Figures & Masks - African Art

Montol Couple
« Inquire About This Item »
Professor Roy Sieber took a picture of a group of figures he described as Montol in the early 60s in Nigeria. Several were very similar to the pair on offer here. Unfortunately, I have only a Xerox of a Xerox copy of the original image; if I had a more legible image I would reproduce it here. Nevertheless the match is indisputable and so close as to argue strongly for their having been carved by a single individual, although the the sculptures themselves are distinct. These figures reportedly resided in an East Coast collection since the 1970s. Their patination and wear are identical and there is no reason to doubt that they are, if not an a actual couple, then remnants of an assemblage that were made and intended to be used side by side, most likely for a curative purpose as described by Sieber. Montol pairs are not unheard of although they account for a small proportion of positively identified works. The reasons for this rarity may be that they were rarely created or that they were frequently separated in the course of transit and sale. The female lost a foot sometime in the distant past and the male, while anatomically complete sports a dusty loin cloth which can easily be untied. About 7" tall. $2800
A Moba Bawoong Tchitcheri Couple
« Inquire About This Item »
This is the only mid-sized Moba couple I have ever come across. The Moba make three genres of votive figures known as tchitcheri. They are distinguished by patronage, context, scale and degree of abstraction. The smallest, yendu tchitcheri, are placed in the personal shrines kept by all adults. They do not represent any particular person or spirit rather they act as a conduit with the Moba god. The mid-sized bawoong tchitcheri (between 12 and 40 inchestall) are installed in household shrines prominently located in the center of family compounds. Bawoong represent the parents or grandparents of family elders. As symbols of known persons they are more detailed than the smaller tchitcheri or the larger sakwa tchitcheri which honor the founding ancestor of the Moba. Unfortunately, the vast majority of tchitcheri on the market are copies with false patinas and inhanced weathering. Bear in mind the bawoong and sakwa tchitcheri are kept outdoors in a hot, savannah environment with seasonal rains. Note the appropriate level of detail on these bawoong figures (including sexual indicators and facial features), their varied patina, subtle and gently bowed bodies, highly oxidized surfaces and absence of an opaque or oily finish. Each 22" tall. Price on request
4
« Inquire About This Item »
This small, richly patinated doll is a singleton. Ewe dolls a carved upon the death of a twin although they may pass away years or even decades apart. Local custom allows for the mutilation of some dolls to treat ailments of family members, Feet or arms may be cut or broken off. Although this doll is whole it has been ritually burned on one side and across its breasts. Price upon request.
Ibibio Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
Among Nigerian peoples the Ogoni are best known for their masks with hinged jaws, nevertheless they are not unique in their employment of this feature. Their regional neighbors the Ibibio were also great proponents of articulated masks whose mouths could be made to clap audibly during performance. This particular example is from the Idiok Ekpo family of masks. The Ekpo masquerade illustrates different aspects of ethical behavior in society. Idiok masks represent destructive spirits, characters who died under troubled circumstances or the spirits of ancestors who violated tradition in their lifetimes. The mask is well balanced sculpturally being equally striking from all sides. Its curved horns and protruding mouth give it a powerful profile. The interior shows excellent wear as well as clear evidence of the mask's inner surface having been re-carved to more comfortably accommodate the face of a performer who succeeded the individual for whom the mask was originally created. Even in the reconfigured surface areas the wood shows substantial oxidation and wear. This is an very old mask. 12" tall. $1800
Lobi Bambar Figure
« Inquire About This Item »
Lobi figures generally stand. They are positioned in household shrines vertically, with the backs of their heads propped against a wall so they will not fall over. Seated figures are relatively rare. Those that exist tend to be bent only at the hips, with legs fully extended. In this example the wood is very dry and stained by sacrifice. 4" high. Price on request.
Dan Passport Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This 3.5" passport mask has a black "crute" patina and eyes painted in with kaolin. It was acquired by the dealer and collector Thomas McNemar before 1963. McNemar was a prolific and secret source of West African art for such dealers as Carlbach and Klejman for many years before operating his own gallery in New York in the mid 1960s. He subsequently set up shop in San Francisco. On a custom metal base. Price on request
Ibo Ikenga
« Inquire About This Item »
This very old Ikenga has a dark, encrusted patina from decades in a smokey environment where it was ritually fed. In the 70s it became the property of Freddy Rollins, eventually passing through the hands of Dr. John Dintenfas. It stands 19.5" and is mounted on a custom hardwood base. An excellent piece of sculpture; a joy to behold from every angle. Price on request
Bolon Helmet Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This headrest was collected by Thomas McNemar in a Bolon village cluster near Teoule, Upper Volta between 1962 and 1964. It was published in Mr. McNemar's private gallery produced portfolio of 1966. It relates to a mask in the de Young Museum, San Francisco and published in Nooter and Roberts "The Shape of Belief. African Art from the Dr.Michael R.Heide Collection" 1996. The de Young mask is listed as a "dagu" mask from the northern Senufo. Since Mr. McNemar's is a first hand account and there is no reason to doubt his word, I will defer to him. The mask has Senufo qualities to be sure (see Goldwater, plate 73) but the janus facial renderings are strongly voltaic. Both horns are guaranteed original but have been re-attached. The python skin which formerly encircled the rim has all but disintegrated. 14.5" tall. Price on request.
