Thursday, May 31, 2012

Illustrations from Excerpt of "House at Sugar Beach," 2008



These two illustrations, by Laura Carlin, accompanies an excerpt from New York Times journalist Helene Cooper's House at Sugar Beach, and appeared in the NYT Magazine a few months before its September, 2008 publication.

Ms. Carlin was younger than 30 when these works appeared in the Sunday magazine. Although much in keeping with Ms. Carlin's extensive oeuvre, her illustrative style, childlike in its frenetic linework yet hauntingly moody holds an unmistakable kinship (though not patronizingly imitation) of contemporary African graphic art, with elastic interpretations of scale and perspective. The collage of objects, some seemingly plastered from, its fitting to imagine, newspaper clippings, power the works with contextual and visual depth, drawing the eye into their shadows from the flat plains of the water and scratched ground and cloudy, crayon-like skies, surrounded by transparent, hurried outlines of ships, palm trees, and figures.

This all makes Ms. Carlin's pieces a serendipitous match for Ms. Cooper's narrative of list childhood roots and connections, both in her own account, and beyond that countless horrors of the War, so many of which remain untold either in word or art.

And yes, I love that there are Pan Am jets.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Looks Like Liberian Art, Is not Liberian Art

In April the excellent website African Digital Art featured the graphic design work featured in the opening credits of the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The illustrations are the work of Olaf Hajek, a Berlin-based artist. 


I was a bit surprised by this-- I had noticed the very atmospheric artwork in the film's opening, but hadn't thought afterwards about the artist. I had presumed that a local Liberian artist had done the work--especially given how quintessentially local the art evidently is. 










But it is not a local, Liberian artist. Instead, this is the work of a Dane, Olaf Hajek. As is so often the case, the sentiment is best encapsulated in the comments section of the ADA post, from an African Digital Art visitor named "Lars:"
Nice visuals, but they bordering on a rip-off of local artists work. Why not use a Liberian artist? There are plenty of capable billboard and cartoon artists in Liberia who have emerged in recent years to become artists of international standards. In fact pic #2 is lifted from an anti-rape billboard still visible in Monrovia. The producers would have done better to use photographs of actual street art, rather than pay a European to cut and paste them under his name. This is not xenophobia, its simply common courtesy to offer a shot to local talent who have survived the hell portrayed in this film, and now struggle to make a decent living.  What a shame. Opportunities like this to do right by local artists do not come by too often.


Via the BBC, above is that anti-rape billboard, which is prominently situated on Tubman Boulevard near the Airfield. Veteran Monrovian ex-pat Chris Herwig's Flickr photo stream has several more images of it, ©2007. As you can see, the pair is indeed copied entirely: even the color of the clothing has not been changed by the Danish drawer. I would be interested to investigate the professional disposition of Hajek in this situation: would Hajek have so readily reproduced an exact copy of a fellow European's handiwork? Does he not recognize this (unfortunately nameless) Liberian artist as having equal creative protections other artists' work? 


Completely aside from that issue, Lars is totally right, what a shame in terms of missed professional opportunity. Despite a handful of individual, noteworthy talents, the contemporary Liberian art scene is moribund, restricted by a dearth of patrons, supporters, and venues outside of a tiny clientele for paintings and woodwork, and the occasional commercial opportunity such as a billboard or sign. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Highlights of the African Art Auction at Sotheby's, 11 May 2012 (2 of 2 Posts)

The second of two posts highlighting some of the gorgeous rare African art for sale on 11 May at Sotheby's in New York, including some masterpieces of several cultural groups, including a Dan container (Lot 113) and a Senufo Bird (Lot 196) from Cote D'Ivoire and a Mumuye figure (Lot 122) from Nigeria (see this 2011 post for other, similar examples of Mumuye art), as well as incredible pieces from Gabon (Lots 129 & 132) and stately Bamana (Lot 193) and Dogon (Lot 126) pieces from Mali.

Also below are some beautiful gems from less-commonly seen art traditions, including the grasslands of Cameroon (Lot 121), an amazing Zulu head-rest (Lot 178), and an elephant ivory scepter from DR Congo (Lot 194)--all three mesmerizing as abstract forms as much as fine cultural craft objects. 

