador Angolano" or "Angolan thinker." In its original context, this figurative stool probably belonged to a chief, a diviner, or other individual of high social status. The figure of the female ancestor symbolically reinforces Chokwe concepts of matrilineal inheritance, and by physically supporting the stool's owner while seated, the figure further serves as a spiritual mediator of his or her connection with the ancestral world below ground. Because stools are granted such symbolic significance, those belonging to outstanding individuals may be inherited by their living kin. Mr. Chipoya, a Zambian Chokwe/Luchazi diviner, explained to me that supernaturally empowered stools may be used as divinatory instruments to seek the cause and resolution of people's problems (personal communication, 2002). A nonfigurative stool he owned himself worked this way, and he added that during some particularly difficult healing rituals he brought it out, not to sit on but to embody his spirit of divination. In that function, Mr. Chipoya said, the stool was addressed by name as his ancestor, physically present to influence the outcome of the healing ritual. Among Chokwe and related peoples of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zambia, the act of sitting is rather formalized, being often an extension of prescribed cultural rules or behaviors that reflect spatial relations, social order, and status (Wastiau 2003). Through figurative/ancestral stools such as this one, spatial relations extend to engage the realm of the spiritual for the purpose of obtaining supernatural aid on behalf of humans. MANUEL A. JORDAN PEREZ






Luba peoples, Kasinge Area, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood. H. 16 in. (40.6 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam, 77.140

In African art, an artwork's apparent function is not always an accurate indicator of its real purpose. Luba stools are far more than the seats of kings; they do function as thrones, and are sat upon sometimes, but their role as spiritual seats of authority, metaphoric resting places, and mnemonic devices for the remembrance of key aspects of Luba royal history is far more important (Mary Roberts 2003: 59). This exceptional carved caryatid throne is distinguished from most Luba stools by the presence of a mother-and-child ensemble. A female figure is often the support of Luba thrones, but the presence of a mother and child is extremely rare (ibid.:230-31). The beauty of this work lies in its dual visual focus. The eye is drawn first to the mother's right arm, which uplifts and supports the seat that will bear the weight of a human being, before the eye roams to the mother's left arm, which holds an infant child who suckles her breast with utmost pleasure and gusto. Asymmetry is not unusual in African art, and in fact is often a deliberate and ingenious way to invoke the presence and dynamism of a work of art, as well as certain aspects of its meaning. Luba scarification patterns were a true form of inscription, in the sense that the designs were intended to be carriers of information and memory, biographical traces of particular life histories within the Luba cultural constellation.They are marks of beauty, civilization, and eroticism, and contemporary Luba women can often remember the patterns' specific names and attendant meanings (Roberts and Roberts 1996:98-112). A Luba stool such as this would have belonged at one time to a high-ranking chief in a regional outpost of the Luba kingdom. The stool was the most important emblem of kingship, although it was only one of many objects that constituted the royal treasury. Stools were rarely shown in public (Nooter 1993: 99-100). Their sanctity was so great and their value so high that they were usually protected by being kept away from the royal compound in a secret location. Luba royal stools and most other emblems dating from the nineteenth century depict the female form, either through three-dimensional figures such as this or through geometric designs representing women's scarification patterns. It was important that the insignia of a male ruler invoke the feminine, for power was considered to be gendered as both male and female. It was essential at all times that both dimensions of this relationship be present in order for the authority of the mulopwe (ruler) to be most effective. Furthermore, a woman depicted in the insignia had to be rendered according to the same aesthetic criteria as a woman in real life, with elegant hairstyling, elaborate scarification markings, and a composed demeanor (Nooter 1991 Chapter V).

Beyond their role as the insignia of a king or chief during the course of his reign, Luba stools have a metaphoric dimension: the stool was a reference to the spiritual seat of royal memory, the locus for the embodiment of a king's spirit, and the tangible idea of spiritual ascendancy. After a king's death, his spirit was incarnated by a woman who became the king himself and inherited his royal residence and certain of his insignia. This titled female, named Mwadi, became the living embodiment of the deceased king, and she and her female relatives ensured that his spirit was forever perpetuated through the strength of a woman's sacred bodily vessel (ibid., and Roberts and Roberts 1996:41). MARY NOOTER ROBERTS




89. BOWL BEARER: MBOKO Luba peoples, Lake Upemba area, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, glass, brass. H. 17 3/8 in. (44.1 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.165

Bowl-bearing figures are among the most widely known sculptures in the corpus of Luba art. Their styles vary from one locale to another, but their overall form is consistent throughout the central Luba region of Katanga (formerly Shaba). This vast area in southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to a constellation of chieftaincies, all of which were connected in some way to the Luba kingdom, an important central African state from approximately the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries C.E. Bowl figures were part of the treasury of a king or chief, and they also belonged to royal diviners (Nooter 1991, Petit 1995). This particular example is carved in a style that has been referred to in the literature as "Shankadi," a term that designates not a Luba subgroup but a form of etiquette among Luba-speaking peoples residing in districts around the towns of Kamina, Kabondo Dianda, and Mwanza. The Shankadi style is discernible by the cascade hairstyle, in which the tresses of the coiffure descend in horizontal registers like the terraces of a cultivated hillside. It is also characterized by the rendering of the torso as a long columnar shaft adorned with intricate patterns representing women's beauty marks, also referred to as scarification. And the faces on Luba Shankadi figures are sometimes small and pinched, with closed eyes and tense, concentrated facial features (de Maret, Dery, and Murdoch 1973). Many Luba bowl figures, especially from this region, are very lightweight, carved from a single piece of wood, sometimes roughly hewn, and with a slightly asymmetrical posture. As here, the arms are often disproportionately long to frame the attenuated torso, while the legs are quite short. This is because in Luba art, as in much African art, the head and the torso—the seats of wisdom and generation —are considered the most important parts of the

body and are therefore given more emphasis in sculptural representation. Legs, on the other hand, are purely functional, and can take up less symbolic space. Bowl figures served several purposes. In some of the early literature they are referred to as the "treasure" (mboko) of their owners, for they were used to store precious articles like beads, or the chalk (mpemba) used to anoint the skin in deference to an important political or religious figure in the community. In the past, as visitors entered the royal compound, they would draw some chalk from the deep recess of the bowl, graciously offered by the carved female figure, and rub it on their chest and arms in respect to the ruler. Chalk is "surrogate moonlight," and its white color stands for the benevolence and accord of the spirit world, which oversees the well-being of the kingdom and its inhabitants (Allen Roberts 1985). An even more common and continuing usage for bowl-bearing figures is as an instrument of a diviner. Luba people practice several kinds of divination, but only one, Bilumbu, is considered an institution of royalty. Bilumbu involves the ascendancy of the diviner into a trance state, and the use of a number of objects—some made from gourds, others carved from wood—that enable the diviner to discern the causes of a particular misfortune and to offer future guidance. The bowl figure was often positioned next to the Bilumbu diviner and remained there throughout the day's consultations with patients and clients. Diviner Bwana Kudie described the figure on his bowl bearer as the "wife of[his] possessing spirit." Her role, just like that of the diviner's actual wives, was to sustain the presence of the spirit through song and visual delight (Roberts and Roberts 1996:204)• MARY NOOTER ROBERTS






Luba peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Ivory, glass beads, rawhide, iron. H. 3 15/16 in. (10 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.114

Among the most beautiful and jewellike of all Luba object types are figurative ivory amulets that were worn on a Cord across the chest of a high-ranking male office-holder. Most examples of this genre depict a female figure only from the head to the base of the torso, but this particular amulet is striking for its rendering of the figure in its entirety, and with such extraordinary grace and power. The tiny figure has all the attributes of the finest larger Luba sculptures, yet in a diminutive and intimate form that was meant to be held and rubbed, and to be in contact at all times with the human body. Other qualities also distinguish this amulet from others of its kind, including the collar of beads that encircles the figure's neck, as if to place her head, with its downcast eyes and inward gaze, on a pedestal. Her tiny legs barely exist beneath the far more important torso that would have borne children and enveloped the spirit of the bavidye, the tutelary spirits of Luba kingship. Her arms are curved so that her hands may cup her breasts, in a gesture of formal respect to the spirit world and as a sign that she holds the secrets of royalty within her body. Finally, strings of large old beads are strung on cords through the hole that once allowed the amulet to hang from a bandolier. A string of such beads is called mulanga, and they were highly valued in the past as a form of currency, as well as a sign of blessing and honor (Roberts and Roberts 1996:31, 37). The minimal information we have about such amulets indicates that they were portraits, made in the memory of particular named ancestors (Colle 1913:435, Roberts and Roberts 1996:108-10). They were regularly anointed with oil, giving them a smooth, lustrous surface and bringing out their rich colors, ranging from creamy white to yellowish brown and auburn. Ivory, bone, and horn amulets are among the few object types that are no longer in use in the Luba area. Yet early archival photographs do show male chiefs and titleholders wearing such bandoliers, with sundry amuletic forms, draped diagonally across their bare torsos (Mary Roberts 1994:129). Their contact with the human skin undoubtedly contributed to the worn-soft patinas of so many of these amulets, which sometimes have all but lost the detail of their facial features. This one, though worn, has not lost its incised details. In fact its face and form convey a pathos that is singularly Luba, and an elegant composure that invokes the quiet majesty of this important central African state. MARY NOOTER ROBERTS