Ndebele Doll
« Inquire About This Item »
In village life across a broad swath of southern Africa girls made their own dolls, often with the assistance of friends, an older sister or parent, out of found materials such as yarn, rags, sticks and clay. In modern times new and recycled plastic dolls are everywhere. Traditionally, dolls were also worn by mature women hoping to enhance their fertility; it was out of this tradition that the trade in beaded Ndebele dolls evolved. The beaded bands and dangling rings emulate cholwane, beaded straw rings worn by Ndebele women at weddings and other rites of passage. This doll and others on the website were acquired by a late friend between 1958 and 1962 in South Africa. They remained with her for ensuing half century. The interior is straw wrapped in vintage cloth. The beading (except for some minor repairs) is entirely original. This example is 11" tall. Unmounted. Guaranteed to be at least 50 years old.
8.5
« Inquire About This Item »
In village life across a broad swath of southern Africa girls made their own dolls, often with the assistance of friends, an older sister or parent, out of found materials such as yarn, rags, sticks and clay. In modern times new and recycled plastic dolls are everywhere. Traditionally, dolls were also worn by mature women hoping to enhance their fertility; it was out of this tradition that the trade in beaded Ndebele dolls evolved. The beaded bands and dangling rings emulate cholwane, beaded straw rings worn by Ndebele women at weddings and other rites of passage. This doll and others on the website were acquired by a late friend between 1958 and 1962 in South Africa. They remained with her for ensuing half century. The interior is straw wrapped in vintage cloth. The beading (except for some minor repairs) is entirely original. This example is 8.5" tall. Unmounted. Guaranteed to be at least 50 years old.
8
« Inquire About This Item »
In village life across a broad swath of southern Africa girls made their own dolls, often with the assistance of friends, an older sister or parent, out of found materials such as yarn, rags, sticks and clay. In modern times new and recycled plastic dolls are everywhere. Traditionally, dolls were also worn by mature women hoping to enhance their fertility; it was out of this tradition that the trade in beaded Ndebele dolls evolved. The beaded bands and dangling rings emulate cholwane, beaded straw rings worn by Ndebele women at weddings and other rites of passage. This doll and others on the website were acquired by a late friend between 1958 and 1962 in South Africa. They remained with her for ensuing half century. The interior is straw wrapped in vintage cloth. The beading (except for some minor repairs) is entirely original. This example is 8" tall. Unmounted. Guaranteed to be at least 50 years old.
Bini Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
With its elongated face and full cheeks this fine old mask is instantly recognizable as Bini. It was performed ceremonially by members of the Ibo Ekpo society. Evidence of its use can be interpreted from patterns of wear on the carving's interior. However, it's age can not be precisely determined as its background lacks adequate documentation. It would be safe to say that it was first performed some time in the first half of the 20th century. Formerly the property of an East Coast collection 12.5"; $1600
Carved Breasts From An Gelede Costume
« Inquire About This Item »
A dancer's costume may be entirely constructed from fiber, cloth or even leaves. It may also have a wooden head piece or a beaded mask. Additional details for his or her regalia may include a carved staff or two, a skirt or anklets bristling with bells or rattles and in the case of Gelede performers gender specific body parts rendered in wood. Body masks are well known among the Makonde, but they were nearly as ubiquitous with the Yoruba of Nigeria and Benin. This example differs from such masks in that here the breasts have been rendered independent of a belly. Each breast has been carved separately. Their sides have been inscribed with a classic Yoruba motif of interlocking bands and their interiors have been hollowed out. Next they were affixed to an unadorned cross piece for anchoring to the costume proper. Presented on a hardwood base. Pre 1950. 11.5" in depth, 8.5" across. Price on request
Bijogo Hammerhead Shark Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
The Bisaggo Islands are clustered off the West African coast south of Guinea. Their remoteness has slowed modern influences to the extent that masked dances remain popular forms of communal expression and entertainment. A variety of zoomorphic masks outfit their repertoire. The best known are bulls but, not surprisingly considering the seafaring lifestyles of Bjiogos peoples, sharks, saw fish and rays are also popular. This mask celebrates the hammerhead shark. It would was worn on the dancer's forehead. The forward side presents a fearsome mouth with the reverse featuring a depiction of a sea serpent rendered in a swirl of red paint. The mask most likely dates to the 1970s. Ex Portuguese collection. 22" across, mounted on a custom base. $2500
Ibo Okwanzu (chalk Dish)
« Inquire About This Item »
This lovely bowl was acquired from a mid west USA collection where it had been held for over thirty years. It is similar to one with a heavier patina sold at auction with Christie's (Paris) in 2009. The two are almost certainly by the same hand or workshop having many common details among them the attached thick copper wire hanger, the peaked center of the dish, similarly rendered anatomical details, and bifurcated hairdo. That dish was identified as coming from the Igbo Abam-Ohafia from Bende Division of Cross River by François Mottas in the Yale archive (0118733). 16.5" tall and about 18" with its custom mount. Price on request.
