Monday, November 05, 2012

African Art Highlights Fall 2012


Ht. 38 1/2"
Asante, Ghana
"Ntan (en-tan) bands were popular among the Asante peoples of Ghana between 1920s and 1950s. They performed on occasions such as naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals and traditional festivals—any event where entertainment was needed. This is in contrast to other musical instruments and performances that were reserved for the court. The term ntan (meaning “bluff” in Twi) does not refer to the drum itself, but rather to the entire event that featured music and the display of carved figurative sculptures representing the chief, queen mother and members of the court. Reflecting the colonial presence of the times on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), the sculptural entourage also included figures of colonial officers. " National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
Bronze Pendant
Ht. 6 3/4"
Benin, Nigeria
In Benin the number three is associated with otherworldly powers. U-shaped waist pendants depicting the oba supported by two attendants were worn in sets of three by the oba and certain high-ranking officials. The abundant coral regalia worn by the oba, at center, identify him with Olokun, the god of the waters.  The supernaturally charged stone bead (ivie egbo), worn at his chest, signifies his legitimacy.
ex Jay Last Collection, Beverly Hills, CA.

Diam. 11'
Eket, Nigeria
"The Eket are really a subgroup of the Ibibio, and their history is best described in that context. The Ibibio have lived in the Cross River area of modern day Nigeria for several hundreds of years, and though written information about them only exists in colonial records from the late 1800s on, oral traditions have them in the region much earlier than this. The Ibibio were very resistant to colonial invasions, and it was not until after the end of World War I that the British were able to gain a strong foothold in the region. Even at this time, however, the British found it necessary to incorporate Ibibio Ekpo traditions in order to impose indirect rule in the region.  The masks and accouterments of the Ekpo society make up the greatest works of art in Ibibio society. Drumming and music are also important elements in Ekpo ceremonies. The wooden sculpture from this area is often very detailed, and artists are just as likely to capture beauty as they are the hideous forms of evil spirits."


Hombo mask
Ht. 10"
Bwa, Burkina Faso
This mask with sacrificial patine has a center semi circular shaped crest mounted on the forehead and extending over the face terminating at the mouth. This crest represents the comb of a rooster.  The ears are triangular and have feline characteristics. The eyes are outlined by concentric circles and are connected by horizontal parallel lines. The mouth is open with teeth bared. A stylized rectangular element extends from the chin. This is a very fine old mask that has great balance and elegance. Considering the age and use this piece is in very fine condition. These mask reptresented the spirit of Hombo that helped the blacksmiths. Sacrifices were made to the masks.
Cf: Art of the Upper Volta Rivers, Roy, 1987, plate 231 

H -65,1/4inches, W- 17inches D- 11, 1/2 inches
Arussi, Ethiopia
These are erected in South and South central Ethiopia as a memorials to distinguished ancestors, among few ethnic groups, this type being Arussi. There are also various other erected stone memorials, like phallic "Konchi" stones, abstract "Konso" stone carvings, or older stelae, commemorating battle or significant event. As far as I know they where first published in 1952, or so, in an Italian book "My 7 Years Travel Through Abyssinia". After that they where extensively photographed since late 1960's, and published in his books by Swiss Ethiopian studies pioneer- Georg Gerster.  (see "Athiopien- Das Dach Afrikas", 1974, (Zurich) I have done analysis of the soft material they are carved of, by a geologist. It appears to be sedimentary volcanic stone, a porous stone sediment found by river beds trough-out the rift valley. Number of these and other stones where collected in, 70's and 80's by the Institute of Ethiopian studies, and a number by two South African collectors.
Milos Simovic, New York 1999.
German Private collection, Slavka, Jovan Jelovac, Diseldorff, 1987
South African Private Collection, Johanesburg, before 1980
Exhibited- Johanesburg National Gallery 1984 
Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia, Houston Museum of Natural Science 2008

Wedding Hat
Diam. 21"
Zulu, Kwa-zulu, South Africa
c. late 19th century
Cotton, human hair, red ochre over grass-fiber basketry frame
These Zulu hats were presented to a woman at her wedding. As a married woman she would keep this throughout her life and it would only be worn during ceremonial occasions..
Neckrest Dance staff
Ht. 3" W. 20 3/4"
Zulu, South Africa
Early 20th century

Ht. 8"
Makonde, Tanzania
Private Collection Missouri
"The art of the Makonde must be subdivided into different areas. The Makonde traditionally carve household objects, figures and masks. After the 1930s, the Portuguese colonizers and other missionaries arrived at the Makonde plateau. They immediately showed great interest and fascination for the Makonde wood carvings and began to order different pieces, from religious until political “eminences.” The Makonde sculptors, after noticing such interest, decided to carve the new pieces using pau-preto (ebony wood, Diospyros ebenum) and pau-rosa (Swartzia spp.) instead of the soft and non long-lasting wood they had used before. This first contact with the Western culture can be considered to be the first introduction of the classical European style into the traditional Makonde style.Since the 1950s years the socalled Modern Makonde Art has been developed. An essential step was the turning to abstract figures, mostly spirits, Shetani, that play a special role." Wikepedia

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