The full online catalog of this auction is available at Sotheby's website. As can be seen below, several of these amazing works did not sell at all, while a few others blew pasts their estimates. 


LOT 113 DAN RITUAL CONTAINER IN SHAPE OF A RAM, IVORY COAST
ESTIMATE US$40,000-60,000 USD Lot Sold: US$68,500


CATALOGUE NOTE
Amongst the rarest objects produced by Dan artists are containers in the shape of a ram. Apart from the offered lot, only one other example is recorded in the Ethnografische Verzamelingen of Ghent University in Belgium (Yale Van Rijn archive inv. no. "0123784").
Little is known about the function of these containers. Both containers have a worn surface on top. For the Ghent example the hypothesis has been suggested that it might have served as stool or neckrest. In general, both works seem too large for neckrests. While their sizes and general shape would not be uncommon for stools (cf. one previously in the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, Sotheby's New York, May 15, 2009, lot 42), they seem too refined for an object of daily use. Instead, it is conceivable to locate their function in a ritual context. This hypothesis is further supported by traces of palm oil on the offered lot's surface. 


LOT 116 BAULE GONG BEATER, IVORY COAST
ESTIMATE US$5,000-7,000





LOT 119 WE (NGERE) MASK, GERE SUBGROUP, IVORY COAST
ESTIMATE US$40,000-60,000 Lot Sold: US$59,375 



CATALOGUE NOTE
The present mask, illustrated alongside the essay on Dada and Surrealism on the occasion of William Rubin's 1984 monograph "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: Affinities of the Tribal and the Modern, is a conceptual masterpiece of Guere art. In her recent study on We and Guere masks, Marie-Noël Verger-Fèvre (2005: 111) identifies it as either war (te'e gla) or wisdom (gla kla'a) mask. According to this study (loc. cit.: 107-108), the war mask "belongs to the category of great masks by virtue of its age and of its importance in the lineage to which it belongs. This mask once played a prominent role in We lineages because it intervened in matters of tribal warfare, which was widespread before the arrival of European colonials. [...] The great mask of wisdom, gla kla'a, appears in public on rare and solemn occasions. It is present at commemorative ceremonies and the funerary rites of important individuals and high Gla dignitaries. It also appears once every decade or so, apparently for the singular purpose of exhibiting it. Whenever it appears, the full procession of masks takes place before it." 





LOT 120 NUNUMA CROCODILE MASK, BURKINA FASO
ESTIMATE US$20,000-30,000 
  
LOT 121 CAMEROON GRASSLANDS BELLOWS, CAMEROON
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ERIC EDWARDS, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$7,000-10,000 Lot Sold: US$7,500


LOT 122 MUMUYE ANCESTOR FIGURE, NIGERIA
ESTIMATE US$40,000-60,000 Lot Sold: US$110,500 


CATALOGUE NOTE
Mumuye figures represent the human form with strikingly abstract elongated shapes, ingeniously playing upon positive and negative space with openwork subtraction from a columnar whole. Kerchache (1988: 546) notes: "[Mumuye] statuary does not depict ancestors but rather incarnates tutelary spirits. Yet, statues reinforce the status and prestige of their owner who, as he holds them in his hands, has a dialogue with them and thus ensures his personal protection."
For a closely related figure see Leuzinger (1985: pl. 72b).


LOT 128 YORUBA-OWO IVORY ORNAMENT, NIGERIA
Made of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) ivory, with Coconut shell inlay.
ESTIMATE US$100,000-150,000 Lot Sold: US$254,500 




CATALOGUE NOTE
In his discussion of the offered lot on the occasion of the exhibition Africa, The Art of a Continent at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Ekpo Eyo (in Phillips 1995: 138) noted: "Among the Owo-Yoruba, a red costume (orufaran) is worn by the highest ranking chiefs as a priviledge granted by the king (olowo). [...] It consists of a top shirt made of imported red flannel that is scalloped to resemble the scales of an anteater or pangolin. Like the scales of a pangolin, the costume protects its wearer from harm by rendering him invulnerable. Sewn onto the scalloped shirt are a series of carved ivory ornaments (omama) depicting powerful animals such as the ram, crocodile, leopard, or horse. [...] The ram omama shown here, one of a pair (the other is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York [inv. no. "1991.17.123"]), probably came from the orufaran of the chief (ojomo) of Ijebu quarter, originally located on the outskirts of Owo town proper. [...] If he inherited the costume from the first ojomo, Oladipe, then it can be dated to the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The pair of omama were very likely made by the same carver."
Drewal (in Ross 1992, p. 199) continues: "Together with the elephant, the ram is the most important totem among the Yoruba. It is a sign of the preeminent power and aggressiveness of one who tolerates no rival." 