Benin Carved Wooden Memorial Head
« Inquire About This Item »
The indigenous name for Benin shrine heads is uhunmwun-elao. As opposed to cast bronze memorial heads which were used exclusively by royalty to honor the Oba, local chiefs and notables were permitted only to maintain carved or terra cotta uhunmwun-elao on their family shrines. According to William Fagg, "Osemwede (1816-1848) was the first Oba who decreed that human heads could be carved for the altars of chiefs of the royal lineage, instead of just wooden antelope, and perhaps, goat, heads. Thus chiefs of the blood in Benin City (but not throughout the Benin Kingdom, where antelope heads continued to be commissioned and used well into the twentieth century) enjoyed the greater dignity conferred upon them by having the right to put human rather than animal heads on their ancestral altars. Thus the (wooden) human heads are according to tradition later than ca. 1816." This large and impressive example is thickly encrusted with the residue of ritual sacrifice. It is finely detailed both in its facial features and coiffure. Inlaid squares of a dense black wood traverse the brow. As is typical an integral, carved feather rises on one side of the head while a slot divides the back. These slots were a development of the last Benin period. They are understood to have been receptacles for carved ivory tusks of which few have survived. At 24" in height this is one of the larger heads of its type. It dates to the 19th century or before. Mounted on a hardwood base. Ex Charles Snitow collection NYC (1960s). Ex Pace Primitive NYC. Price on request.
Unusual Ibo Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This old mask stands out among Ibo masks for its hard, black surface and unusual features. It is similar to spirit masks in that it has a pronounced central ridge and pursed mouth but its lips do not part and its expression is intense rather than beatific or surprised as is more commonly the case. It has good evidence of wear and the wood is well oxidized. 12" in height, about 17" with its base. $3200
Ewe Venavi Couple
« Inquire About This Item »
This lovely pair come from the Ewe people of Togo. Although they appear to be an adult couple they are in fact a representation of children born as twins and lost before their time. Like the Fon and the Yoruba, the Ewe venerate twins. Upon the death of one or both twins, whether in childhood or later in life, surviving relatives commission the carving of a figure or "venavi" to represent the child and receive blessings. This pair, 6.5" and 5.5" respectively, are otherwise identical in age and wear. They most likely date to the 1960s. Their features are geometrically and economically rendered, yet they are expressive. Mounted together on a single base. $600
Okoroshi Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This 1940's vintage mask shows substantial evidence of wear both in its rear surface and in the nail holes and stress marks around its perimeter where it was originally affixed to a larger costume. Okoroshi masks are danced in masquerades honoring the god Owu. Such festivals take place over the course of several weeks and employ as many as forty different characters. These characters generally fall into one of two categories: beautiful, benevolent spirits, and ugly, evil ones. Masks of the first category, of which this fine example, are white-faced and petite with small mouths and parted lips. From the estate of James B Byrnes, curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1946-1952. 9" tall, 14" over all on its custom base. $900.