Tabwa peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, caning, duiker horn, fiber cord, seedpod bundles, animal hair, copper. H. 18 7/8 in. (48 cm.) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.151

This nineteenth-century Tabwa figure was a statement of ancestral sanction for a lineage chief's political authority (Allen Roberts 1985). That the figure stands upon a stool underscores such high purpose, for Tabwa, like their better-known Luba neighbors to the west, made and decorated stools as mnemonic devices recalling heritage and pedigree (Roberts and Maurer 1985:246-47, Roberts and Roberts 1996). The stool is composed of openwork isosceles triangles rising from a circular base to support the round platform upon which the figure stands. The triangles are echoed in the chevron patterning of the figure's pendant coiffure, and both designs are examples of a widespread Tabwa motif called balamwezi, or "the rising of a new moon," in reference to cosmogonic narratives concerning a lunar culture hero. For the Tabwa, the monthly rising of a new moon is a sign of hope and enlightenment after several nights of frightening obscurity when the forces of evil are felt to hold sway. Following the model of their lunar hero, it is expected that Tabwa leaders will provide the wisdom and resolve necessary to protect their communities from any such dangers. Personal and community protection are further emphasized by the herbal assemblage around the figure's hips, and by the horn of a Grimm's duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia) set point-downward in the top of the figure's head. This receptacle would once have held a potent charge of medicines, carefully chosen to thwart all aggression to the lineage chief and his people. The figure's long coiffure, meant to represent woven dreadlocks, includes two duiker horns, carved in high relief, that point upward and


have medicinal substances inserted in their hollow bottoms to protect the figure's vulnerable back and match its vigilant gaze. A stylistically similar figure collected in 1884 by Emile Storms along the southwestern shore of Lake Tanganyika has ivory disks set into the eyes to make the stare even more piercing (Roberts and Maurer 1985:233). The taut flexing of the New Orleans figure's knees may be further reference to its potential for action. The figure is graced by elaborate raised markings that represent scarification. The "face-of-thecross" pattern—vertical lines on the forehead and diagonal ones on the cheeks—brings attention to the point just above the nose. Tabwa say that this is the "seat of dreams" and prophesy, and a narrator may tap it with a right index finger to emphasize a particularly brilliant idea (in his own humble estimation). The "face of the cross" is shared with Mbote hunter-gatherers who live among Tabwa and provide them with products from montane forests, and Tabwa may have adopted the pattern to acknowledge the arcane knowledge and territorial identity they obtained from the Mbote as antecedent inhabitants of southeastern Congo (Klieman 2003). The other notable scarification is the V-shape across the top of the breast, which designates membership in Butwa, a precolonial society of potent medicines, ritual practices, and mutual support linking Tabwa with other stateless peoples to their south in what is now northeastern Zambia (Roberts 1988a:41-56). ALLEN F. ROBERTS






Bwami association, Lega Peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Ivory, bronze. H.: a. 6'/4 in. (15.9 cm), b. 4 13/16 in. (12.2 CM), C. 6 in. (15.2 CM) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.126, 77.125, 77.127

The Lega live in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, around the cities of Mwenga, Shabunda, and Pangi. They know no kings or tribal chiefs. Their main concerns are the prolongation of their kin, the initiation of their adolescent males, and the Bwami association (accessible to both males and females), which they believe brings them to rest. They further believe that the Bwami comes to them from their ancestors and that no individual may claim it as a given right. The Bwami is not a secret association; its activities participate openly in political, social, economic, and judicial decisions. Individuals become members voluntarily. Ideally, they hope to proceed from rank to rank, eventually reaching the highest echelons. It is accepted that those initiated into the Bwami possess great wealth and knowledge (Biebuyck 2002:15-21.) A wide gamut of objects called masengo, vehicles of transcendental powers, feature in Bwami initiation ceremonies. Members of higher rank store their personal masengo in a shoulder bag that they keep with them at these ceremonies. Communal masengo are also brought to the ceremonies, in baskets entrusted to women of high status. Some masengo are natural in origin—animal, mineral, or plant in unworked form. Others are humanly crafted. One might find, for example, a hornbill beak decorated with beads, cowries, or polished mussel shells. Ordinary objects of daily use may also be masengo: baskets, shoulder bags, musical instruments, or signs of dignified position such as headdresses, necklaces, belts, garments, or dance attributes. An important masengo ensemble will also include art


objects: masks, sculptures representing animals or humans, and miniature representations of knives, spoons, whistles, and chairs. Among the art objects that are masengo are small ivory sculptures belonging to Bwami members who have attained the association's highest rank. The ivory is usually elephant tusk. The designs of these objects vary greatly but show an extreme taste for stylization. In this example the arms and legs of the central figure are elaborated in more detail than the bodies of the other two figures, which remain rather contained within the cylindrical volume. Each figure shows decorations in relief carved on the torso's surface. Striking, too, are the small metal earrings that adorn the central figure. Masengo are manipulated in diverse ways during rituals, being arranged in configurations (including placement facing in different directions) or held during dancing. The ivory may be rubbed with oil or perfume, or else polished with sandpaper, producing a powder that may be used as a medicine. As with other masengo, the significance of these anthropomorphic ivory figures can only be judged through knowledge of their use in their original ritual context, which may change with the ritual in which they are employed. They may act as signifiers of rank, marks of identity, or commemorations of ancestors. They are often used as a memory tool and as a symbol of solidarity, reinforcing the historical bonds among various groups, and they also possess medicinal powers (Biebuyck 1986:42-51, 2002:31-35, 144-45.) FRANK HERREMAN





Bwami association, Lega peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, pigment. H. 1r) in. (25.4 cm) Bequest of Victor K. Kiam. 77.134

A statue with multiple heads or faces, like this example with four faces, is called sokimatwernatwe or "many-heads" among the Lega. The theme of multiheadedness is bound up with ethical principles held in respect by the Bwami association. According to Daniel Biebuyck, the word "sakimatwematwe" is associated with the saying "Lord Many-Heads has seen an elephant on the other side of the Lwalaba (or a broad river]". The phrase refers to the superior knowledge and insight of the Bwami association's high initiates, who see and know things that are invisible and unknown to others. In general the statue may embody the antithesis between the initiate and his mentor, or the complementary unity of the initiated man, kindi, and his initiated wife, kanyamtva (Biebuyck 2002:126, Cameron 2001:150.) FRANK HERREMAN






Lokele, Mbole or Yela peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo Wood, pigment. H. 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm) Robert P. Gordy Collection. 88.43

The Lokele, Mbole, and Yela Peoples all live in the center of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and their cultures show many similarities. One expression of this is the common presence of the Lilwa association, which exercises a function of social control, using the statues called okifa to represent those men and women who have violated the association's rules, been sentenced to death, and hung. Young men are shown okifa during their initiation to the Lilwa and are told just what awaits them if they disobey Lilwa rules or commit adultery, murder, and other transgressions. These well-known statues are recognizable by their design: elongated, with inert arms and legs. As a rule the feet are not positioned square to the lower leg, instead hanging down askew. Transversal holes are usually bored into the okifa's back for the attachment of a "stretcher" to carry the statue on ritual occasions (Biebuyck 1976:54-61). This general description of okifa statues, however, contrasts with the example in New Orleans, which, in my opinion, may represent an ancestor figure. This standing female figure has a large head and a rather naturalistically proportioned body. The chest has triangular geometric motifs containing circlelike incisions. Transversal holes are absent from the figure's back, and the arms are modeled close to the body rather than to the fore. Also the feet are squared to the leg, so that the statue can be freestanding and thus presented as "living." The whole has been finished with much care. The photo archive of Marc Leo Felix contains a male statue so similar to this female one that they may have been carved by the same sculptor and indeed may have formed a pair. More specific information on ancestor figures among the Lokele, Mbole, and Yela, however, is lacking. FRANK HERREMAN





