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Fang Mask Ngil Society Gabon Africa
Additional Information:  Well known for their reliquary figures the Fang also danced finely sculpted masks during a number of ritual activities. Among the Fang white-painted masks identified with the Ngil society are known for their elegant abstractions of the human face. Ngil masks have been described as having a 'heart-shaped face' due to the facial features emphasizing refined curves of the orbital ridges above the eyes and the prominent line of the long tapering nose that ended above a discretely mouth carved at the bottom of the chin that completes the abstraction of the face. Ngil masks were worn during initiations and known for judicial and social control activities in searching out sorcerers, a process that ultimately led to their being banned by the French colonial authorities in 1910. A later development among the Fang was the appearance of a mask known as Ngontangan, "the head of the young white girl" referring to early European women missionaries who arrived on the coast during the nineteenth century. The mask may have had ritual or ceremonial meaning in the past exorcising malevolent sorcerers but appears not to carry significant symbolic weight today. Though few in number the elegant forms and abstractions of the Ngil masks made them very attractive to early modern European artistic sensibilities serving as models for a number of sculptors. While emphasizing its pure forms, the mask's white color also marks its spiritual identity.    Recommended Reading: Binet, J. Societes de danse chez les Fang, (Paris, 1972)Fernandez, J. 'La statuaire Fang-Gabon', African Arts, 8, No.1, 1974.Fernandez, J. W. and R. L. 'Fang Reliquary Art: Its Quantities and Qualities.'Cahiers d'etudes africaines, 15, No. 5. (1975)Perrois, L. Statuaire fang, (Paris, 1972)Perrois, L. Sculpture traditionelle du Gabon, (Paris, 1977)Perrois, L. 'Arts du Gabon, Les arts plastiques du Bassin de l'Ogoue', Arts d'Afrique Noire. 1979. Perrois, L. Arts ancestral du Gabon dans les collections du Musee Barbier-Mueller, (Geneva, 1985)Phillips, T, (ed.) Africa, The Art of a Continent, (Munich, 1995)Roy, C. Art and Life in Africa, (Iowa City, 1992)Schmalenbach, W. African Art from the Barbier-Mueller Collection, (Geneva,1988)Tessmann, G. Die Pangwe, (Berlin and New York, 1913(1972)   Africa Direct
Yoruba Egungun Headdress Published African
Provenance:From the personal Collection of Elizabeth Bennett and Sara F. Luther. Exhibited at the South Dakota Art Museum Published in the catalog: Daniel Mato, PhD., Chelsea Cooksey, YORUBA: AN ART OF LIFE. The Bennett-Luther Collection Africa Direct, Denver, Colorado, 2004, fig.43, p. 56 Additional Information:  Two abstract crocodiles with four carved human faces frame the top of the headdress. Red on one side, black on the other, it sits atop a multi-colored cloth base ( the folded cloth serves to soften the burden for the head of the dancer). The single crest form is akin to the hunter's hairstyle of the Yoruba deity Eshu, who is often shown with a long ponytail and is symbolically linked with the colors nd black. (Description from the Book by  Daniel Mato, PhD., Chelsea Cooksey, YORUBA: AN ART OF LIFE.  fig. 43, p. 54 p ) Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, masqueraders known as Ere Egungun dance to represent and celebrate the ancestors known as Ara Orun - or Beings from beyond . The Yoruba see the world as a continuum composed of the living and the dead with the ancestor ever present in the life of an individual, their family, and town. Egungun dancers completely covered in voluminous cloths or in costumes surmounted by a carved headdress appear during ceremonies honoring the ancestors or will dance to represent present lineage members. Egungun masquerades were noted as early as 1826 and the tradition continues among the Yoruba today combining long established traditions and contemporary imagery. Egungun masquerades combine the use of a number of brightly colored cloths that at times appear to be simply piled on the dancers head and covering the body or the cloth will be surmounted by carved headpieces of human and animal forms. This covering of the body, literally hiding the dancer and creating a sense of mystery and ambiguity is found in the very meaning of the word Egungun, "The powers concealed" This is a particularly complete example of an Egungun headpiece consisting of a wooden carved headpiece with  four faces .   The age and long use of this mask can be seen on  the surface,  on details of the  facial features and markings. This wonderful example of an Egungun masquerade is a true connoisseurs object and worthy of a museum collection. It must be kept in mind that this wonderful carving would surmount a large costume of different colored cloths completely covering the dancers body and thereby creating the sense of mystery and awe so integral to the appearance of Egungun. The dancer would be completely covered by the cloth with their face covered by cloth netting to allow them see while dancing. collection.  Reference: Drewal, H.J., J. Pemberton, R. Abiodun, Yoruba; Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. 1989. Thompson, R. F, Black Gods and Kings 1971. Africa Direct