LOT 129 FANG ARMLET MASK, GABON
FROM THE COLLECTION OF CECILLE & MICHAEL PULITZER, SANTA BARBARA
ESTIMATE US$7,000-10,000     
LOT 132 MAHONGWE RELIQUARY FIGURE, GABON
ESTIMATE US$30,000-50,000 Lot Sold: 62,500

LOT 134 KWELE ANTELOPE MASK, REPUBLIC OF CONGO
ESTIMATE US$150,000-250,000



CATALOGUE NOTE
Museum, London (Trowell and Nevermann 1968: 70); a third in the Musée Dapper, Paris (collected by Aristide Courtois before 1938, Falgayrettes-Leveau 1995: 61); a fourth in the Kulturen Museum, Lund (inv. no. "51.467.113"); and a fifth in the Etnografiscka Museum, Gothenburg (Leuzinger 1970: 241, pl. Q 9).
Kwele antelope are exceedingly rare. Several related masks are recorded in important museum collections: one in the Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva (inv. no. "1019-49", Schmalenbach 1988: 210, cat. 127); a second in the in the British
Hahner-Herzog (1998: text to cat. 69) notes: "The rare masks of the Kwele, a little-investigated ethnic group of northeast Gabon and the adjacent area of the Republic of Congo, are associated with the Bwete association, which maintains social order. The masks are also used in initiation rites and at the end of periods of mourning. Representing benevolent forest spirits, they have zoomorphic or anthropomorphic traits, or a combination of the two. The faces are usually painted in white kaolin earth, a pigment associated by the Kwele with light and clarity, the two essential factors in the fight against evil."
Discussing the aforementioned Barbier-Mueller mask, she continues: "The rare Kwele masks with vertically projecting horns exhibit a range of stylistic differences. Some examples, such as the one illustrated here and those in Göteborg and London depict antelopes."



LOT 136 DOGON RITUAL OBJECT, MALI
MINIATURE SCULPTURE FROM THE COLLECTION OF MARTIN AND ROBERTA LERNER
ESTIMATE US$8,000-12,000

CATALOGUE NOTE    
This fine figural-architectural sculpture features a seated figure above a tall flat form, with geometric
openwork, resembling the hilt of a knife. Several related works are known: 
see one in the Seattle Art Museum (inv. no. "67.53"); and another offered at Sotheby's Paris, December 5, 2003, lot 112. All share in common small pieces of metal which preclude the presence of a blade where it would be expected, and indeed seem too thin and broad to be handles. These metal pieces were seemingly for the addition of an unknown attachment though none with any such attachment is known. Although the specific use of this enigmatic object remains a mystery, the layered patina attests to its function within sacred ceremonies, as the refined quality of the sculpture does to its ritual importance. 


LOT 175 NGOMBE STOOL, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
ESTIMATE US$8,000-12,000 Lot Sold: US$8,125 
LOT 178 ZULU NECKREST, SOUTH AFRICA
ESTIMATE US$6,000-9,000


LOT 191 BEMBE JANUS HELMET MASK FOR THE ALUNGA SOCIETY, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO echawokaba/echwaboga. 
ESTIMATE US$40,000-60,000 Lot Sold: US$50,000