Winiama Lion Mask With Good Provenance
« Inquire About This Item »
While an old label pasted on the outside of this mask identifies it as Bobo, it is in fact from the Winiama, also from Burkina Faso. The mask was probably used only briefly before it was collected and brought to France in the 1940s or 50s. The wood is very dry and well oxidized. Around 1960 it was purchased by William Rand from a Parisian dealer. For the next 35 years it hung in his Manhattan home alongside works by Ernst and Chagall before being placed at auction at Christie's NY in November 1997 (lot 287). It is cataloged in the Yale archive (0079814) on its original base which has since been lost. William and his wife, Muriel Rand were major benefactors of the Jewish museum. 13.5" tall. $750
Winiama Mask With Curling Crest
« Inquire About This Item »
According to Christopher Roy Burkina masks with straight vertical crests are attributable solely to the Winiama. The curve of this mask's crest compares very favorably with similar masks of its type, being longer and more elegant than most. As is often the case with well worn crest masks, the central projection has been broken and indigenously repaired at the midpoint. The Winiama are vigorous performers and older masks generally show their wear and tear. The geometric designs decorating both the crest and and massive head are deeply incised and neatly delineated with native pigments. The broad mouth, outlined here with narrow lips has a diamond shaped gap carved in the middle to allow for the performer to view his surroundings. 26.5". Price on request
Attie Prestige Staff
« Inquire About This Item »
The Atie (alt. Attye, Akye) live in the coastal south east of Cote d'Ivoire in an area characterized by salt water lagoons. Their art is characterized by a rounding of forms with figures often richly detailed with raised patterns scarifications on the head and torso. Among the most distinctive Atie sculptural works are staffs surmounted by seated or standing figures, either male or female and occasionally one of each. These figures are often depicted ballancing prestigious objects, such as stools or gun powder kegs, atop their heads with the aid of one or both hands. In this classic example from 1890-1910, a standing male nude with a sword on his right flank and supports a powder keg, now partially lost. The figure stands atop an extraordinary alternating stack of carved period French padlocks and powder kegs expertly rendered from the single length of timber that forms the whole. It is unclear whether time has warped the carving into a curious arc or whether the original lumber was curved to begin with. Age cracks mark the torso of the figure but are not much in evidence elsewhere. Overall the patina is one of great age and wear with a glossy honey colored surface overlaid with windblown dust, evidence of handling and soot. 37" tall.
Shaki Ibeji
« Inquire About This Item »
This beautiful 10.5" single ibeji is as much a pleasure to hold as it is to behold. It's smooth lustrous finish comes from the wonderful craftsmanship with which it was brought to life and to the loving care it received over decades or ritual use. The light color of the coiffure, with braces of bluing, is the result of repeated washing and adds to the unique history of the figure. Shaki region of Yorubaland, western Nigeria. Ex collection Stewart Warkow, NY. $1200
Old Bamana Ntomo Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
Ntomo is a tribal mutual aid association concerned with the education of young boys. Members wear a wooden mask during the harvest-time initiation festival and when begging for food as initiates . The number of horns on such masks (two to eight) symbolizes levels of increased knowledge of a human being. This older example is unusual in having both straight and curved horns parts of which, as is commonly the case, have been lost. Only $1200 with custom mount. 24" tall.
Dan Mano Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This beautiful mask was purchased by a New York couple in the 1970s on the advice of William Siegmann who they had hired to provide them with curatorial assistance. Mr. Siegmann was a connoisseur of Dan material culture having by that time spent more than a decade living and collecting amongst the Dan and Dan related peoples in Liberia. This mask, however, is most likely from the eastern extent of Dan territory, in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire. It is very skillfully carved with fine details and tour de force tool marks on the interior. The walls of the mask are very thin and show excellent evidence of wear. The mask belonged to a single family for over thirty years and has only recently been reintroduced to the market. 8.5" in height. Provided with a custom base. Price on request.
Western Pende Phumbu Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This powerful Phumbu or chief's mask was collected by Robert Keating during his three years in Zaire as a USAID economic development adviser to the Mobutu government (1970-72). From his return until after his death in 2012 this magnificent mask along with the bulk of the Keating collection remained in storage. As a result the piece is in the same worn but good condition it was in when it was acquired 40 years ago. It is an older, used mask with great presence and good size standing about 24" tall on it's custom base. The mask alone is 18 in height including fiber coiffure. Price on request.
Bassa Mask With Earth Colors
« Inquire About This Item »
The Bassa dance masks in a variety of forms, among them masks without eye-holes typically worn high on the head or forehead. Remnant nails and torn-out edging holes evidence that this mask was once attached to a weighty costume of country cloth and possibly hide and other materials as well. 12" tall, about 16" with the base. Daubing of masks with spots of color is not uncommon among the Bassa. The purpose is both to decorate and empower the mask. Price on request.
Pende King Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This powerful Phumbu or chief's mask was collected by Robert Keating during his three years in Zaire as a USAID economic development adviser to the Mobutu government (1970-72). From his return until after his death in 2012 this magnificent mask along with the bulk of the Keating collection remained in storage. As a result the piece is in the same worn but good condition it was in when it was acquired 40 years ago. It is an older, used mask with great presence and good size standing about 20" tall on it's custom base. The mask alone is 15 in height including fiber coiffure. Price on request.
