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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.

Nkisi Songye Kalebwe statue
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African art > The fetish, this emblematic object of primitive art > Songye statue

African statue Nkisi, nkishi (pl. mankishi )of the Songye, which has a head with kifwebe mask features. The prominent abdomen is highlighted by a belt lined with various quolifichets. The magical charge bishimba was probably introduced at the top of the head from which a fragment of animal horn rises. A second horn, attached to the necklace of the fetish, is also charged with sometimes therapeutic ingredients. Shaded gray patina.
These protective fetishes intended for homes are among the most prized in Africa. The Nkisi plays the role of mediator between god and men, responsible for protecting against various evils. The large examples are the collective property of a whole village, and the smaller figures belong to an individual or a family.

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Statue Nkishi Songye Kalebwe
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African art > The fetish, this emblematic object of primitive art > Songye Fetish

This sculpture with angular shapes is the result of cooperation between the nganga, the craftsman and the client. Treated according to the instructions of the ritual priest, the figure intended for the client is then loaded with the elements bishimba intended to counter any evil force. In the case of the çi-contre fetish, the hollowed abdomen is devoid of it. The face is studded with upholstery nails. In African culture, metal has magical, therapeutic and apotropaic properties. The face that adopts the features of a middle-aged man recalls both the kifwebe mask. Satin black brown patina.
The fetish Songye , magical sculpture Nkisi , nkishi (pl. mankishi ), plays the role of mediator between gods and men. Large specimens are the collective property of an entire village, while smaller ...

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Songye Kalebwe fetish statuette
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African art > The fetish, this emblematic object of primitive art > Songye Fetish

This statuette, decorated with skins, pearl necklaces and ropes of vegetable fibers, was moved by stems placed under the arms. The head, from which rises a horn filled with magical substances blocked by fabric, borrows the appearance of the Songye Kifwebe mask.
Thiri variants of this mask Kifwebe (pl. Bifwebe) or "chasser mort" (Roberts) stand out: the masculine (kilume) usually with a high crest, the feminine (kikashi) with a very low crest see absent, and finally the greatest embodying power (kia ndoshi). This type of mask, still used today, appears to come from the border area between the northern Luba and the Southeastern Songye.
Neats of various origins were introduced into the abdomen of fetishes, into the horn, sometimes also in bags attached to the loincloth, in order ...

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340.00  272.00

Koulango female figure
African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Koulango statue

Slender morphology for this sculpture of a woman, illustrating the statuary of the Bondoukou region. The slender neck, here gracefully curved, the traditional scarification marks and the shell hairstyle are criteria of Koulango beauty. Light and polychrome pigments highlight certain details, contrasting with the black patina.
Named Pakhalla by the Dioula, the Koulango formed the Loron in Voltaic territory. The Dagomba chiefs of the Bouna kingdom would later have referred to them as "Koulam" (singular: koulango , subject, vassal). Their complex history has given rise to a no less complex culture. It is between Burkina Faso and Comoé, in the north east of Côte d'Ivoire, that their territory extends. With an animist fetish religion, they address their ancestors and the spirits ...

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Baule, baoule elephant mask
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African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Baule mask

Various animal masks were sculpted by the Baoule and Guro people of the Ivory Coast. This mask with zoomorphic elements appeared in the company of human masks during various ceremonies, including funerals or nowadays during visits by distinguished guests. Dense wood, polychrome patina. Desiccation crack.
According to Baule mythology, a royal ancestor had to sacrifice his son to cross a river. This event is the origin of the name of the Baoulé , Bauli , "the son died". They represent the major part of the population of Côte d'Ivoire. In Côte d'Ivoire, the objects that were a priori the most ordinary had to meet aesthetic criteria. Furniture, ornaments, utensils, fabrics, are pretext for a refined artistic expression on the part of the sculptors. The latter, mainly ...

