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The achievements of African tribal art fascinated many European artists and collectors in the 20th century. From André Breton to Picasso, all were seized with a buying fever that quickly spread in the middle. If these sculptures are more of an artistic dimension for Westerners, it is nevertheless through their ritual sacralisation that they reveal themselves for the African peoples. Their ceremonial role confers on them a unique power that distinguishes them from other forms of ethnic art. These works were acquired (sold or offered by natives) throughout the twentieth century by ethnologists on mission or colonial cooperatives to be exhibited in museums, or integrated into prestigious private collections. This is the story of these pieces that we propose to discover through our gallery and our website.

Pair of Fang Byeri pulleys
African art > African Reliquary > Fang reliquaries

The African art of the cult of Byeri is illustrated by various anthropomorphic sculptures acting as 'guardians' and embodying the ancestor. Ancient loom pulleys fang, adorned with statuettes of reliquary keepers. Beautiful satin patina, residue of abrased polychromy. Erosions of use.
The boxes containing the relics of illustrious ancestors were kept by the oldest man in the village, the esa. Surmounted by a statue or head that acted as the guardian of the 'byeri' boxes, they were stored in a dark corner of the box, supposed to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to society. So, so. During the holidays, the statues were separated from their boxes and paraded. Pre-events were carried out on some statues ...

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Statuette Senoufo Calao
African art > African Statues > Statuette Senoufo

A rich artistic tradition has manifested itself among the Senoufo by various masks, anthropomorphic sculptures, everyday objects and statuettes embodying the spirits of nature or divination. The latter benefited from sacrificial libations based on palm oil. During the Poro Society rites, the leaders of the initiates also used bird statues, some of them large in scope. Spotted patina. The Senoufo, the name given to them by French settlers, are mostly made up of farmers who have dispersed between Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. The councils of elders, led by an elected chief, administer the senoufo villages. Governed by matrilineal traditions, they are composed of clusters of dwellings named katiolo . Each of them has its own association Poro which introduces young boys from the age ...

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Dogon Rider Couple
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African art > African Rider > Cavaliers Dogon

The frequent representations of the rider, among the Dogon of Mali, refer to their cosmogony and their complex religious myths. Indeed, one of the Nammos, ancestors of men, resurrected by the creator god Amma, descended on the earth carried by an arch transformed into a horse. Moreover, the highest authority of the Dogon people, the religious leader appointed Hogon , paraded on his mount during his induction because it was customary to set foot on the ground. In the region of the cliffs of Sangha, inaccessible on horseback, the priests wore it, while whining in reference to the mythical ancestor Nommo.
Gon blacksmiths form an endogamous caste among the Dogon called irim. They now produce weapons, tools, and also work with wood. " They are also supposed to treat burns (Huib Blom). ...

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Baga Nimba face mask
African art > African mask > Baga Mask

This rare face mask from the Northern Baga features the Nimba, a buzzed nose evoking a bird's beak over a tubular mouth, a summit ridge, and rounded ears. A nailing highlights the volumes, while parallel furrows embellish the surface. This mask would embody an idealized baga woman, and principles of fertility and abundance of harvests. They occur during harvests, marriages or deaths. Mate patina with grainy redious kaolin inlays.

Mtês Nalu and Landuman, Baga live along the coast of Guinea-Bissau in areas of swamps flooded six months a year. They believe in a creative god called Nagu , Naku , which they do not represent, and which is accompanied by a male spirit whose name is Somtup , depicted by a large cage covered with raffia whose top is a bird's head. He is assisted by the ...

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Bronze Dogon Box
African art > Usual african items > Bronze Dogon

The emblematic cuts of African dogon
The blacksmiths Dogon forment an endogamous caste among the Dogon called irim . They now produce weapons, tools, and also work with wood. " They are also supposed to treat burns (Huib Blom). The Nommo, a protective ancestor evoked in various forms in Dogon iconography, is said to be an ancestor endowed with the ability to manifest itself in a human or animal form, hence the frequent decorative motifs adorning the sculptures. Grey-green patina.
The Dogons are a people renowned for their cosmogony, myths and rituals. Their population is estimated at about 300,000 souls living southwest of the Niger Loop in mali's Mopti region (Bandiagara, Koro, Banka), near Douentza and part of northern Burkina (northwest of Ouahigouya). Their religious ...