Lega Mask Bwami Society Congo African Collection
Provenance: From the private collection of Kissimah Drammeh.  For more than ten years, I have bought from Kissimah Drammeh, a Gambian trader who always has things to tempt me. This month (October 2013), he offered me a portion of his personal collection. I bought every piece.  Elizabeth Bennett. Additional Information:A well used  Lega mask with dotted marks on the forehead,  and traces of  pigment on the face.  Lega masks are usually carved in a distinctive style, with a heart-shaped concave face, slightly protruding forehead, a narrow and long nose, slit eyes, and an open mouth. Lega masks usually have their face rubbed with white clay (pembe). The Lega people live near the northern end of Lake Tanganyika on the banks of the Lualaba River and are also known as the Warega. Living in small village groups they have no centralized authority but govern themselves through a communal association known as "Bwami." This association is composed of male and female members who strive to achieve advancement in the various ranks of Bwami. For the Lega the ultimate goal is to reach the uppermost level of "Bwami" when one would become a "Kindi," one who exercises moral influence within society. The complex system of instruction, initiation and advancement in Bwami uses masks and figures to document the various levels of Bwami and to serve as badges validating the initiate’s knowledge of the secrets of Bwami and of their rank. Initiates earn the privilege to wear and display masks which might be worn on their arms or faces or simply exposed on racks or on the ground. For similar examples, and more information, see "ART OF AFRICA" by Kerchache et al. Biebuyck, D. "Lega Culture: Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy among a Central African People." 1973; ART OF THE LEGA, by Cameron, E., 2001  I have examined this piece and agree with the description Niangi Batulukisi, PhD Africa Direct
Botswana Basket Bowl Shaped Bayei or Hambukushu African
A bowl shaped basket from Botswana with beautiful designs! Africa Direct
Kuba Textile Tie Dyed Raffia Red and Black Congo 16 Feet African
We do not recommend laundering textiles, and do not accept returns of textiles which have been laundered in any manner.  Even dry cleaning is too much for some of these antique textiles.  For some of them, a very gentle HAND washing  (NEVER MACHINE, on any setting)  in cool water with a very gentle detergent works, but even then, dyes may not be colorfast, and fabric may be less strong than it appears. A  Kuba raffia textile wih  appliquéd stunning patterns . Additional Information: The following are excerpts from Kuba Textiles and Design by Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi, Ph.D.: "In sub-Saharan Africa, where representative art has flourished for centuries, carvers and crafts people have typically taken for their subjects human figures, animals, plants, and elements of the natural world. Abstract art, meanwhile, has remained marginal. The textiles of the BaKuba (Kuba) people of the Democratic Republic of Congo are an exception. Although part of a tradition that stretches back 400 years, Kuba textiles have a strikingly modern look. They use improvised systems of signs, lines, colors, and textures, often in the form of complex geometric rectilinear patterns. Their appliqués are reminiscent of works by 19th- and 20th-century masters like Matisse, Picasso, Klee, Penck, and Chellida. This is no coincidence: all of those artists were inspired by Kuba design!" "Appliqué is the most popular weaving technique among the Kuba. To create an appliqué, Kuba artists use a stencil to cut decorative designs out of a brightly colored cloth, and then sew or apply the designs onto a cloth of a different color. The designs are then placed on top of yet another cloth. Through this process, the artist has the freedom to create an almost unlimited variety of patterns and combinations." "The most familiar appliqués are dark brown or black on an ecru background, a pattern which is sometimes seen in reverse. Other popular appliqués are red or yellow, or are placed on a red or yellow background. Appliqués can also be natural-on-natural (or occasionally red-on-red). The black-on-neutral embroidery which resembles an elaborate maze is the work of the Ngeende or Ngoongo." "Many European and American collectors have noted the striking similarities between Kuba appliqués and Matisse’s dancing figures. One surviving photograph shows Matisse in his bedroom, surrounded by Kuba textiles—an indication of how deeply he was influenced by Kuba design." See Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi Ph.D., Kuba Textiles & Design, AfricaDirect Inc., 2009, 41 pages. 28 full color photographs, paperback. Africa Direct
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