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340.00  272.00

Mangbetu headrest with caryatids
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African art > Head rest > Mangbetu headrest

A figure of a kneeling couple supports the tray of this piece of mangbetu furniture. The body tracings refer to the ceremonial paintings of the clan. The high hairstyle is characteristic of the Mangbetu aristocracy: from an early age, children had their skulls compressed by means of raffia ties. Later, the Mangbetu knitted their hair on strands of wicker and applied a band on the forehead to extract the hair and produce this particular headdress that accentuates the elongation of the head. aesthetic refinement of the Mangbetu, and the emphasis placed on fertility . The elders name beli these figures of ancestors stored out of sight and comparable to those belonging to their secret society nebeli . Established in the forest in northeastern Zaire, the Mangbetu kingdom expressed ...

Waka sona Baoule statue
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Baule statue

This "Waka-Sona" sculpture, "being of wood" in Baule, coated with a mottled brown ochre patina, was generally inspired by the indications of the diviner. The visible joints, the oversized face, the hairstyle and the beard that were carved with shea butter, characterize this male figure.

Velvety patina, very slight desiccation cracks.
Two types of Waka-Sona statues are produced by the Baoule in the ritual context: those that evoke an assiè oussou, a being of the earth, and which are part of a set of statues intended to be used as a medium by the komien diviners, the latter being selected by the asye usu spirits in order to communicate revelations from the beyond. The second type of statues are the spouses of the afterlife, male, the Blolo bian or female, the ...

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280.00  224.00

Bamileke hat
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African art > Headdresses and hats, headdresses > Bamileke hat

Sumptuous Bamileke headdresses in African art.
Prestigious African headdress, worn by notables, this example offers a feather trim of different shades of purple.
It is on the occasion of the elephant dance, tso ,that the members of the Kuosi , Kwosi , society wore these impressive headdresses. They were worn over a multicolored costume consisting of a large beaded mask with large circular ears, mbap mteng ,a cloth fabric, ndop , decorated with monkey fur and a leopard belt. These dances were performed during festive ceremonies and funerals. The hats were once made from parrot feathers, now from wild guinea fowl, whose scarcity meant high cost. The feathers are attached to wooden strips covered with fabric, placed around a circular frame consolidated by a basket of ...

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180.00  144.00

Dogon bronze box with lid
African art > Jars, amphoras, pots, matakam > Dogon box

The iconic cups of African Dogon art
. Blacksmith artists Dogon form an endogamous caste among the Dogon called irim . Today they produce weapons, tools,and also work with wood. "Masters of fire", they are furthermore supposed to heal burns (Huib Blom). The Nommo, a protective ancestor evoked in different forms in Dogon iconography, is said to be an ancestor gifted with the ability to manifest himself in human or animal form, hence the frequent decorative motifs adorning the sculptures. The wavelet friezes are also symbolic. Greenish-gray patina. The Dogon are a people renowned for their cosmogony, myths and rituals. Their population is estimated at about 300,000 souls living in the southwestern loop of the Niger in the Mopti region of Mali (Bandiagara, Koro, Banka), near ...

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Bena Lulua Mask
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African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Luluwa Mask

Heavy mask hem engraved with many curvilinear motifs in relief associated with the scarifications of the ethnic group. It represents a mythical ancestral hero to whom the clan worshipped. According to Rik Ceyssens in Congo Masks (p.156 . . . M.L.Félix) and as evidenced by the sketches of H.M.Lemme who accompanied Frobenius on his travels in Congo, this model of loop scarifications was then widespread in various Luluwa subgroups in 1905. The Bakwa also had this type of tribal scar. These masks are used during circumcision rites and at the funerals of notables. Satin golden brown patina, ochre inlays. The Lulua, or Béna Lulua from West Africa, settled in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their caste-based social structure is similar to that of the Luba. They produced few ...