Ogoni Mask With Skull Detail
« Inquire About This Item »
This mask dates to the 1950's or 60's. It shows signs of use and is a good example of an authentic Ogoni mask from the second half of the 20th Century. It has the hinged jaw typical of the genre. Stacked masks, where a second head or the visage of a skull sits astride the primary head, are relatively common among the Ogoni and neighboring Ibibio. It may represent an ancestor or ancestral spirit overseeing the mask. 10" tall. Mounted on a custom base. $800
Ogoni Mask With Bird Beak
« Inquire About This Item »
This mask dates to the 1950's or 60's, as the poofed hairdo suggests. The piece shows signs of use and is a good example of an authentic Ogoni mask from the second half of the 20th Century. It has the characteristic hinged jaw of the genre. It is a companion to an Ogoni mask also on offer on this website, where the visage of a skull sits astride the mask. 8" tall. Mounted on a custom base. $800
Ogoni Mask With Rare Color
« Inquire About This Item »
Most Ogoni masks are either white faced from applied kaolin or commercial paint, or else blackened with smoke, paint or pitch. This danced mask, which appears to date from the 1930's based on its hairdo and the oxidation of the wood, is unusual for being painted with yellow ochre. The linear black decorations are typical features of white Ogoni masks which represent benevolent spirits and characters. 9" tall. $850
Bamana Kore Mask, Ex Carlebach
« Inquire About This Item »
A very old mask with a natural, original surface. 13.5" long from end to end. This mask was acquired by Pace Primitive Gallery along with many other objects from the estate of Julius Carlebach, one of New York's preeminent tribal art dealers until his sudden death at age 55 in October of 1964. This mask represents a hyena, whose whooping and distinctive cackles characterize the African night and the untamed bush beyond village fields. Being gregarious scavengers who will enter human settlements under the cover of darkness in search of food, Hyenas are among the most frequently represented animals in West African art. $2800, with custom base.
Divination Image In Bird-form, Kaka/mfunte
« Inquire About This Item »
In his landmark book "Art of Cameroon" Paul Gebauer illustrates two similar carving he identifies as "divination bird images". He writes that migratory birds are totems of many northern Grassfields groups. Cult members kept carved representations of these birds for annual gatherings while diviners collected the images for hanging in sacred groves and use in divination. This carving has piercings on its top side for the attachment of a suspension chord. Its patina is rich and variegated from handling and age. For the collector of genuine Grassfields art or sculpture associated with divination this is rare and wonderful find. !5" long by 6" wide. Mounted on a wooden base. Price on request.
Pre Biafran War Vintage Ogoni Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This striking mask was exported from Nigeria during the Biafran War in the late 1960's. Based on the high degree of its sooty oxidation it was most likely over 40 years of age at the time it was removed from its original storage place. Since that time it has been in a NY collection. Mounted on a late 60's vintage Peter Sinclair base. 11" tall, about 14" on its mount. $2850
Ogoni Mask With A Towering Coiffure
« Inquire About This Item »
Ogoni masquerades embrace a variety of masks and mask types. Many of portray popular, named characters. We don't know the precise name given to this dramatic mask but it most likely portray a beautiful, young, unmarried woman- the apple of the community's eye. Judging from the delicate carving, wear and high degree of oxidation in its interior, this mask likely dates to the 1920's or 30's if not earlier. It was over painted more than once with imported enamel that has somewhat lessened the fineness of the carving detail. Nevertheless its a lovely mask with an elegant presence. Imported into the United States during the Biafran War; ex NY collection since 1969. 16.5", or about 20" on its custom mount. $2200
Polychromed Bamana Figure
« Inquire About This Item »
This figure was collected in Mali in the 1960's by an American while conducting extended fieldwork near Segou. The figure itself dates to some thirty years earlier at least. Female figure, both standing and seated are archetypes of Bamana carving. This powerful, beautifully detailed and lovingly painted figure would have acted as a household shrine. 20" tall, 21.5" on it's hardwood base. Price on request.