When Saints Go Marching In: Kongo Louisiana, Kongo New Orleans Robert Farris Thompson

Desire can be crushed by those whofocus only on that which they think is uplifting, never paying attention to the ecstatic. —Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, 2002



New Orleans: black culture in majuscule letters. The Crescent City is proud of its jazz. When Mardi Gras 2004 rolled around, a person of color took up his stand with his sax on a street by the river (plate 1). His pose was simpatico: bent leg matched curved instrument. A steamboat behind him seemed ready to take his jazz upriver to Memphis, St. Louis, and beyond, renewing the well-known diffusion. New Orleans is critical for jazz, that sizzling blend of African harmony, melody, and rhythm with Western expressions. It's the music that sends the dead off to heaven with pleasure and ecstasy lest they feel neglected and come back to haunt us. Cuisine is another mirror reflecting the greatness of New Orleans, and the creole process—blend, reblend—is the law of the city's top kitchens. There is a sign in New Orleans, on the edge of the French Quarter, displaying a beautiful alligator, a fugitive from the bayous, bearing on his back the legend "GUMBO FILE" (plate 2). His bite becomes ours when we discover the delicacy he advertises. In the city where Irish athletes once played a variant of lacrosse with Choctaw athletes in Congo Square, it is not strange to discover that talented chefs would mix powdered sassafras—file—from Choctaw recipes with a Kongo-named okra broth and present it to the world asfile gumbo (Smith and Smith 1992:6). Food is drama in New Orleans, from black creole settings to the tables at Antoine's where waiters deliberately spill burning brandy on (fire-proofed) white tablecloths when crepes suzettes come, to the inimitable savor of chicory coffee sipped at the Café du

Algiers. The diamond is a Kongo cosmogram, life everlasting, a shield against envy and diminishment. The narrow shotgun houses in the Quarter mark another relation of black heritage to the life of the city (plate 3): moored ships of social intimacy, they trace back to Haiti, argues John Michael Vlach (1978:vol. 1, p. 72). Like blues and jazz, they too went up river, until 17 percent of Louisville was built out of them. The contribution of black dancers to New Orleans history centered on old Congo Square. This site, where black nations once danced, lies between the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium and Rampart Street. Magnificent live oaks guard it today (plate 4). They were planted in 1893 (Jerah Johnson 1995:4)—after the black dances had gone underground, after earlier sycamores were cut down and removed. Nevertheless, in the imagination of devout coreligionists these trees become altars, counter-questions to ancestors who caused jazz to be (Saxon, Dreyer, and Tallant 1945:540). In the early nineteenth century, spectacular African dancing took place in Congo Square. As Jerah Johnson observes, it was the point of origin for jazz dance (ibid.). Blacks danced in circles, miniature citadels of spirit and certainty. The spread of their choreographed genius is intuited today by mosaic patterning, laid down in circles, half-circles, and lines, radiating from the center where blacks once performed (plate 5). In Africans in Colonial Louisiana Gwendolyn Midlo Hall reminds us that Kongo competed with other Africans in the formation of culture. Prominent among these were the Mande and Yoruba-Fon: "Mande culture [was manifest) in folktales and proverbs, in Louisiana creole, and in Mande words for charms, zinzin and gris-gris. Fon and Yoruba religious practices deeply influenced the culture, accounting for the emergence and resilience of[vodun] in Louisiana. Congo influence is discernible in the bamboula, a folk dance" (Hall

Monde, watching the bus named Desire roll by. Vodun flourished here, with a host of black saints— the real vodun, with its strong Kongo side, legitimate and alive. Some houses in black New Orleans are protected with diamond-form emblems set near or above doors. The same motif emblazons headstones in the McDonoughville cemetery, across the Mississippi near

1992:302). Mande impact was strong in Louisiana's verbal arts, but in the dance Bakongo were kings. Numerous dances named "Congo" were recorded in nineteenth-century Louisiana, as well as the Kongoderived bamboula. Whole systems of motion crossed the Atlantic and took root in the city and parishes. An immediate example is nzuba, a thigh-slapping dance from the






kingdom of Kongo. The name derives from the Ki-Kongo verb "to slap": zuba. With a lightly creolized title— "juba," or "patting juba"—it spread up the river and diffused far and wide. Among the worshippers of the Black Hawk churches of African-American New Orleans today, it is one of the steps that come back from the past when possessed persons dance. The critical continuance is dancing in circles, source of the ring shout in the Old Time Religion (Stuckey 1988). To enter a circle was to enter deep blackness, to receive secret strength in contact with ecstasy. The circle is round like the sun's timeless path, like the time-defying spiral of the seashells placed on black graves in the McDonoughville cemetery. It is a medicine of continuity and protection., For Bakongo, dancing is life itself (rnakinu i zingu kiau kibeni),3 and that impulse toward permanence, cycling through space with percussion, was not cultivated in vain. The drums of Congo Square did not disappear at the closing of that tradition in the mid-nineteenth century. The percussion came back in the drums of Baby Dodds's jazz. It came back in the struck washboards of early black jug bands, which in turn inspired frottoirs, the washboards-become-vests in zydeco music. A frottoir is "a corrugated metal vest that hangs from the shoulders, scraped across the chest with spoons or bottle openers" (Sandmel 1999:24). When the brothers Clifton and Cleveland Chenier invented thefrottoir (rub-board) in the 1950s, they took black percussion one degree higher (ibid.): they were not just expressing the beat, they were wearing it. Congo Square was reborn in the rise of the spasm band, which improvised instruments as well as music. The first documented spasm band—they had existed earlier, below the radar, as the New Orleans expert Al Kennedy reminds us— played the streets of New Orleans in around 1896 (Stearns 1956:173).4 The tradition flowed on, to 1948, when the authors of Mardi Gras Day spotted such percussionists on a Vieux Carre street: "The spasm band goes down Royal Street and lingers near a crowd that looks happy. The leader gives the beat, and the washboard rhythms, from tin cans, wires and homemade percussion instruments, begin" (Wickiser, Durieux, and McCrady 1948:18). Spasm bands link the drum choirs of Congo Square to the integrated jazz battery. Amateur drummers ruled Royal Street in the 2004 Mardi Gras. Spaced along the sidewalk, one-man spasm bands played upside-down dry-wall-compound plastic buckets with sticks. Peter "J.J." Chatwick, local African-American, manned his post in front of the Monteleone Hotel. Farther east, Chris

Harris, a young white man from Tampa, Florida, played the same improvised drum kit in much the same style. Between them worked "Tony Pots-and-Pans," a man of color whose stage name betrayed a taste for bright metal instruments: as well as his buckets he played metal grates and a square piece of chrome, for flash and for resonance. All three drummers hit the tops of their pails to make a high note and lifted a pail with their right foot, then dropped it down while hitting it—"That gives us our bass," Chris Harris explained. The idea of modifying the tones of a drum with the foot is Central African. It came to New Orleans, and to several places in the Caribbean, with Bakongo drum masters. The concept inspired the invention of the bass drum with foot pedal in jazz (Brown 1976:41). The percussion traditions of Congo Square were so powerfully voiced that they easily recrystallized around Western instruments. The transfer took place by the 183os and '4os, as the last African drum-makers began to die out (Jerah Johnson 1995:32). Later, in 1880 or 1881, the writer Lafcadio Hearn witnessed two black men beating "found object" drums while old persons danced with tin rattles on their ankles in a woodyard on Dumaine Street in the Quarter. One drum was a dry-goods box. The other was a pork barrel (Hearn 1949). They beat them with sticks and with bones. Read this two ways: as a fugitive expression of Congo Square music and simultaneously a rising manifestation of improvised percussion, spasm-band style. What Hearn experienced predicts what is happening today. Ankles with rattles became New Orleans garters with attached jingle bells, as documented in the Louisiana collection of the Anacostia Museum in Washington, D.C. The tambourines of the nineteenth century continue as twenty-first-century tambourines among the black spiritual churches of New Orleans. They also resurface in tambourines and iron gongs among the famed Indian maskers of black Mardi Gras. When people from Mande, Ejagham, and especially north Kongo arrived in Louisiana, they must have been fascinated by Native American feather and bead art. Powerful masks garlanded with feathers were known in West and Central Africa; bead art and symbolism were highly developed among Yoruba, Eon, and Bakongo. African beadwork goes back to antiquity in sites like Ife in Nigeria. Like attracts like. In late-eighteenth-century St. Louis, a city under Spanish rule, African and American-born slaves startled authorities by adorning their bodies with paint and feathers and dancing in public. On August 15, 1781, fighting what he took to be dangerous rowdiness among men of color and Amerindian friends, the Spanish lieutenant-governor issued an edict forbidding "all savages, whether free or slave, and all Negroes of this said post to clothe themselves in any other manner than according to our own usage and custom" (Houck 1909:245). The edict in a sense was too late, a precedent