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Lwena Mukishi wa pwo mask
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African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Luena mask

This African mask depicts Pwevo , the female ancestor, wearing a royal ornament. Lovale masks are comparable to those of the Tschokwe. The large rounded jaw, an indication of abundance, is an unusual feature. Satin patina, kaolin residue. Height on base: 42 cm. Of Lunda origin, the Lwena (or Lovale , or Luvale ) emigrated from Angola to Zaire in the 19th century, repelled by the Chokwe. Some became slave traders, others, the Lovale, found refuge in Zambia and near the Zambezi River in Angola. Their society is matrilineal, exogamous and polygamous. The Lwena are known for their honey-colored sculptures of deceased ancestors and chiefs, and their masks related to the initiation rites of the mukanda.

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390.00  312.00

Kikuyu, Agikuyu doll
African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Kikuyu doll

Most often erroneously attributed to the Namji, this carved figure, lacking arms and embellished with thousands of beads, comes from the Kikuyu or Agikuyu of southwestern Kenya, a population that intermingled around Mount Kenya with the original Gumbas or agumbas inhabitants. They believe in a creator god whom they name Ngai who is said to reside on Mount Kenya, and to whom they regularly devote prayers and offerings. Best known for their shields, the Kikuyu make extensive use in their carving and traditional costumes of glass beads and cowrie shells, as do many East African tribes. Ritualistic practitioners, mundu mugo , are feared, and perform healing rites with divination gourds mwano loaded with therapeutic elements.

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Boulou, Bulu monkey figure
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Boulou statue

Sculpture with massive volumes, featuring a stocky gorilla whose hands rest on its abdomen.
This animal statue has a heterogeneous semi-granular patina, locally abraded. Misses and desiccation cracks.
The Boulou, an ethnic group of the Fang, live in Cameroon, on the border of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo, on a vast plateau within the equatorial forest near the Bakwele, whose habits and customs are comparable. Like the Fang of southern Cameroon with their white masks of justice, the Boulou also used the Ngil ritual to counter witchcraft and poisoning. Future initiates, following their integration into the secret society, identify with the Ngi , fierce emblematic gorilla. The Ngil society, which carried out, among other things, executions of witches, was banned ...

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390.00  312.00

Lega janiform figurines
African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Lega figurines

Identifiable by its context of use, this bust, with two faces topped with a feathered top evoking one of the headdresses of the Bwami aspirants, belonged to an insider of the Bwami and was part of a set used over the years Initiations. It was only visible at that time. The teacher guided the aspirant to a place where masks and statuettes were exhibited, and it was through careful observation that the future initiate had to guess the more or less complex meaning of these objects, real metaphors referring to largely to proverbs and sayings. Those who were not allowed to see the object, in order to be protected, had to submit to expensive ceremonies, and sometimes even join the lower rank of the Bwami, the kongabulumbu , at great expense to the families. Each of these initiations took ...

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Zimba Nkisi figure in terra cotta
African art > Terracotta, jar, amphora, funerary urn > Zimba figure

Like the Legas, the Zimbas have educational sculptures associated with initiation rites, but they also have anthropomorphic sculptures, in this case in terracotta, with openings for magical charges at the top of the head.
Erosions, heterogeneous patina with residual ochre incrustations.
The Zimba, also called Binja, are close neighbors of the Lega of the Pangi and Shabunda region of the DRC. Subject to Lega influence, they share some institutional similarities with the Lega and Luba. Whether they live in the forest or in the savannah, the symbolism of their art and rituals are associated with hunting, which is of major importance. They are also patrilineal groups that have eventually supplanted the matrilineal organization of their society. Like the Lega, the ...

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Punu, Pounou, Okuyi mask
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African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu mask

Serenity of African masks of Okuyi dances
The white masks of Gabon, itengi, (pl. bitengi) were associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete , and the Mwiri ("directing"),the latter of which ranged through several levels of initiation, and to which all Punu men belonged,and whose emblem was the caiman. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, of which the leopard dance, the Esomba ,the Mukuyi ,and the Okuyi dance, on stilts, remained the most widespread.
This kaolin-bleached face mask, an evocation of a deceased woman, was displayed during the dance named Okuyi. Classically topped with a double top shell, and two small side bonnets, the distinguishing feature however remains the ...