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Masquette Fang
African art > African mask > Fang Mask

African fang rituals and masks.
Soft bois, dry patina, erosions.
The appearance of these kaolin-coated masks (the white color evokes the power of ancestors), in the middle of the night, could cause dread. This type of mask was used by the male society ngil in northwestern Gabon, southern Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.  This secret society was in charge of initiations and fought against witchcraft. The ngil was a purifying fire rite symbolized by the gorilla. The wearers of these masks, always in large numbers, appeared at night, lit by torches. Their intervention was also linked to the judicial function by identifying the culprits of the bad deeds within the village.  The Fang ethnic group, based in a region stretching from Yaounde in Cameroon to Ogooué in Gabon, has never ...

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Fetish Kusu Hemba
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African art > African fetish > Statue Kusu

The Kusu on the left bank of the Lualaba, have borrowed the artistic traditions of Luba and Hemba and have a caste system similar to that of Luba .  The Hemba settled in southeastern Zaire, on the right bank of the Lualaba. Once under the rule of the Luba , these farmers and hunters worship ancestors with effigies long attributed to the Luba.The statues singiti were preserved by the fumu mwalo and honored during ceremonies during which sacrifices were offered to them. Parallel to the authority of the hereditary chiefs, secret societies, male such as the bukazanzi , and female, the bukibilo , played a large role within the clan. Individual protective figures such as our copy, used by the Hemba and Kusu, were inspired by songye fetishes. The magic charge, composed of ingredients of various ...

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Bronze Dogon Pirogue
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African art > African bronze > Pirogue Dogon

African Art Dogon.
This bronze sculpture features a crew of mythical beings linked to the complex legends and beliefs of the Dogons. Animal motifs, saurian in this case, also refer to the animals of creation. Green patina.
Gon blacksmiths form an endogamous caste among the Dogon called irim. They now produce weapons, tools, and also work with wood. " Masters of Fire associated in dogon cosmogony with primordial beings Nommo created by the god Ama, they are also supposed to cure burns. Small metal objects, made using the lost wax technique, were widespread in the Interior Delta region of Niger, with copper making it through trans-Saharan trade. Excavations on the Bandiagara plateau have uncovered remains of steel sites prior to the 15th century, when the Dogons arrived. Nommo, ...

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Masque Ibibio Idiok polychrome
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African art > African mask > Masque Ibibio

This African ibibio mask appears to be a skull. A large toothed mouth in the lower part accentuates the striking effect. Grainy matte patina.
The Ibibios are a people of West Africa, mainly present in southeastern Nigeria (Akwa Ibom State), but also in Ghana, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. There are many secret societies among the Ibibios living west of the Cross River. Without centralized government, their social organization is comparable to that of neighbouring Igbo. The cult of ancestors is under the authority of the most senior members of the Ekpo. They use masks such as the idiok , linked to fallen spirits, and the mfon, representing the saved souls. Statues and puppets are used by ekon society every seven years through theatrical performances accompanied by music.

Figure of "colon" Baoulé
African art > African Statues > Statue Colon

Commonly referred to as 'colon' but sometimes embodying a type of 'ideal spouse' according to individual criteria, this male figure evokes Senegalese soldiers. (" African Art Western Eyes, Baule, Vogel, p.253 to 257)Patine smooth polychrome abrased.
Two types of statues are produced by the baoulé in the ritual setting:The Waka-Sona statues, being of wood in baoulé, evoke a assed oussou, being from the earth. They are part of a type of statues intended to be used as a medium tool by the soothsayers komian, the latter being selected by the spirits asye usu in order to communicate the revelations of the afterlife. The second type of statues, made according to the indications of the soothsayer, are the spouses of the afterlife, male, Blolo bian or feminine, the blolo bia. This type of ...