had been established: the assertion of manhood with feathers and art. Similar assertions were probably occurring downriver, in and around New Orleans. Here, in the state of relative cultural laissez-faire in eighteenth-century Latin Catholic Louisiana, there had been a long and continuous interaction of African-Americans and Choctaws, in cuisine (file gumbo), rowdy shared games in Congo Square (the lacrosselike raquette), and the setting up of markets, one beside the other. So it is not that surprising, ninety-odd years later, to find in the New Orleans Daily Picayune a notice of "Indians and Negroes" participating in the Mardi Gras pageant on Ash Wednesday, February 15,1872 (Martinez 1997:66). Combinations of Amerind feather art and black flash were also strong in the pre-Lenten festivities of Haiti. This carnival tradition almost certainly flowed into the Crescent City, with known nineteenth-century Haitian migrations as a reinforcing inspiration. African and Native American traditions of creative bead- and feather-working came together in black New Orleans. Early artists worked with eagle feathers in simple, straightforward designs; the feathered bonnets of Plains Indians were definitely on their minds. Then, in around 1947-50, they starting to work with large plumes, and a more intense form of creolization kicked in, as "some Indians [now] appear in snow white costumes with white ostrich plumes in their headdresses" (Tallant 1947:242). The use of rich plumes reoriented the tradition in the direction of Central Africa, where one possible precedent was the tradition of the massively plumed ndunga maskers from the region of Lwangu in North Kongo. Meanwhile the beadwork, departing from the symmetry and geometrical patterning done on looms by Native Americans, began to betray off-beats, like the syncopes of jazz. In the process, black "Mardigrideans" (Donald Harrison, late and great Big Chief of the Guardians of the Flame masking group, coined the term) transformed themselves into the most powerfully dressed people in New Orleans. As New York Times music critic Jon Pareles writes, "There is no arguing with a wall of feathers" (2003:E1). They are wearing expressions of red and black unity. Battles of dress keep the art moving: Mardigrideans come out not just to parade but to conquer. Bowing down to no one, they are the strongest and prettiest. Harrison again: "Put the confrontation on. If you don't meet nobody, you're just walking down the street" (Clark and San Roman 1991:5). Elaborate costumes are the prerogative of big chiefs, broadcasting their rank and authority. Surprise is a part of that power. As Harrison once told me, "Next year I'll come out in a wild shade of blue—and smoke all those suckers."s Bo Dollis, Big Chief of the Wild Magnolias, astonished New Orleans in 1983 with a costume that virtually transformed him into a huge feathered totem pole. Distinct to the tradition are "patches," defined


by Michael P. Smith as "a tableau made out of beads, sequins, and other materials sewn onto canvas." Costume colors may change but patches remain. They are cognate with beaded and sequined panels worn by Mardi Gras maskers in Trinidad, which themselves are amazingly close to the beaded and appliquéd panels of Egungun costumes in Yorubaland. Some New Orleans "Indians" are seamen and keep in touch with visual action elsewhere in the Caribbean. Chiefs read voraciously, seeking ideas from handbooks and other visual sources. Fabulous icon makers, Mardigrideans parallel the brilliance in sound of Louis Armstrong, famous son of New Orleans. Armstrong changed the course of world music. He sang with a signature voice, all gravel and texture, that startlingly resembles the voice of Yoruba ancestors when they return to the earth in the form of Egungun. African New Orleans does not rest on its laurels. New Orleans and the parishes, especially Lafayette, pepper sensibilities with creative change. Consider the intense musical innovation in black creole settings around Lafayette: from lala, to jure (which Alan Lomax described as "the most African sound I found in America"), to zydeco (Sandmel 1999:34). So New Orleans and key parishes remind us that the Mediterranean is half an African sea. "Resonance of the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of art" is therefore more than an exhibition, it's a homecoming. An image in the show mirrors a gesture once made in Congo Square. Worshipers in the spirit among the black churches of New Orleans become living sculptures, echoing monuments of Kongo and other African art history on display in this show. Body and sculpture become one. People too are art. Congo Square, placed on the United States register of historic places on January 28, 1993, is so named because many blacks who performed there were of Kongo descent. Their dance styles—bamboula, calenda, and congo—were the most famous of African-American dances. The site and its environs have long been special. (For an excellent history see Jerah Johnson 1995.) It is said that before the coming of Europeans and Africans the Houma Native American nation used to celebrate their annual corn-harvest festival near Congo Square. They considered it sacred ground. So, later, did devout African-Americans: to bless a good marriage they would pray to Saint Joseph and then, in African fashion, leave a food offering here to spirits by a tree as an altar (Saxon, Dreyer, and Tallant 1945:540). Africans danced here. Today circles, rendered in paving stones, cover the square, as if mapping the clusters of dancers. The original circles included "Minas," Ba-Kongo, Mande, and "Gangas". They were dancing a vision that would take on the world.

The Great Kongo Dances of New Orleans and Louisiana: Portals of Entry for Gesture and Art In the early nineteenth century, black women and men momentarily regained their nationality when they danced in Congo Square and out in the parishes. They moved with an ardor that traced back to Kongo. Isaac Holmes, a visitor to Louisiana in 1821, saw blacks moving to the beat of a drum of their own making: "The general movement is in what they call Congo dance" (Epstein 1977:52-53). Along the Ouachita River in northern Louisiana, before 1833, Theodore Pavie witnessed a Central African ritual among blacks celebrating the capture of a wild cat. In Kongo, just to touch the skin of a wild cat (zyola mbongi) associates with celebration, for the feline is famous as a mediator between worlds, roaming both forest and village. Kongo noblemen linked themselves with that boundary-crossing power by the wearing of small wild cat aprons (see Thompson 1981 and forthcoming). In Kongo Louisiana, the capture of this animal occasioned strong dancing. These were the moves: rapid stamping, striking of thighs and hands in time, pirouetting solo, and stopping suddenly in a posture of surprise and pleasure (Epstein 1977:43). All four styles point to Kongo, where rapid stamping, called nyema, opens space, as in nyema nzila, "clearing the road." When romance is involved, nyema shows affection for the person you are dancing by: each stamp seals your interest in him or her. Slapping thighs and clapping hands while dancing is patting juba, the black American dance that derives, as we have seen, from nzuba, an identical thigh-slapping game in Kongo. Note creolization of the word: "zuba" becomes "juba." African-Americans, like Bakongo, play it with the entire body. From a notice of dancing in Georgia, dated 1851: "Some one calls for a fiddle—but if one is not to be found someone "pats juber" [sic]. This is done by placing one foot a little in advance of the other, raising the ball of the foot from the ground, and striking it in regular time, while, in connection, the hands are struck slightly together, and then upon the thighs" (Paine 1851:179-80). In around 1876, Lafcadio Hearn heard black roustabouts on the levees of Cincinnati lustily singing, "frequently accompanied with that wonderfully rapid slapping of thighs and hips known as patting juba" (Hearn 1949:224). Slapping thighs was composing time lines, percussion to dance by. Followers of the Kongo classical religion believe that zuba is medicine. Zuba builds confidence through rough forms of massage (zyola); slapping your body, it is argued, deepens aliveness. Thigh-slapping dance also emerged among Kongo-influenced dancers in Lima, Peru (Jack Anderson 2004:E5), and among Angola-influenced martial artists in Bahia, BraziI.6 In Brazil patting juba is called bate coxa. In the United States today it is called hambone—because you are hitting your thigh, your hambone (Collins 1987:9).