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Okou Stool
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African art > Chair, palaver seat, throne, stool > Okou Stool

This ancient piece of traditional African furniture was collected in the Okou region of northwestern Cameroon, a region mainly populated by two ethnic groups: the nomadic pastoralists 'Fulani' and the semi-Bantu cultivators 'Nso, Oku and Kom'.
African stools and chairs reflect, by their ornamentation, the social rank of the one who owns it.

Raw piece by excellent, the Okou stools are carved in the mass of a piece of wood, thus monoxyles. This one carries patterns in rhombuses established on a base also carved of a geometrical frieze.
The initiates of the customary societies of the Cameroonian Grasslands chieftaincies each had a distinctive seat of his rank, used daily or on the occasion of ritual ceremonies. Matte patina, ochre, uneven surface, ...

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260.00  208.00

Salampasu masker
African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Salampasu masker

A bulbous forehead crowned with wicker spheres, diamond-shaped eyes, a large nose and sharp teeth make up this Mukinka mask of the Salampasu. Copper rectangles line its surface. This ceremonial mask, linked to the warrior society, was displayed at funerals in connection with the deceased's previous initiations. It also participated in initiation rites. Some of these masks were so feared that their name alone made women and children run away.
Height including beard: 68 cm. Living of hunting and agriculture, warlike people, the Salampasu form a tribe of the Lulua group and are installed between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, in the East of the Kasaï river. They are surrounded to the west and south by the Tschokwe and Lunda, and to the north and east by ...

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Salampasu Mukinka mask
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African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Salampasu mask

A hollowed-out gaze deeply recessed under a spherical forehead, a thick nose and sharp teeth distinguish this Mukinka mask from the Salampasu. Copper plates, joined by metal clasps, cover the face.
This ceremonial mask related to the warrior society was displayed at funerals in connection with the deceased's previous initiations. It also participated in initiation rites. Some of these masks were so feared that their name alone would scare away women and children.
Height including beard: 68 cm. Living from hunting and agriculture, warlike people, the Salampasu form a tribe of the Lulua group and are settled between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, east of the Kasai River. They are surrounded to the west and south by the Tschokwe and Lunda, and to the ...

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270.00  216.00

Large statue of warrior Bena Lulua, Luluwa
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Lulua warrior

This African statue depicts a male ancestor, a hunter or warrior with his weapon and shield, bearing various scarifications in relief, a common practice at the end of the 19th century in Central Africa. His pendant necklace in the form of a statuette forms a protective fetish. These marks were signs of beauty with symbolic value, revealing outstanding physical and moral qualities. The concentric circles suggest not only the great stars, but also hope. " These statues of warriors, whose position of the arms at right angles would be associated with vigor, participated in the investitures and funerals of chiefs.
Locally abraded brown patina, ochre residue. Desiccation cracks.
Lulua is a generic term, referring to a large number of heterogeneous peoples who populate the area ...

Bamoun induction necklace in bronze
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African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Bamoun Necklace

Regal insignia in African art from Cameroon This Bamoun dignitary's necklace, made of bronze, has twelve motifs featuring buffalo heads, welded onto a ring. These animals are symbolically associated with power because of their fearsome nature and massive stature. When they sit, the members of the Bamoun Sultan's court council wear this distinctive sign of their function,the mbangba, which they believe helps to reinforce their prestige and ward off any evil power. Among the Bamoun, it is the fon , the head of the kingdom or chiefdom, who will offer this necklace to deserving men.

The Bamun, deeply Islamized, inhabit a region that is both full of wooded landforms but also savannahs. This large territory of the name of Grassland located in the southwest of Cameroon is ...

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280.00  224.00

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