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Lega biface mask
African art > African mask > Masque League

Two attached faces, sculpted in a spherical volume, offer similar features for this African Lega mask. This unusual African Lega mask indicated the stage that its holder had reached within the Bwami, a learning society composed of different grades, and which was joined by the wives whose spouse had reached the third level, that of the ngandu . Two-tone patina, cracks and slight gaps. Height on a base: 28 cm.
At the Lea, the society of the Bwami open to men and women, organized social and political life. There were up to seven levels of initiation, each associated with emblems. Following their exodus from Uganda in the 17th century, the Lega settled on the west bank of the Lualaba River in the DRC. Also known as Warega, these individuals live in self-contained villages surrounded by ...

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Tobacco Pot  Chokwe
African art > African Jar > Pot Tschokwe

Inspired by Portuguese Baroque, this chokwe tobacco pot offers a baluster foot made up of layered elements. It is crafted from checkered alveoli lined with volutes. These regal sculptures travelled with the court and were sometimes offered to other chefs. Tobacco use was indeed widespread among the Chokwe, and smoke was an integral part of offerings to the spirits ajimu. Use patina, cracks and abrasions of pigments.

Paisiblely settled in eastern Angola until the 16th century, the Chokwé were then subjected to the Lunda empire from which they inherited a new hierarchical system and the sanctity of power. Nevertheless, the Chokwé never fully embraced these new social and political contributions. Three centuries later, they eventually seized the capital of the Lunda, weakened by ...

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Petit masque Tetela
African art > African mask > Masque Tetela

This blind mask, of a small size, engraved with alternating parallel grooves arranged in orange motifs, evokes songye sculpture. The very geometric nose is a distance from a narrow mouth placed in a protruding chin. The outlines are pierced with holes. Two-tone matte patina.
Eparated in the Kasai basin, the Tetela of Mongo origin have been the source of constant conflicts with their neighbors. They also participated extensively in the slave trade. Their very diverse sculpture is marked by the influence of groups living in contact with them: in the north, their art has been subjected to the influence of forest populations such as the Mongo, in the northwest that of the Nkutschu, and in the west that of Binji and Mputu. The Kuba traditions were also a source of inspiration, as were ...

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Pearl head in terracotta
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African art > African Terracotta > Tête Ifé

Made in the Cameroonian Grasslands using traditional decorative technique using multicolored glass beads, this head reproduces the famous effigies of sovereigns. Meticulously applied to a terracotta surface, the beads accentuate the features and the royal headdress with strongly contrasting colours, while padouk powder lifts the inside of the ears and mouth.
In African art, the artistic current of which these sculptures are part is named after the ancient religious capital of Nigeria, Ifè, one of the many city-states established by the Yoruba.This civilization succeeded the Nok civilization. This city-state of Ilé-Ifé, whose rise culminated from the 12th to the 15th century, had an artistic tradition of royal portraits imbued with realism, funerary effigies in bronze but also in ...

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Tabouret miniature Luba Lupona / Kipona
African art > African Chair > Tabouret Luba

A female effigy, receptacle of a deceased sovereign leader (Luba, Roberts) supports the circular tray resting on his headdress. Her attitude highlights the female genitalia associated with fertility. This stool named lupona , or kioni or kipona, kiona, according to the sources, constitutes the meeting point of the sovereign, his people, and protective spirits and ancestors, where symbolically and spiritually past and present mingle. It was once the seat on which the king was inducted mulopwe. The seats were arranged on leopard skins at the inauguration of the new leader. It was only after sitting there that his address was royal and divine. Apart from these exceptional circumstances, the seats were not used and remained stored in secret locations. Exceptional oiled patina spotted, ...

Songye Nkisi fetish statuette
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African art > African fetish > Songye Fetish

African tribal art and ritual fetishes
Statue-fetish Nkisi , nkishi (pl. mankishi) anthropomorphic devoid of accessories. The fingers highlight the cup of the umbilical, in which was intriduce a protective magic charge. An animal coren rises to the top, sealing the opening in which ritual elements were also introduced. The particularity of these objects most often resides in the angular treatment of the form, the imposing triangular face whose chin blends into the beard, here resuming the face of the mask kifwebe , and the attitude deported forward from the bulging belly.
Belle glossy golden brown patina. Very light abrasions.