Spinning solo in place—pirouetting—is frequent in Kongo, where they call it bangtimuka, "turning," or nzyeta, "turning round." Conceptually a turn "ties a knot" (kanga kolo) in the action, providing punctuation and aesthetic interest. Stopping suddenly, nzengolo (making a "cut") or telama nabyu (suddenly standing), are part of fine dance in Central Africa. The performer cuts her motion with a pose or strong gesture, displaying her control. All this is Kongo, comprehensive and deep. The leader of the dancers on the Ouachita was aware of this: he shouted "Now dance the dance of the Congos." Dancing in circles was observed in 1831 in a field by the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans, at a place the blacks called "the Camp." Here Africans and their friends came together in distinct ethnic groups, gathering under flags of their nations (Joyaux 1956:468.) On May 1, 1808, one Christian Schultz saw twenty different dancing groups in Congo Square, each ensemble performing its own nation dance. The instrumentation of one of the nations included a long narrow drum, two to eight feet in length (Schultz 1810:197); these were ndungu, the long drums of North Kongo, where they were played to stimulate ecstasy (Soderberg 1956:136). The lead dancers gyrating to ndungu drumming in Congo Square wore tails of the smaller wild animals. They were flaunting the spiritual side of their culture. In Kongo, tailed dress represents sacred medicines (nkisi), forest-mediated powers that no one can touch. In flying out when dancers spin round, the tails vaunt protection, for themselves and their people. They augment aliveness. They signify the "mystery of the forest" (mangu dya nfinda).7 On April 11, 1817, a traveler named Gildemeister, from the north German port of Bremen, conversed with a compatriot, J. G. Flugel, while the two were admiring the dancing in Congo Square. Gildemeister told Flugel that three of the blacks in the dancing circle nearest them "were formerly kings or chiefs in Congo." Flugel found this compelling: "I perceive in them a more genteel address. They are richly ornamented and dance extremely well" (Flugel 1924:427; see also p. 432) Whatever their status in America, the three Kongo exiles were noblemen. With richness of bearing and dress they defied their station. With recognized authority they were underlining an imperative of their culture: life cannot be lived unless danced. Intimating similar insights, Johann Buechler, of St. Gall, Switzerland, described another moment in Congo Square, on May 15, 1817: "They dance in the most marvelous way, forming a circle and making on all sides the most wonderful bending gestures with their bodies and their knees" (Epstein 1 977:95)• The dancers mixed strong leans (yekuka) with deep knee bends (fwokama). These went straight into the ring-shouts of later black worship. In the classical religion of Kongo, to bend down while circling is to travel two worlds. When dancers "get down" they surge with the spirit. When they stand up they move as themselves. 139


Rocking the City With That Old Kongo Beat Dena Epstein cites a letter, written in New Orleans in 1819, that includes an intriguing citation: "On Sabbath evening the African slaves meet on the green by the swamp and rock the city with their Congo dances" (ibid.:96). This sets the stage for the attestations of Benjamin Latrobe to what he saw in that very same year. A distinguished architect—he supervised the rebuilding of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., after the War of 1812—Latrobe then came to New Orleans and visited Congo Square. He made superb drawings of African musical instruments played there, including, most dramatically, a stringed instrument with sculpture. From Latrobe's diary entry for February 21, 1819, we learn that "blacks were formed into circular groups in the midst of four of which I examined was a ring, the largest not ten feet in diameter. In the first were two women dancing. They held each a handkerchief extended in the corner of their hands" (Latrobe 1951:49-51). The custom was African. It traveled the Americas. Two black women dance holding white kerchiefs before their bodies in The Old Plantation, a watercolor made in late-eighteenth-century South Carolina (Vlach 1978:24). In Montevideo, Uruguay, in the 1920s, Pedro Figari, an Uruguayan draftsman famous for his attention to black life in that nation, painted a scene of two black women heading a line of mourners bearing the small coffin of a child into a cemetery (Oliver 1984:45). The women danced with cloths extended in both hands; they were clearing the infant's way to glory. The late AfroUruguayan painter Ruben Galloza told me that waving cloths at the head of a procession purified the road, spiritually protecting all followers. Given the clear impact of Kongo on the square bearing its name, it is likely that the two women Latrobe saw dancing were doing more than merely decorating their dance with the sway of their handkerchiefs. They were sweeping problems away (komba mambu), protecting their kinsmen and kinswomen with a gesture the whites could not read. The original rite appears in a drawing of a funeral in Kongo in the late eighteenth century. Just as in New Orleans, women dance in a circle, only here, rather than swaying cloth in front of their bodies, they trail it to drag on the ground. In this variant on the gesture of purification the women are sweeping the arena of all traces of ill will that might have accumulated in the life of the deceased (Thompson 1981:53, fig. 15).

Alternating the edge of the hand and the fingers to extract tonal differences is the mark of the master conga-drummer to this day. Sitting astride the drum and playing it with the hands is ubiquitous too. Latrobe visited another circle, another style of self-actualization. Here women shuffled round the musicians. There was an idiophone (which he drew)—a slit gong struck with a stick. There was a square drum resembling a stool with a leather seat, and a calabash drum beaten by a woman with two short sticks. The calabash drum had a round hole studded with a circle of brass nails. So did the stringed instrument. All of these instruments—the frame drum, the slit gong, and the calabash drum—are known in Kongo. In May 1978, I saw them played, minus the calabash and together with a friction drum, near Tschela in Mayombe country. A human figure, seated with hands on knees, surmounts the neck of the stringed instrument, which resembles a banjo. Bakongo relate this enthroned gesture to peace. The musician wants no fighting around him, no quarrels, no arguments. The presentation of a seated figure with hands on knees or thighs is a call to order: the musician wants listeners to attend to his sound with complete concentration. He is asking for silence like a well-seated elder, who places hands upon thighs just before or after speaking.9 A musician out in the world needs strong protection. Hence a circle of brass nails guards his instrument. Outwardly decorative, shiny bright studs cryptically indicate the flash and the power of lightning... To Bakongo in the audience, then, the figurine on the instrument would convey a strong message: I am a voice of the people. God's lightning will guard me, summoned in the glint of the brass. The woman's calabash drum, similarly circled with brass studs, intuits the same warning. Who knew that this brass-born power would be remembered by black troops liberating bondsmen and -women on plantations during the Civil War, and actually sung about: Don't you see the lightning? It isn't the lightning It's the buttons on the Negro uniforms! [Clinton and Silber 1992:394]

Congo Square Fugitive: A Teke Figurine Representing a Nobleman

Return to Latrobe: The music consisted of two drums and a string instrument. An old man sat astride of a cylindrical drum and beat it with incredible quickness with the edge of his hand and fingers. The other drum was an open staved thing held between the knees and beaten in the same manner. The string instrument was imported no doubt from Africa. On the top of the finger board was the figure of a man in a sitting posture [Kmen 1972:5-16]. 140


Sculpture and dance are multilinked in Kongo. Both share the poses of ecstasy, hands raised on high with fingers widespread. We see uplifted hands in old Kongo funerals (Thompson 1981). We see them again in a ring-shout from the nineteenth century (Thompson 2002:178). Across the Atlantic in the city of Congo Square, we should not be surprised to discover links between the sculpture of Central Africa, as illustrated by this exhibition, and the gestures of New Orleans African-Americans, especially spiritually imbued

members of the Black Hawk religion and the Mardi Gras Indians. Recall the Congo Square stringed instrument bearing the image of a seated figure with his hands on his knees. The pose reappears in the New Orleans museum, in a superb tege or tam a mpu (cat. 8o) from the important Teke civilization in Congo-Brazzaville:. The figure radiates refinement. The term lege" (more commonly teke) identifies the work as a medicated image, to be used in healing and the resolution of problems. "Tara a mpu" means "father of the crown," and the figure wears a towering crest that makes clear his distinction. It communicates power to combat incoherency with a mind that is impartial and strong. This figure is grounded. Everything points to nobility: the dignified spade beard, the strong, spoollike neck, and above all the calm of enthronement. Tara a mpu commands silence. Placing hands on thighs while seated, at the climax of a healing rite or special convocation, he tells the community, Be quiet. Listen for judgment. Slightly different conceptions characterize the pose of a Yaka medicine figure, depicting a woman with hands on her thighs (cat. 82). She does not sit but kneels— a proper attitude when praying to high power. In this context the pose of hands on thighs suggest that her prayer is either over or about to begin. Bishop Efzelda Coleman of New Orleans maintains a beautiful altar to the spirit of the Native American hero Black Hawk. In her church she has seen servitors possessed of the spirit sit with eyes closed, hands on thighs or on the side of the chair:, then they fall into that state their pose is commanding, like that of the little seated figurine drawn by Latrobe, or of the tara a mpu from the northeast of Kongo.