CATALOGUE NOTE
Discussing a related mask in the Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva, Hahner-Herzog (1998: text to cat. 96) notes: "This mask represents a type of mask which, according to the Bembe, goes back to the Bahonga, a hunting and gathering people whose collecting of honey is said to have been done under the tutelage of this mask. With the Bembe it is called ibulu lya alunga or echwaboga, represents a bush spirit (m'ma mwitu), and belongs to the accessories of the hierarchically ordered Alunga men's association. The mask is used during acceptance ceremonies for new, usually young members, as well as in hunting rites. For public appearances the carved helmet is decorated with an elaborate headdress of feathers and porcupine (ehala) quills, and a neck fringe of fibers. The dancer is clad in a multilayered fiber costume (asamba). These impressive Alunga masks are invariably conceived in the form of cylindrical helmets with two, as it were, Janus faces, whose black rhombic or cross-shaped eyes with protruding pupils are set in large oval hollows painted white. Due to these striking facial features the masks have been interpreted as representing owls, with which the masqueraders in fact occasionally identify. In addition, the two faces are intended to invoke the all-seeing nature of the mask spirit, a capacity which enables him to reconcile the opposing forces of nature, such as male/female or day/night." 


LOT 193 BAMANA OR MANINKA HELMET MASK, MALI
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ZAFRIRA AND ITZHAK SHOHER, TEL AVIV
ESTIMATE US$25,000-35,000 Lot Sold: US$26,875 



CATALOGUE NOTE
(1995: 60). Another closely related mask, also previously owned by the Carlebachs, is in the Menil Collection in Houston (inv. no. "X 0039"). Describing that example, Malé (in Van Dyke 2008: 62) notes: "In the context of initiation, its role is evoked by the phrase ba kara misi; according to Youssouf Tata Cissé, quoted in Tal Tamari (2001: 101- 102), 'this designation is composed of ba (mother, basis) and kara (perfect circle, creation spirit, divine spirit); one could translate this expression as foundational circles symbolizing the divine spirit [...]. Accordingly, the various elements of the misikun mask seek this formal perfection."
For a closely related domed, horned, faceted helmet mask in the Musée Dapper, Paris, see Falgayrettes-Leveau 
He continues: "The misikun mask is attached to a wearable marionette in an ensemble worn by two performers. [...] When it appears on the scene, the misiba [cow] walks around the area with a serene, graceful gait, and then stops in the middle of the village. During this promenade the shepherd raises and lowers the stick like a rider encouraging his steed. When the marionette stops moving, the young women intone the popular song "Misiba", composed in honor of generous men. The misiba symbolizes generosity among the Bamana and Maninka. [...] The performance teaches the duty of protecting those who are generous. Whereas the mask represents simply a bovid, the marionette evokes a more specific contribution of ploughing cattle to the local agriculture production; through other songs, tribute is paid to their labor." 

LOT 194 LEGA IVORY SCEPTER, DEM. REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) ivory. 
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ZAFRIRA AND ITZHAK SHOHER, TEL AVIV
ESTIMATE US$6,000-9,000
   
LOT 196 SENUFO BIRD STATUE, IVORY COAST
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ZAFRIRA AND ITZHAK SHOHER, TEL AVIV
ESTIMATE US$70,000-100,000 Lot Sold: US$86,500 



CATALOGUE NOTE
Koulotiolo, creator of the world, a distant and inaccessible diety. On the other hand, the mother of the village, Katieleo, regenerates the world and redeems humankind through the initiation rites of the poro. [...] A male villager who has not been initiated will be excluded from the village and will lose his rights as a citizen."
According to Kerchache (1988: 512) for the Senufo, the poro association "[...] is the pillar of communal life. Responsible for the initiation and training of the young boys, it is aimed at shaping an accomplished, social man who is integrated into the collective; it aids his entry into public responsibilities. [...] The Senufo believe in a god, 
Garrard (in Phillips 1996: 457) notes: "In former times many of the men's secret Poro societies in the Senufo region owned a large standing sculpture of a bird. This statue, kept in the sacred forest, was used in the rites for the admission of initiates to the final phase of training. It generally had a hollowed base, which permitted it to be carried on the head of an initiate. Some examples also have holes in the wings, through which cords were passed to steady the bird when carried. [...] Older Senufo [...] usually name it as sejen or fijen [...] a term that simply means 'the bird'. The significance of this bird is indicated more clearly by two other names. It is sometimes called kasingele, 'the first ancestor', which may refer either to the mythological founder of the human race or to the ancestral founder of the sacred forest. Alternatively, it is named poropia nong, which means literally 'mother of the Poro child'. The statue is thus a primary symbol of the Poro leadership, indicating the authority of its elders."
The morphology of these rare statues references both male and female characteristics, with the swollen, pregnant belly, and the elongated phallic beak. A related figure is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. "1978.412.382"). 
LOT 197 SALAMPASU MASK, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ZAFRIRA AND ITZHAK SHOHER, TEL AVIV
ESTIMATE US$25,000-35,000