Dan Mano Passport Mask With Metal Eyes
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was beginning to peak. This maskette is 2.5" in height. On it's custom mount it stands 3.5". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks may be kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patinas from encrustation to washed, relatively dry and pale surfaces such as we see here. $450
Dan Passport Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was beginning to peak. This maskette is 2.5" in height. On its custom mount it stands 3.5". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patinas from encrustation to relatively dry and pale surfaces such as we see here, probably the result of continuous storage in small cloth sack. $425
A Beautiful Dan Bassa Passport Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was begining to peak. This maskette is 2.25" in height. On its custom mount it stands 3". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patinas from encrustation to relatively dry and pale surfaces such as we see here, probably the result continuous storage in small cloth sack. This very sweet passport mask has tribal scarifications carved into its cheeks. It probably dates to the 1940's. $450
Larger Passport With Rich Patina
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was beginning to peak. This maskette is 3" in height. On its custom mount it stands 4". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patinas from encrustation to rich glossy surfaces such as we see here, probably the result considerable handling and concerted effort to saturate the wood with medicinal substances. This relatively large passport mask is strong, but it's also of a rare and highly collectable form. $625
Marvelously Geometric Bassa Passport Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was begining to peak. This maskette is 2.25" in height. On its custom mount it stands 3". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patinas from encrustation to relatively dry and pale surfaces such as we see here. $380
Bassa Passport Mask With See-through Eyes
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was beginning to peak. This maskette is 2.5" in height. On its custom mount it stands 3.5". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patina from encrustation to highly worn to moderately glossy surfaces such as we see here. The eye openings are an unusual feature that may have been intended to directly link this maskette with a full sized, performance mask. $400
Well Worn Bassa Passport Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This passport maskette was collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson. Mr. Robinson worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was beginning to peak. This maskette is 2.5" in height. On its custom mount it stands 3.5". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patinas from encrustation to much handled, wll-worn surfaces such as we see here. $450
Dan Mano Passport Mask With Inset Metal Eyes
« Inquire About This Item »
One of several passport masks on this site collected in Liberia in the 1970's by Blake Robinson who worked for the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation of Liberia for several years. He was an avid collector and wrote on the Monrovia art market in an essay published in the Liberian Studies Journal in 1975 when the art trade was beginning to peak. This maskette is 3" in height. On its custom mount it stands 4". Ownership of a passport mask is a prerequisite to membership in the Poro society. Passport masks were kept and handled in a wide variety of ways and hence show a full range of patina from encrustation to moderately glossy surfaces. This is a well handled passport with a dry surface. It appears to have been stored for a long time and handled intermittently as it shows evidence of being well oxidized with moderate surface wear. $500
Pair Of Large Lobi Figures
« Inquire About This Item »
The Lobi carve figures for a variety of purposes but larger figures are created for private altars where they are subject to the ritual practices and conditions of the household. In homes where ritual sacrifice is more frequent and includes the spilling of chicken blood the bateba become encrusted and dark, particularly on the front as figures are positioned close to if not leaning against a wall. This dramatically carved couple appears not to have been subject to blood sacrifice. Their surfaces are well oxidized and show accumulations of earth and traces of liquid, ritual libations but no traces of blood sacrifice. The face of the female has unfortunately been lost due to insect damage and is included here because the two figures were carved as a pair. Years ago when I had a chance to buy them a price was given for the dramatic and complete male and for the male and female together. The numbers were relatively close, the male was worth the price and it seemed somehow unethical to break the pair apart after they had travel so long and so far together. 21.5" Price on request.
Lobi Bateba Phuwe 22
« Inquire About This Item »
This tall and serene carving is the work of a relatively prolific artist whose production is largely made up of standing altar figures with long legs, arms close to the body and faces with straight noses and generally downcast eyes. The figure has a patina characteristic of a carving protected from the weather but exposed to household smoke and subject to natural decay over the course of many years on a family altar. It shows evidence of being the recipient of ritual sacrifice although not the kind that builds up a crust. Other carvings by the same hand show a variety of use patterns and accumulations of sacrificial material so it would be safe to assume that the carver produced work for more than one altar or circle of households over a period of many years. Price on request
Lobi Bateba With Weathered Patina 20
« Inquire About This Item »
Every Lobi household maintained an altar but each attended to it in their own way according to the intensity of their belief or need and in accordance to their ability. This well-rounded female figure appears to have survived for many decades on a home altar which eventually fell into disuse through age, abandonment of practice or death. Only traces of sacrifice remain. Forearms which once extended expressively from the body have long since weathered away. The trunk remains solid with fine curves and a hint of tension between the orientation of the legs and the turn of the head. The legs are independent of one another adding to the dynamism. This substantial carving is an older example of a Lobi altar figure which has been subject to weathering over the course of many years. $950
Delightfully Compact Lobi Bateba 6.5
« Inquire About This Item »
"Bateba" translates as carved wooden figure. Such figures were made for a variety of purposes and in an assortment of forms: couples, amorous couples and single figures in various poses both standing and seated. Although any member of Lobi society could declare himself a carver some artists stood out for their skill and distinctive signature in rendering the human form within a general style recognized as "Lobi". Among the more prolific and recognizable Lobi artists of the mid 20th Century was the sculptor of this work and another, taller example on this website. This is a truly delightful figure, with a endearing expression, crisp lines and well oxidized surface. Fashioned from hard wood with great skill. $650
A Fine Lobi Figure 16
« Inquire About This Item »
"Bateba" translates as carved wooden figure. Such figures were made for a variety of purposes and in an assortment of forms: couples, amorous couples and single figures in various poses both standing and seated. Although any member of Lobi society could declare himself a carver, some artists stood out for their skill and distinctive signature in rendering the human form within a general style nevertheless recognized as "Lobi". Among the more prolific and recognizable Lobi artists of the mid 20th Century was the sculptor of this work and another,smaller example on this website. This is a truly delightful figure, with a endearing expression, crisp lines and well oxidized surface. Fashioned from hard wood with great skill. $1150
Distinctive Lobi With Provenance
« Inquire About This Item »
Sold by dealer William Wright in the early 1980's to a New York City collector at the urging of felllow collector and Metropolitan Museum curator Martin Lerner, this expressive Lobi figure possess many of the qualities Lobi connoisseurs look for: a expressive face, a distinctive artistic signature within the general Lobi style, a deep well handled patina, a sense of movement, good age and evidence of ritual use. 8.5" tall; price on request.