Stand Arms Akimbo and Challenge The World A classic figure in Central African art history stands akimbo to protect and exalt us. This is the Kota

CAT. 8o

mbulu-viti figure from Gabon (cat. 69). Hands on hips, here rendered abstractly as an openwork lozenge, signal aggression, as when Kongo wrestlers stand this way before battling. Hence the sense of one term for the pose: vonganana "to assert oneself, to be somebody, to come on strong" (MacGaffey 1993:44). Fu-Kiau Bunseki cites another term, pakalala. This verb of attitude refers not only to standing in a challenging manner, hands on hips, but also to pricking up one's ears and to unfurling an umbrella, images of readiness and sharpness. The New Orleans mbulu-viti guarded the relics of ancestors with a militant pose which, as a janus, it doubled. It challenged two worlds simultaneously, warding off evil both seen and unseen. A Kuta elder named Kukilinkuba added that mbulu-viti eats simultaneously two kinds of food, chicken (ntusu) for one head, forest game (nyama) for the other (Andersson 1974:163). This restates the theme of liminality, remarking boundaries between forest and village, the quick and the dead. Facing one direction is a male convex face; the other is female and concave. Viti is a variant of vitu, meaning "door, portal, entrance." "Mbulu-viti" literally translates, then, as "forehead of the door," or more loosely "face of the door"—exquisitely appropriate for a guardian of spirits and heritage, standing at the crossroads between the two worlds. The term is conceptually cognate with Yoruba, Edo, ljaw, and other expressions for altar: "the face of the gods." Recall the stringed instrument and calabash drum in Congo Square. Both were caparisoned with a circle of brass studs. The New Orleans mbulu-viti displays brass tacks on both its faces. They are positioned in units of three, multiplying the object's deep power. Thin sheets of brass cover the arms, neck, and head of the mbulu-viti. When these were polished they threw back the light most dramatically. There is a dance implication to this. Informants of Leon Siroto spoke of their fathers dancing the related mbulu-ngulu: "Whoever spoke of this clenched his hand, and made passes back and forth with his arm as if to show how the image was

CAT. 82

CA;. 69




handled" (Siroto 1968:89). These passes would have made the face flash, flaunting its power to bring down the lightning on malefactors. Traces of this belief—that yellow metal flashing, like the sky in a storm, can guard and protect—recur in the black United States. We witnessed a Civil War attestation, about brass buttons and lightning. In New Orleans in the 1940s, wearing copper wire was a guard against illness (Saxon, Dreyer, and Tallant 1945:535)—though that belief has long since intermingled with Western ideas about copper and brass as counters to arthritis. In any event, the spiritual combativeness of mbulu-viti comes clearly across in the spectral flash of its brass and the coded aggression of its arms held akimbo. How do the crescent-form device over the ovalshaped head, and the circle surrounding the head, intersect with spiritual mediation? We have come a long way from the days when scholars misread the abstraction of standing akimbo for a "head over feet." Kuta informants taught them to read it in context, telling them that the basket with relics was "the body" out of which head and torso emerged (Leuzinger 1960:161, citing Andersson 1953). We see a distant reflection of this system of phrasing in the key charm significantly called "pacquet congo" in the vodun religion of Haiti (Metraux 1959:fig. 12): note that between the figure and the bundle is a stylized rendition of arms held akimbo, not unlike mbulu-ngulu. When made under the aegis of the spirits of death, these charms are creolized by the addition of a crucifix. Kuta elders have said that the crescent over the head stands for the moon. There is obviously more to this, with the crescent relating to the full sphere below. In the Musee de Cherbourg Museum in France I found a Kuta image in wood (plate 6)—not plated with brass— that provides a possible Rosetta Stone for deciphering the crescent-over-circle device. Here the crescent surmounts a full circle, without the flat line at the bottom as in the New Orleans mbulu-viti. Both crescent and circle gleam with white clay, which in Central African symbolism immediately relates them to the realm of the ancestors. Further, these gleaming white patterns read as a shining crescent moon poised over a moon that is full and equally luminous. With the help of Bakongo symbolism, in which a crescent opposed to a circle stands for the reappearance (bika) of the moon and the renewal of life (Thompson 1981:51), we now can begin to make sense of this enigmatic icon. The crescent implies the return of the full moon surrounding the face of the image. The message of the icon would therefore run something like this: "I guard the relics of the dead. They seem to have departed, but, like the moon, they will return." All this can be recoded even more radically by drawing a



diamond of renaissance, marking four points of existence: birth, ascendancy, fading, return. Note the openwork diamond, framed by arms akimbo, of mbulu-viti, and the four sectioned areas of the face of other styles of the same kind of icon. Diamond-form patterns guard many houses in black Louisiana. We see them inserted in headstones, too,in the black sections of New Orleans cemeteries (Thompson 1993:79). The combative stance of the mbulu-viti is not restricted to the Kuta. It reaches a climax in Kongo and from there became a powerful African-American stance of assertion. Among African-Americans, to stand with hands on both hips is to voice hauteur or strong attitude. Many black parents reprimand children who stand like this. One mother in Virginia said to her daughter, "I don't care what it is, lir darlin', you stand in that pose—you've lost your case." In New Orleans, standing akimbo brings visions of strength. "Our mother was a powerful woman," Herreast Harrison told me, "and she always stood with her hands on her hips." Herreast added, "People akimbo, you throw them a question, they have an answer, they are always right there with an answer." Her sister Efzelda Coleman concurred, adding, "I like children with sass, children who stand like that." Then she recited a story: a young boy in a black church kept standing up in his pew until his mother shoved him down in his seat. The child, hands on hips, answered with this: "You may be holding me down but I'm standing up on the inside." We leave sass for reverence as we come to a reliquary guardian figure from the Lumbo of Gabon (cat. 71) Where the power of mbulu-viti was bound up in brass and assertiveness, here we find the figure of a woman who, instead of standing akimbo, frames her womb with both hands. The object is a nkhosi, a variant of the word nkosi, meaning lion. This suggests that the collective power in the reliquary bundle over which the figure presides can be instantly present, like a lion. Mbulu-viti marked surveillance at the meeting of two worlds. Nkhosi guards the same boundary, alluding to it by the double-circle earrings she wears. She alludes to her belly as a child's first environment. She warns the community that human actions will influence the development of the embryo, bringing curse or blessing according to the quality of their behavior. She arises from the medicines that ensure this.

A Memorial for Congo Square Percussionists A seated Bembe figure (cat. 79) from northern Kongo holds two bimbi rattles. With flexible limbs and a strong trunk, he displays a remarkable solidity. The porcelain inserts that blaze in his eyes are called "eyes made of quartz" (ngengele za meeso) or "eyes that roll up" (meeso ma senguka), and enable him to localize evil with vision into the "white" world of the dead. The Mu-Kongo scholar Jean Nsonde adds that Bembe "white porcelain

Envoi: Knock Three Times to Bring On the Spirit

CAT. 71

New Orleans at Mardi Gras 2004 brings back the chapters of classical black music: spasm players on Royal Street, bop trombone at the corner of St. Louis and Chartres, acrobats from Guyana and the island of St. Kitts in daredevil pyramids done to taped soca music by Jackson Square:4 There is someone playing blues on harmonica, a swing-era sax, a black man singing gospel with his eyes closed and his hands clasped over his heart-all points along the way to world jazz. Ecstasy empowered the circles of Congo Square. Similar circles burst into being on Washington Avenue on Mardi Gras Day. Here in 1990 Evereast Harrison entered a circle of black maskers among the Guardians of the Flame. Feathers surrounded her. Tambourines stunned her. Shouting and stamping and calling transformed her:

CAT. 79

eyes indicate immediately that the objects are invested with deep spiritual power (ngolo)" (Thompson 2002:42). According to Felipe Garcia Villamil, a leading priest of the Kongo religion in Cuba, an initiate's possession is genuine when only the whites of the eyes show. In African-influenced religious services in New Orleans, initiates taken by the spirit-"falling out" is how it is phrased here-continue the tradition. Thus Bishop Efzelda Coleman comments on spirit possession among the followers of the Black Hawk churches of New Orleans, "There are several ways of'falling out' in New Orleans. Some people close their eyes. Others fall back on the floor, or dance down the aisles. Still others-their eyes roll up, you only see the white of the eyes.",3 Michael P. Smith, in his remarkable book Spirit World: Pattern in Expressive Folk Culture ofAfro-American New Orleans, includes photographs of persons "falling out" in New Orleans (1992:41, 54, 56, 68). Just as white eyes relate spiritual people to sculpture among the Bembe, so the famous New Orleans black faith-healer Mother Catherine Seals, who lived in the lower Ninth Ward before she died, in 1930, made herself a spectacular robe beaded with the image of Jesus armed with a similar optic. Jesus guards her with the spiritual light of his eyes. They blaze with whiteness, like the porcelain eyes of the Bembe (Berry 1995:74). The Bembe figure in cat. 79 awakens his medicine by shaking two bimbi rattles. They activate (dikitisa) the ingredients he was carved to enclose. His crouching position is very close to a gesture Bakongo call sondama, interpreted as stopping for a second to think out one's strategy. It associates with people who are rapid and bold, who think out solutions and then immediately go into action (Thompson 2002:121). This fine rattle-player makes an appropriate memorial for all those who played percussion in Congo Square. They moved, as he moves, to a rhythmized philosophy. This led to the spasm bands and then the jazz battery, to Baby Dodds and Max Roach and beyond.

When I entered the dance circle I felt the full power, the essence of who I am. Ninety percent of New Orleans would not understand. I was forever transformed. I have a greater reverence for everything African, who I am as a person. I am black. I have suffered. I didn't like myself. But now I do love myself:5

1. Bishop Efzelda Coleman, interview with the author, New Orleans, February 21, 2004. 2. Fu-Kiau Bunseki, interview with the author, February 4, 2004. 3. Ibid. 4- Al Kennedy, e-mail communication with the author, March 16, 2004. I thank Al Kennedy for spectacular colleagueship. 5. Donald Harrison, interview with the author, New Orleans, January 1991. 6. Bira Almeida, personal communication with the author, San Francisco, June 1984. 7. Fu-Kiau Bunseki, personal communication with the author, January 20, 2004. 8. Ruben Galloza, interview with the author, Barrio Sur, Montevideo, March 1997. 9. Fu-Kiau Bunseki, interview with the author, February 15, 2004. 10. Ibid. 11. For more on the style of this figure see Marie-Claude Dupre and Etienne Feau, Bateke: Peintres et sculpteurs dAfrique centrale (Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux, 1996), pp. 146-47. 12. Coleman, personal communication with the author, February 25, 2004. 13. Coleman, interview with the author, New Orleans, February 21, 2004. 14. It is interesting that as long ago as 1947 the vicinity of Jackson Square was "the scene of stunts," presumably acrobatic. See Tallant 1947:75. 15. Evereast Harrison, interview with the author, New Orleans, February 21, 2003. Photos: Ian Churchill, 2004, plates 1-5. Photo: Robert Farris Thompson, plate 6.


CONTRIBUTORS has taught African Art History at James Madison University, and is currently a Visiting Scholar with Indiana University's African Studies Program. She has conducted field research on Bamana and Fulbhe (Peul) aesthetics, and on African textiles in Mali, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zambia. Author of Nakunte Diarra: Bogolanfini Artist ofthe Beledougou, she is preparing a manuscript on the history of indigo dyeing in Guinea. TAVY D. AHERNE

MARTHA G. ANDERSON, a professor of art history at Alfred University, has conducted extensive fieldwork among the Central and Western Ijo of Nigeria. She has been active in organizing several exhibitions, and has co-authored two major exhibition catalogues, Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness and Ways of the Rivers: Arts and Environment of the Niger Delta. Her current research focuses on archival photographs from the Niger Delta, including the work of the lbani Ijo photographer J. A. Green.

is the Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and is author of among other texts: Art of the Senses: Masterpiecesfrom the William and Bertha Teel Collection (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2004 — Editor); Butabu: Adobe Architecture in West Africa, James Morris photographer (Princeton Architectural Press 2003); Royal Arts of Africa (Prentice Hall 1998); African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power. (University of Chicago Press 1995); The Anatomy of Architecture: Ontology and Metaphor in Satammaliba Architectural Expression (University of Chicago Press 1987). SUZANNE PRESTON B LI ER

ARTHUR BOURGEOIS is Professor of Art History at Governors State University, University Park, Illinois. He has written extensively on the art of the Yaka and Suku of Southwestern Congo. He is author of Art of the Yaka and Suku and Iconography of Religions VII, The Yaka and Suku and more recently Remnants of Ritual co-authored with Scott Rodolitz. ELZE BRUYNINX, who has been with the University of Ghent since 1970, wrote her doctoral dissertation on the brass art of the Dan and the We (Ivory Coast-Liberia). She has been head of the Department of Ethnic Art at her alma mater since 1991. BOLA)! CAMPBELL teaches African and African Diaspora Art at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence RI. He is the author of numerous essays on sacred and secular paintings in Nigeria. In addition to curating works of other artists, he has participated in over 24 group shows in Nigeria, Britain, Canada, Germany and the USA. AMANDA CARLSON is Assistant Professor in African Art History at University of Hartford in Connecticut. She has conducted field research in Eastern Nigeria since 1990 focusing on an indigenous writing system, known as nsibidi. Her other topics of research include contemporary African art, photography, women's masquerades, and the Igbo Diaspora in Florida. She recently produced an interactive video installation about an Ejagham skin-covered mask for the Cleveland Museum of Art. HERBERT M. COLE is Professor Emeritus of African Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Considered the preeminent scholar on the Igbo peoples of Nigeria, he has written, co-authored or edited eight books on African art, and is the recipient of the ACASA Leadership award at the 2001 Triennial Symposium.

is Associate Curator of African Art at the Samuel P. Ham n Museum of Art, University of Florida. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa, conducting her doctoral research in Toussiana in 1997, and 1998-99. SUSAN COOKSEY

WILLIAM J. DEWEY teaches African Art History in The School of Art at the University of Tennessee. Since 1983, when he conducted dissertation fieldwork in Zimbabwe focusing on Shona blacksmiths, he has visited and interviewed blacksmiths in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Zambia, Mozambique, Mali, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Madagascar. A recreation of traditional Shona iron smelting is featured in his 1990 video, Weaponsfor the Ancestors. He is also the author of several catalogues such as Sleeping Beauties and The World Moves, We Follow: Celebrating African Art. KATE EZRA is Coordinator of Art History at Columbia College Chicago and was Associate Curator of African Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over ten years. She is author of Art ofthe Dogon: Selectionsfrom the Lester Wunderman Collection, Metropolitan Museum ofArt, 1988, as well as publications on the art of the Bamana people of Mali and the Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria. WILLIAM A. FAGALY is the Francoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art, where he has held various positions, including the curator of contemporary American self-taught art and the assistant director for art, since 1966. Fagaly has served as curator of more than seventy-five art exhibitions including Shapes ofPower, Belief and Celebration: African Artfrom New Orleans Collections (1989) and the Corcoran Biennial of American Painting in Washington, D. C. (1989), and most recently, Tools of Her Ministry: The Art of Sister Gertrude Morgan at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. (2004

is Curator of African and Oceanic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has conducted extensive research in the Grassfields region of Cameroon and is the author of several books and many articles about the arts of the Grassfields and the history of photography in Africa. CHRISTRAUD M. GEARY

EMILY G. HANNA is Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Her most recent exhibition is entitled Transformed by Fire: African Ceramic and Iron Arts from the Mortimer B. and Sue Fuller Collection. She is currently working on a traveling exhibition of Bwa art based on her doctoral dissertation and ongoing research in Burkina Faso. FRANK HERREMAN, Director of Exhibitions at the Museum for African Art between July 1995 and January 2004, was formerly Associate Director of the Historical Museums of the City of Antwerp. He curated numerous exhibitions of African art including Face ofthe Spirits; Masksfrom the Zaire Basin, 1994; Hair in African Art and Culture (co-curated with Roy Sieber) and In the Presence ofSpirits: Selectionsfrom the National Museum of Ethnology, Lisbon, z000; Liberated Voices: Contemporary Artfrom South Africa, 2000; Facing the Mask, 2002; Material Differences; Art and Identity in Africa, 2003. Mr. Herreman has lectured and published extensively on African art including an essay in the Royal Academy's major catalogue, Africa: the Art ofa Continent, 1996. WYATT MAcGAFFEY, Emeritus

Professor of Anthropology, Haverford College, has written a number of studies of Central African history, social organization, religion and art, focused mainly on the Kongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His is currently conducting research in Ghana.



is professor in the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Fullerton, and a consulting editor of African Arts. He taught at the University of Lagos in 1973-75, and at the University of Benin in 1975-1989. He specializes in the art iconography, ritual, and material culture of the Benin kingdom. A particular focus of his recent research is in the metal castings of Benin, Nigeria.



Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Amherst College, pursued extensive field studies in Yoruba religion and art between 1970 and 1992 in southwestern Nigeria. He co-authored with H.). Drewal and R. Abiodun, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (1989) and Yoruba Art and Aesthetics (1992); co-authored with F. Afobayan, Yoruba Sacred Kingship: A Power Like That of the Gods (1996). MANUEL A. JORDAN PtREZ is Curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University. He is considered a leading authority on the arts and culture of Angolan and Zambian peoples, having conducted fieldwork and research among them as a graduate student and later as curator of a major exhibition on the Chokwe peoples. LOUIS PERROIS is an ethnologist specialized in the traditional arts of Central Africa. He was director of research and lecturer at the Sorbonne, conducted field research for over twenty years in Gabon and from 1965 in Cameroon. Among his numerous published books, articles, catalogues, and studies are those on the arts of the Ogooue basin and the Cameroon Grassland. Now retired, he is consulted by European and American museums specializing in the traditional arts of Africa.

is Associate Curator of African Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Assistant Professor of Art History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of South ofthe Sahara: Selected Works ofAfrican Art, published in conjunction with the re-installation of the permanent gallery of African art at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2003.


is Professor in UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures and Director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center. He is the author of several major NEH-funded exhibition books, including The Rising ofa New Moon: A Century of Tabwa Art (1985) and Animals in African Art: From the Familiar to the Marvelous (1995). His most recent exhibition and book entitled A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003), co-authored and co-curated with Mary Nooter Roberts. Dr. Roberts spent four consecutive years conducting field research among Tabwa peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has written extensively on their arts and culture. ALLEN F. ROBERTS

MARY NOOTER ROBERTS is Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. She served for ten years as Senior Curator at the Museum for African Art in New York, where she conceived and curated several acclaimed exhibitions and accompanying books, including Secrecy: African Art That Conceals and Reveals (1993), and Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996). She has conducted extensive fieldwork among Luba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and archival research in Belgium.

DORAN H. ROSS served as Deputy Director and Curator of African Collections at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History from 1981 to 1996 and as its Director from 1996 to 2001 when he retired. He is the author or editor of four books on the Akan of Ghana, the most recent of which is Akan Goldfrom the Glasse!! Collection (The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2002). CHRISTOPHER D. ROY is Professor and The Elizabeth M. Stanley Faculty Fellow of African Art History at the University of Iowa. He has been conducting research in Africa since 1966, focusing on the peoples of Burkina Faso where he was director of the National Art Center while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1970-72. He has published extensively on the art of Burkina Faso, and has organized exhibitions in France, Germany, Austria and China. His most recent research has been carried out on Fulbe performance art in northern Burkina Faso, Bono royal arts in Techiman, Ghana, and the famous panos textiles of Cabo Verde.

is Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He lived and worked in Liberia for more than ten years where he established the Africana Museum at Cuttington University College and coordinated the rebuilding of the National Museum of Liberia and the development of its collections under a Fulbright grant. He has conducted field research in virtually all areas of Liberia as well as in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone. He has also worked on museum development programs in Gabon, Sao Tome and Guyana. WILLIAM SIEGMANN

ROBERT FARRIS THOMPSON, the Colonel John Trumbull Professor of History of Art at Yale University, teaches courses on and continues to explore the art and cultural influences of Black Africa and the Black African Diaspora across the Atlantic. Included among his numerous publications are Face of the Gods, written and curated for the Museum in 1993; African Art in Motion, 1974; Black Gods and Kings, 1971; and Le Geste Kongo, 2002. JEROME VOGEL, Deputy

Director of the Museum for African Art, has been involved with Cote d'Ivoire since he first taught at the University of Abidjan in 1964. As head of the Drew in West Africa Program he teaches a course on Baule art and culture in the Baule region each year.

ROSLYN ADELE WALKER has been the Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas and the Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art since 2003. She was formerly a curator and later director of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, where she organized several exhibitions, including Olowe of Ise: A Yoruba Sculptor to Kings that received the Best Overall Exhibition and Best Exhibition Concept recognition at the 1999 Smithsonian Exhibition Awards. HANS WITTE was the curator of the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal during the 19705 and taught religious and cultural anthropology at the State University of Groningen during the 19805. He has published five books and numerous catalogues and articles, mainly on Yoruba iconography. His latest book is A Closer Look: Local Styles in the Yoruba Art Collection ofthe Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal (2004)•



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Robert Rubin Treasurer Veronica Pollard Secretary

Enid Schildkrout, Chief Curator Laurie Ann Farrell, Curator Giacomo Mirabella, Registrar Carol Braide, Publications Manager Frank Herreman, Curatorial Consultant

Corice Canton Arman Lawrence Benenson Edward Dandridge Arnold Donald Irwin Ginsburg Dr. Andreas Lindner William Lynch, Jr. Rosemary Nelson Bruce Saber Hiroshi Tada Dennis D. Swanson John Tishman Phyllis Woolley-Roy Jason H. Wright James J. Ross Life Trustee


Margaret Donaldson, Senior Development Officer EDUCATION

Heidi Holder, Director of Education Francis Estrada, Museum Educator, School and Public Programs FINANCE

Andrei Nadler, Controller OPERATIONS

Lawrence Ekechi, Security Yensi Martinez, Security Winston Rodney, Security Winston M. Rodney, Security RETAIL

Clement Coulibaly, Sales Associates Cheick Cisse, Sales Associates Lawrence Kendle, Stock Shipping



Nancy Clipper Sail-Yvette Davis Sandra Dickerson Karen Guzman Dulce Holley Shalewa Mackall LewEleanor McNeely Cherry Morgan Jeane Nedd Yvonne Rabsatt Tanya Serdiuk Paul Weidner Claude L. Winfield Lisa Yancowski



E. John Bullard, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director Jacqueline L. Sullivan, Deputy Director Clem Goldberger, Assistant Directorfor Development Steven Maklansky, Assistant Directorfor Art and Curator of Photographs Allison Reid, Assistant Directorfor Education Kathy Alcaine, Curator of Education Karen Allen, Activities Coordinator Michelle Broussard, Senior Development Associate for Marketing Beth Casanova, Controller Rita Case, Volunteer Coordinator Aisha Champagne, Graphics Coordinator Eloise Chopin, Public Information Officer Victoria Cooke, Curator of European Painting Judy Cooper, Photographer Marilyn Dittmann, Exhibitions Coordinator Joan Gondron, Computer Coordinator Pat Eppling, Development Associate for Special Events William A. Fagaly, The Franfoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art Michael Guidry, Assistant Registrar Jonn Hankins, Principal Development Associatefor Corporate and Community Affairs Jimmy Jeffrey, Sculpture Garden Manager John W. Keefe, The RosaMary Foundation Curator of The Decorative Arts Tracy Kennan, Curator of Public Programs Melody Kirkwood, Development Associate for NVC Fund Raising Mariz Longoria, courtyard cafe Manager Wanda O'Shello, Publications Coordinator/Arts Quarterly Editor Patricia Pecoraro, Curator of Exhibitions Daniel Piersol, The Doris Zemurray Stone Curator of Prints and Drawings Norbert Raacke, Libranian Lisa E. Rotondo-McCord, Curator of Asian Art Annie Schroeder, Public Relations Officer Suzanne Seybold, Principal Development Associatefor Membership Molly St. Paul, Volunteer Coordinator Paul Tarver, Registrar Patricia Trautman, Museum Shop Manager Milton Vinnett, Building Superintendent/Chief Engineer Alice Rae Yelen, Assistant to the Director



Profile for The Africa Center

Resonace from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art  

Resonance from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art features approximately 100 works of art from the New Orleans M...

Resonace from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art  

Resonance from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art features approximately 100 works of art from the New Orleans M...