 LOT 198 LEGA FIGURE, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ZAFRIRA AND ITZHAK SHOHER, TEL AVIV
ESTIMATE US$10,000-15,000 Lot Sold: US$25,000

Highlights of the African Art Auction at Sotheby's, 11 May 2012 (1 of 2 Posts)

The first of two posts today, highlighting some of the gorgeous works of African Art that went on sale on 11 May at Sotheby's in New York. Included here are masterpieces several less-commonly-seen artistic traditions, especially the Taureg of Niger (Lot 80), a Brass figure from Chad (Lot 86), an amazing Body Mask from Tanzania (Lot 103), and two funerary figures from Guinea-Bissau (Lots 109 & 110). 

Also below are several incredible iterations of classics, such as the Nupe Door (Lot 100) and an astonishing Yoruba Mask, both from Nigeria (Lot 94), and an animated triple-crested mask from Burkina Faso (Lot 89). The abstract Clay Vessel from Cote D'Ivoire (Lot 98) is also beautiful. Lastly, I've included a highly unusual item (Lot 82) whose association with Henri Matisse saw the mask soar beyond 50 times its original estimate. 

Please see the next post for several other works on offer that I particularly liked. The auction's complete catalogue is online at Sotheby's website. 


LOT 80 TUAREG CUSHION SUPPORT, NIGER
FROM THE COLLECTION OF DRS. NICOLE and JOHN DINTENFASS, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$20,000-30,000 Lot Sold: US$56,250 

CATALOGUE NOTE
In his discussion of the offered lot on the occasion of the exhibition Africa: The Art of a Continent, René Bravmann (in Phillips 1995: 531, text to cat. 6.57) notes: "Among the Tuaregs of Niger elegantly sculpted cushion supports are important items in any well-appointed household. They were carved by the members of a guild known as Enaden, literally meaning 'the other', blacksmiths who have been instrumental in the creation of precisely those things that have forever distinguished the upper classes of this society (the imochar or warriors and the insilimen or religious teachers) from the many vassal populations of the Tuareg world. [... The] products of the Enaden are among the most potent of hegemonic symbols - for in sitting and reclining upon the pillows and ehel, Tuareg nobles literally sit and lean upon these artists, dramatically re-enacting the historical relationship between themselves and the members of this guild. [...] Ehel such as this example form part of the basic furnishing found in any upper-class Tuareg's tent, itself a hemisphere shaped of exquisitely woven and embroidered mats (asaber or shitek), dominated by geometric bands of subtle colour gradations and highlighted with carefully embroidered designs of dyed twine and leather. The Tuareg living-space appears almost to flaunt its beauty in the face of the desolate Sahel, to represent a private domain imbued with an aura of grace and refinement that defies its natural surroundings. Within these sparkling domes, ehel are used to pin the mat-woven walls against the exterior tent-poles."




LOT 82 LEGA MASK, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, WITH POSSIBLE ALTERATIONS BY HENRI MATISSE (1869 - 1954)
THREE AFRICAN AND OCEANIC SCULPTURES FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF HENRI MATISSE
ESTIMATE US$5,000-7,000 Lot Sold: US$362,500 



LOT 84 DOGON ANTHROPOMORPHIC TOGUNA HOUSEPOST, MALI
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SUSAN AND JERRY VOGEL, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$12,000-18,000 Lot Sold: US$34,375

EXHIBITED
World Financial Center Courtyard Gallery, New York, Lasting Foundations: The Art of Architecture in Africa (organized by the Museum for African Art, New York), September 30, 2005 - January 6, 2006; additional venues: The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, through December 15, 2006
Chicago Cultural Center Yates Gallery, Chicago, through April 15, 2007
California African American Museum, Los Angeles, May 17, 2007 - August 19, 2007 National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., October 6, 2007 - January 13, 2008