Tall Lobi Shrine Figure
« Inquire About This Item »
This stately and dynamic figure stands 27" tall. It was fashioned from a hard, dense wood which has preserved its details well and has acquired a dark, dry patina over the decades of use in a household shrine. Very few if any figures of this scale, and quality remain in situ. There was a time, up until a few years ago, that statues of similar age emerged every so often from Burkina Faso. This essentially no longer occurs. Fine, older, used Lobi statuary are finite in number and becoming increasingly scarce. The profile of this figure is particularly satisfying, forming a dramatic curve with a forward thrust belly juxtaposed by sharply angled buttocks. Price on request.
Lobi Figure With Sacrificial Patina
« Inquire About This Item »
Lobi figures were carved in a many sizes for a variety of uses. Among these were as objects of veneration representing ancestral spirits on household altars. In addition to figures such shrines also included vessels, terra cotta representations, carvings of animals and other so-called fetishes. Traditional practice included the sacrificing of live chickens and other domestic fowl onto the shrine, the splashing of blood and local millet beer as well as other ritual mixtures. The degree of practice and preferred offerings varied from household to household and among regions as the Lobi are not a single cohesive ethnicity with a central leadership; rather they are a cluster of interrelated groups who were lumped together by colonial era ethnographers for political expediency. Among the patinas we see on Lobi shrine objects are crusty surfaces such as we have here, the resultant accumulation of repeated ritual lashings of chicken blood, feathers and fermented millet. To this has been added airborne dust, particularly during the "Harmattan" (the season of dust storms blown south from the Sahara). Since figures installed on the shrine are not normally moved and because they are positioned with there backs to, if not leaning on, the enclosing wall, they typically bear the bulk of their accumulated patina on their front side particularly on the face and upper torso. The erosion of the lower extremities, specifically the feet and calves, is common in older shrine figures. As they stand in the same place year after year there is ample opportunity for all varieties of vermin to wither them from below. Here both feet were slowly reduced over time and yet throughout the figure remained on the shrine representing the ancestral spirits and receiving blessings. 20.5" tall. Price on request
Dan Mask With Attachments
« Inquire About This Item »
From the carver to caretaker to performer Dan masks have a life of their own. They begin their journey as a image carved from lumber. In this case representations of goat horns framed the upper face. The wood was then rubbed with plant oils, darkened over fire and dressed up with pigments, pieces game fur, homespun cloth, tree gum and carnivore teeth. A performer tried it on and likely smoothed down areas that irritated his face. Between performances while stored in a mud brick house insects and microbes ate into the patina. The wood oxidized in the heat and humidity. In the late 1950's omeone removed the mask from its resting place and sold it. Most of the fiber and cloth headpiece was cut away. It was bought by a Frenchman, born in Kaye Mali by the name of Guenniguez then living in Cote d'Ivoire. It passed to his son Lucien, who sold it to me. All used Dan masks were once fitted with attachments. These were often changed according to the needs and tastes of their guardians and performers. European dealers and collectors who acquired them often removed them, returning the mask to its elemental state albeit with a patina of use, age and sometimes a dash of wax and polish. This mask comes to you close to how it appeared when it was last performed more than half a century ago. 10" tall, 16" with its beard. $2400
Bamana Mask With Metal Detail
« Inquire About This Item »
This interesting mask shows Marka influence in it's utilization of recycled aluminum to enhance and detail the face. This is a ritually used mask, most likely from an Ntomo society ceremony. It probably dates to the 1940's. Ex New England collection, 1980's. 14" $800
Large Ibibio Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
The Ibibio were especially prolific mask maskers and performers. Their carvers were among the most practiced and talented artists in West Africa. This ritually used mask probably dates to the 1940's/50's. It was painted black with commercial paint. Its a lovely face narrows from a broad forehead to a delicately pointed chin. The eyes are downcast and contemplative, the expression serene. This is a beautiful mask with outstanding presence. 12" tall not including its mount. $1800
Ibo Initiation Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
This attractive mask would have been worn by a young boy during an initiation masquerade. At only 8.5" tall it is very compact. It probably dates to the 1950's/60's. With its pleasing expression, subtle coloration and harmonious curvilinear motifs this mask would fit harmoniously in almost any setting. $875
Ibibio Mask 10
« Inquire About This Item »
The trademark, uneven eyes is what sets this Ibibo mask (10in.) apart. Ibibo masks are possibly used during dances to personify spirits or to celebrate at agricultural festivals. It is not known exactly why the artist if this mask made the decision to carve the eyes unevenly, but it gives the mask a uniquely odd appearance. The eyes are set into a narrow head that protrudes from a mane of wood from which it is carved. The black, stacked hair is parted down the right side and the front of the hair reaches over the forehead and descends the sides of the face to meet the ears. Between the eyes, the rounded, triangular nose extends to meet the small red mouth, around which three small black marks form a thin mustache and goatee. Over time, the red, yellow, and black paint have begun to chip and fade; however, that becomes unnoticeable when faced with the puzzling, lopsided eyes. Price on request.