These protective fetishes for homes are among the most popular in Africa. Nkisi plays the role of mediator between gods and men. Large ...

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Coupe Kuba Lee
African art > Usual african items > Coupe Cuba

Among the prestigious objects held by members of the Kuba royal family and peripheral groups, including Bushoong and Lele or Leele, this type of cephalomorphic palm wine cup. The face recalls the morphology of the large royal Kuba masks with a flared hairstyle behind shaved temples. Engraved motifs complete the ornamentation. Satin brown patina. Lack on the bottom edge.
The Kuba Kingdom was founded in the 16th century by the main tribe Bushoong which is still ruled by a king, and whose capital was Nshyeeng or Mushenge.More than twenty types of tribal masks are used in the Kuba or Lightning People, with meanings and functions that vary from group to group. Ritual ceremonies were an opportunity to display decorative arts and masks, in order to honor the spirit of the deceased or to ...

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Tabwa ceremonial spoon
African art > Spoon > Tabwa Spoon

The Tabwa ('scarifier' and 'write') are an ethnic group present in the south-east of the DRC, around Lake Tanganyika. The tribes of this region, such as the Tumbwe, worship the ancestors mipasi through sculptures held by chiefs or sorcerers.
Simples farmers without centralized power, the Tabwa united around tribal leaders after being influenced by the Luba. It was mainly during this period that their artistic current was expressed mainly through statues but also through masks. The Tabwa worshipped ancestors and dedicated some of their statues to them. Animists, their beliefs are rooted around ngulu, spirits of nature present in plants and rocks. Source: Treasures of Africa Ed. Tervuren Museum.

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Statuette Ovimbundu
African art > African Statues > Statuette Ovimbundu

Ex-Italian African art collection.
Small figurative sculpture of balanced proportions, devoid of ornaments, except for a headdress composed of a large headband and mats gathered in the neck. A single scarification, soaring, emerges from the nose to the forehead. Meditative and serene physionomy with closed eyelids.
This figure may have been associated with female initiation rituals, fertility, or divinatory, the hairstyle evoking that, fashioned with oil and red ochre, of young girls nyaneka as a result of the ritual efuko . Beige brown satin skate. It is on the Benguéla plateau in Angola that the Ovimbudu , Ovimbundu, composed of farmers and herders, have been established for several centuries. They belong to Bantu speakers, such as the Nyaneka, Handa, Nkhumbi, and other ...

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Luba Kifwebe Mask
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African art > African mask > Luba Mask

A semi-spherical mask, streaked with polychrome ribs, it adopts certain elements of the Songye masks of the Kifwebe, including the stretched eyelids and the geometrically projection mouth. However, it did not have the same function. This category of rather rare African masks are named 'bifwebe'. They appeared at funerals and investitures. They performed during the ritual ceremonies of the society kazanzi , charged with fighting witchcraft. " Bifwebe (Sing.: kifwebe) would mean, according to C. Faïk-Nzuji, 'chasing death'. Worn with a voluminous raffia collar that concealed the dancer, this mask was usually danced in the company of a zoomorphic mask. Patine mate.
Luba (Baluba in Tchiluba) are a people of Central Africa. Their cradle is the Katanga, specifically the region of the Lubu ...

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Soko mutu Hemba Mask
African art > African mask > Hemba Mask

The spirit of a primate would be embodied in this hemba mask split with a wide rictus. The prominent forehead houses long eyelids, wrinkled by the grimace. A long nose extends vertically. Mate surface, rough, residual ochre deposits.
Only two types of Hemba masks have been identified: that of an anthropomorphic type with regular features, whose pointed chin recalls statuary, and those depicting monkeys, the soko mutu, and whose functions remain little known, but which probably belonged, according to J.Kerchache, to the secret societies bugabo and bdambudye . The smallest copies (about 20 centimetres) are said to have been carried by hand during rituals intended for the protection of the home and fertility. In addition to the kabeja janiform statuettes, the statues of male ancestors, ...

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