LOT 86 KOTOKO BRASS EQUESTRIAN FIGURE, CHAD
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SUSAN AND JERRY VOGEL, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$3,000-5,000 USD Lot Sold: US$3,125



LOT 89 WINIAMA TRIPLE-CRESTED MASK, BURKINA FASO
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SUSAN AND JERRY VOGEL, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$7,000-10,000 Lot Sold: US$10,625

CATALOGUE NOTE
Roy (1987: 214) notes: "The masks of the Winiama and Léla are the most geometric and nonrepresentational of the gurunsi styles. Like the Nunuma, series of lines may radiate from target-shaped eyes, and the geometric patterns painted red, white, and black are similar, although they are applied in different combinations. As a result some Winiama masks may be easily misattributed to the Nunuma or the Bwa. However, the Winiama carve several mask types that include either one or two flat, curving vertical horns paired side-by-side or rising from the top of the head. These horns occur very rarely among the Nunuma and never among the Bwa. The mouths of Winiama masks are usually open lozenge shapes, with angular corners, broad lips, and barred teeth, in contrast to the characteristic Nunuma triangular snout. While the type of animal spirit represented by Bwa, Nuna, or Nunuma masks is usually easy to identify, Winiama masks are often so stylized that they resemble no recognizable animal."
Wheelock (in Roy and Wheelock 2006: 400, cat. 90) adds that these masks exist in single, double, and triple-crested examples. For related masks see Schaedler (1973: 59, fig. 63); Roy (1987: figs. 196 and 197); Roy and Wheelock (2006: cats. 86-90). 




LOT 94 YORUBA-IJEBU MASK FOR THE EKINE CULT, DEPICTING THE WATER SPIRIT IGODO, NIGERIA
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SUSAN AND JERRY VOGEL, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$30,000-50,000 USD Lot Sold: US$56,250 

CATALOGUE NOTE
One of the most dominant groups in the Yoruba kingdom, the Ijebu took advantage of their position in the mid-coastal region of southern Nigeria and amassed wealth and power by controlling trade routes between the sea and the interior. Discussing a closely related mask in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fagg (1982: 39, text to figure 41) notes: "[in the Ijebu region] the monolithic tribality of Yoruba style is impaired by intrusions of Ijo style, supported by (and supporting) the powerful Ekine society of the Ijo, which seems to have been adopted by the southern Yoruba as a way of coming to terms with the sea - an alien element to the originally landlocked Yoruba, but a way of life to the Ijo, who live where possible on pile dwellings over the water and who are the fishermen of the coast. Ekine, meaning in Ijo, "dancing people," exists with its own basically Ijo art style alongside traditionally Yoruba institutions such as the kingship and the Oshugbo, or Ogboni, society, with their own purely Yoruba arts, and there is no great interchange of art forms between them. The main dance group of Ekine is the Agbo, or Magbo, society, to which this mask belongs. It is one of a series of masks which are danced in threes and which include antelope and bush-cow representations."
Drewal (in Drewal and Pemberton 1989: 144) continues: "Among the Ijebu, children born through the intercession of water spirits are known as omolokun ('children of the sea') or elekine ('children of the water spirits'), and are praised in verse: 'Children of the sea with shells on their heads/Rulers today, rulers tomorrow, rulers forever/Fire on their head that water quenches.' [...] An elaborate program of masquerades celebrates the role of water spirits who give birth to such children and affect the welfare of Ijebu coastal communities."
The masks used in such masquerades bear symbols relating to the world of humans as well as the world of the "water people", including animal forms which are akin to water. The offered lot combines a humanoid face with protruding conical eyes, an abstract bird on the forehead, a long "beak" and a stylized serpent carved in relief. For three closely related masks from the same workshop as the present mask photographed in situ, see Carroll (1966: 15, fig. 14). For two more related masks see De la Burde (1973: 30). 




