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African Sculpture

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African Sculpture

February 1 – 26


Catalog of the Exhibition


Tribe: Ashanti (Ghana)

Wooden Doll (rare) (Akua’ba)

Height: 13 inches

Fertility Doll: Ashanti women place this doll in the small of the back. It is believed to induce pregnancy.


Tribe: Kran

Wooden Mask: Each mask serves as identification (passport) when traveling from one tribe to another. This is an interesting example of the use of triangular forms. African art similar to this greatly influenced artists such as Picasso and Braque. Picasso’s painting Demoiselles d’Avigon abounds with mask-like figures.

Height: 7 inches


Tribe: Bambara

Antelope Tyi-Wara (male antelope) (Sans Style): Fertility figures hope to increase the harvest. This piece is an export piece, it lacks the fine carving and patina found in the next two Tyi-Wara’s. It was obviously made for sale to collectors of African art and not to be used in tribal functions. Today, virtually no ethnographic African art is leaving Africa.

Height: 90 cms.


Tribe: Bambara (District Kenedougou)

Antelope: Tyi-Wara (rare)

Similar one found in the British Museum and the Helena Rubenstein Collection. The antelope was sacred to the Bambara. One feels a tension and alertness in the lines as though the antelope was watching for some impending danger.

Height: 59 cms.


Tribe: Bambara (District Kenedougou)

Antelope: Mother and young antelope. Notice interesting parallel squares. Basal head basket made of vegetable fiber and cowrie shells. Heavy patina caused by long use in ceremonies.

Height: 65 cms.


Tribe: Bambara

N’Tomo Society Mask: This mask was thought to protect the spirit of the boys of the tribe. Horns are covered with cowrie shells.

Height: 65 cms.


Tribe: Bambara (District of Kolokani)

Hyena Mask: Heavy patina. Smoky aroma caused from being stored in hut near cooking fires. Inside of mask eaten out by wood ants. Mask believe to be used in connection with ancestor ceremonies.

Height: 53 cms.

Tribe: Senufo

Senufo Bird (rare): A great mytical bird, representing a calao or hornbill. An important cult object of the Poro Society which dictates the moral norms of the Senufo tribesmen. The bird is placed at the entrance of a Senufo Village. It is a fertility piece; the long bill of bird touching the swollen belly of the pregnant bird. This piece was collected in the Poro District of the Ivory Coast by Philippe Dodier in 1955.

Height: 5 feet


Tribe: Dogon

Kanaga Mask: An abstraction of a bird in flight. This Kanga mask is called the hand of God with its headdress in the form of a Cross of Lorraine.

Height: 138 cms.


Tribe: Yoruba

Orere Rattle Staff of the Ifa Priest: The staff is related to a complex mythology concerning witches who attack men. The staff will ward off such attacks. This staff is very typical of some of the beautiful iron work done by the Yoruba.

Height: 40 inches


Tribe: Baule

Bronze mask: Distinguished by the elaborate filigreed open work top or coiffure, flanked by birds. The face is flaked by crocodiles. The Baule carvers and metal workers create some of the most beautiful work found among the Africans, although more realistic and less abstract than their neighbors.

Probable Age: 100 years

Height: 7 ¾ inches


Tibe: Baule

Baule Goli Mask: Interesting treatment of a face—in comparison to the sharp triangular forms of the Kran passport mask with the reduction of the features on this mask to circles. This type of mask influenced Robert and Sonia Delaunay, two well know French abstract artists.

Height: 25 cms


Tribe: Baule

Tom-Tom Beater (female)

Height: 12 inches


Tribe: Guro

Tom-Tom Beater (male)

Height: 11 inches


Tribe: Kurumba, Uper Volta

Kurumba Dance Headdress: Perhaps the most elegant antelope carvings in Africa. They are used only at funerals. The headdress is honored as a person and finally buried like a tribal chief. For every festical they are repainted with the geometrical pattern sill visible on the neck of this piece. This geometrical polychrome pattern distinguished it from the Bambara antelope (Tye-Wara and Chi-Wara).


See page 56. Esly Leuzinger, The Art of Black Africia, New York Graphic Society, West Germany, 1972.


“Annemarie Schweeger-Hefel has recorded the following account from the Kurumba about the production of the mask: ‘The carver first goes in to the bush and looks for a particular very heavy wood which is suitable for making a mask. Since each mask is carved out of a single piece, it must be a comparatively large piece of wood. Before he begins his search and his work, he must sacrifice a three-colored cock to the ancestors and on the last night before he sets out, he is not allowed to sleep with a woman. He remains all alone in the bush, in a hidden place, until he has completed the mask, He must abstain from sexual intercourse the whole time he is there. When the new mask is finished, he returns to the village and once again sacrifices a cock to the ancestors, this time a red one. When a mask is sold it is handled like a dead body, wrapped in a mat of bast and honoured with a sacrifice of cocks”

Height: 138 cms


Tribe: Bobo, Upper Volta

Bobo-Oule Mask: The mask is covered overall with geometric designs in four natural earth pigments, red, white, green and black. The mask is used in ceremonies invoking the Bobo deity, Do, in ceremonies for rain and fertility. If a mask should be broken in the course of a dance, it will be interred like a human being, and its wearer will be treated as a murderer.

Height: 124 cms


Tribe: Yoruba

Ibeji Twin Figures: Ibeji is the god of twins who is invoked with a twin dies in childhood. It is believed by the Yoruba that twins have only one soul between them. The part of the soul of the dead twin wanders around without rest until he has found a dwelling place in the form of the tiny figures. These statuettes are fed and bathed and cared for like the living twin.

Height: 10 inches


Tribe: Yoruba

Diviner’s Pointer: Top portion of a staff used by Ifa priest

Height: 8 inches


Tribe: Yoruba

Kneeling Female Figure Holding a Bowl: The top of the bowl is in the shape of a rooster. This piece has been heavily used in ceremonies. It has been repainted several times with silver and red paint. The sides of the bowl are spattered with blood. The cock is particularly for its complex geometrical shape. This figure was undoubtedly used to hold Kola nuts or used by the priest to hold seeds used in divination ceremonies. The large protruding naval and large breasts are symbolic of great fertility.

Height: 20 inches


Tribe: Bamum (Cameroons)

Bamum Helmet Mask: Forceful and strongly expressive, Bamum sculpture reduces traditional lines to the barest essentials. The mask is composed of interrelated geometric forms. Another example of the type of African art that influenced the cubist movement of artists in Europe.

Height: 14 inches.