African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Sao bronze
Sao bronze (N° 21391)
Used as an amulet credited with apotropaic virtues, this small bronze sculpture constitutes, for the Sao, a talisman supposed to protect them from madness. It is therefore worn at all times.
The genie that would possess the madman is represented by the rider, the horse representing the victim. This rider, wearing a chèche, rides an equine, which was a rare attribute of prestige in these regions of the Sahel, and has a lustrous patina.
The Sao, ancestors of the Kotoko, were established between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries in a geographical area stretching across the borders between Chad, northern Cameroon and Nigeria. They settled on hills, which allowed them to repel invaders.
Subjected to successive assaults by their neighbors from Kanem and then by hordes from the East, the Sao had to abandon their lands to settle in the North-West of Cameroon where they mixed with the indigenous people, thus giving birth to an ethnic group called Kotoko.
Casting with lost wax was already commonly practiced by this African ethnic group since the 12th century, who mainly produced, among the prestige objects, copper alloy jewelry. The Kotoko still attribute to the copper metal a mythical origin conferring a protective value.
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Source : "Horse and rider in the art of Black Africa" G. Massa, ed. Sepia
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