LOT 98 KOUAME KAKAHA (BORN TANOH SAKASSOU, IVORY COAST, CA. 1960), CLAY VESSEL, CA. 1995
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SUSAN AND JERRY VOGEL, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$6,000-9,000 Lot Sold: US$5,938 

EXHIBITED
Museum for African Art, New York, Material Differences: Art and Identity in Africa, April 10 - August 15, 2003; additional venues:
National Museum of Canada, Ottawa, September 17, 2004 - January 2, 2005
Hamline University, Saint Paul, Minnesota, March 5 - May 22, 2004 Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, April 2 - June 19, 2005



LOT 100 NUPE DOOR, CARVED BY SAKIWA THE YOUNGER, LAPAI, NIGERIA
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SUSAN AND JERRY VOGEL, NEW YORK
ESTIMATE US$20,000-30,000 Lot Sold: US$25,000



CATALOGUE NOTE
According to Frobenius (quoted in Stevens 1966: 29): "Representational art almost died out among the Nupe after they were converted to Islam by Mallam Dendo's military expedition about 1830." Stevens (ibid) continues: "Representational motifs are most commonly used in the carving of door panels, most notably in Lapai (Abuja Emirate) where the carvers of Sakiwa's compound have been instrumental in keeping alive this form of carving, and in Agaie (Bida Emirate) whose carvers operate largely in the Sakiwa tradition."


Among the rich variety of symbolic motifs represented is an assortment of animals as well as representations of man- made objects, some of which were in the repertoire of the same Nupe carvers that produced such doors: a bow and arrow, a flintlock pistol, knives, and a Koranic tablet. For two closely related doors photographed in situ at Lapai, as well as a third which is almost identical to the present door, all carved by Sakiwa the Younger of Lapai see Stevens ( ibid:32 and 34). For additional panels carved by Sakiwa the Younger, see Willett (1971: 240, fig. 235) and Robbins and Nooter (1989: 534, fig. 1426).



LOT 103 MAKONDE BODY MASK, TANZANIA
ESTIMATE US$12,000-18,000



CATALOGUE NOTE
According to Zachary Kingdon (in Phillips 1995: 175, text to cat. 2.66), among the Makonde both "boys and girls must undergo a period of seclusion, generally six months, during which they learn songs and dances and are taught various practical activities. [...] Everyone is taught the rules of adult behaviour, about sex and about the rights and obligations of married life." Female body masks were an important part of the initiation rituals. They represent a young pregnant woman and were usually carved with a swollen abdomen and full breasts, decorated with scarification patterns. 


LOT 109 BIDJOGO SHRINE FIGURE, GUINEA-BISSAU
ESTIMATE US$8,000-12,000



LOT 110 BIDJOGO SHRINE FIGURE, GUINEA-BISSAU
ESTIMATE US$8,000-12,000 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Photos of Freetown's Historical Architecture

Earlier in May there was a very lovely series of photographs taken by Finbarr O'Reilly for Reuters and organized as a slideshow on the Guardian website. I'm reposted my favorites along with the (somewhat inaccurate) captions, although the whole series is really special. And I don't mean to be snarky about the labels, this is an esoteric topic and hard facts on the origins of West Africa's antiquated buildings are generally very few.

The stilted British Hill Station is particularly stunning, and I can't think of anything like it in Liberia. I haven't spent much time in Sierra Leone and I was surprised that such careworn but intact examples still existed in central Freetown.

Incidentally, many of these examples are featured in the more comprehensive cataloging that Tim Hetherington undertook in November of 2004-- a topic on which we exchanged emails several years ago, the only time I communicated with him prior to his sudden death. 


 Board houses like this one on Pademba Road, dating back about a century, 
are thought to replicate the style of American east coast architecture of about 1776

 About 100 years old, this colonial-style Congo Town board house has a provisions shop

 The main road in Congo Town is signposted on a board house 
that seems to have been extended over the years

 Painted weatherboarding covers the facade of a board house on King Street. 
The traditional dwellings are known as 'bode ose' in the Krio creole

 This two-storey board house is in Murray Town. 
The architecture recalls the West Indies as well as 18th America

Wooden stilts raise a former British colonial administration building in Hill Station. 
About 100 years ago the British authorities relocated their settlement 
from the stifling coastal flats to higher, cooler, ground

 
  Latice-work protects the stairway of a former British colonial administration building
 in the Hill Station neighbourhood
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