Brong-ahafo Doll
« Inquire About This Item »
This akwaba child image (9") is associated with fertility and was crafted by a priest for a woman who was having trouble conceiving a child. This akwaba come from the Brong-Ahafo (Abron) and is carved with a cylindrical head cut diagonally from the top back to the bottom front, producing a triangle in profile. The origin of akwaba comes from a story about a young Asante women named Akua. She was having trouble conceiving a child and consulted a priest to help her. The priest told her to commission a woodcarving of a child and treat it as it were a living infant. She did this and was teased about it from other women but, eventually, she became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Her story encouraged other to do the same. The akwaba pictured here would have, at one time, been covered in strings of beads that hung from around its neck. Even without the plethora of beads, this akwaba perpetuates the vitality and strength of the Abron women. Price on request.
Mixed Nuts
« Inquire About This Item »
This Turkana ngide or child doll (14") from northern Kenya was used by either a maturing girl to ensure fertility or a woman who was not able to bear a child. In either case, the doll would have been tended to as if it was a real baby. Parents would make the doll for their daughter, the father carving the wooden figure and the mother dressing it. However, older women would make and dress the doll themselves. Successful dolls might have been kept or passed down to younger sisters. The ngide, pictured here, is made out of mixed nuts, beads, hide, string, and pieces of animal hooves. As it rattles and jingles, this Turkana ngide is a delightful addition to any collection. Price on request.
Bobo Diviner's Scepter
« Inquire About This Item »
This diviner's scepter (19.75") is possibly Bobo but could possibly be from the Lobi or Nuna. The simplified and pronounced curves of the human form and the split beak of the bird like staff is decidedly Bobo; whereas the head and face have a more Lobi or Nuna aesthetic. This scepter, and many like it, is blunted from wear on the bottom end as such implements were typically thumped on the ground by diviners in calling up their spirit guides for divination. The body of the scepter has acquired a remarkable patina near the apex and base from handling; the shiny, reddish patina seems to emanate from the central figure. The reflective, simplistic style of this scepter radiates energy from the many past divinations it has performed. Price on request.
Bobo Diviner's Scepter
« Inquire About This Item »
Possibly Bobo or Lobi, this Diviner's Scepter (20.2") would have been pounded repeatedly on the ground by a diviner calling spirit guides for divination, which makes the bottom of the scepter blunt. The light wood of this scepter shows slight patination around the apex of the slit beak and base. The figure on the scepter is highly simplistic with a lentoid-shaped face and a cockatoo-like crown on top of the head. The bent, asymmetrical shaft has a few shallow rings and knots recall the strength and age of the tree from which is came. Dense and smooth, this Diviner's Scepter resonates with importance and elegance. Price on request.
Yoruba Doll
« Inquire About This Item »
Used as a plaything and tool for teaching, this omolangidi (8.5"), meaning child of wood, is a doll for young girls, who would carry them on their backs held in place by a baby wrapper. This doll is flat so it could lie comfortably on a girls back. Dolls, such as this, could have also been used as substitutes for memorial figures representing deceased twins. The abstract, tablet form of this doll depicts the writing tablets used to teach children Arabic and the Koran. the relief carvings on the doll emphasize the value Yoruba society places on children's education. The relief carvings of this doll are dusted with indigo laundry powder, which beautifully complements the slight ocher hue of the wood. Price on request.
Chokwe Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
Acquired from an old New York collection assembled between 1962 and the late 1970's. Dry, hard wood with pigment on the exterior and evidence of use on the interior. Recently re-based. 7" tall. Price upon request.
Tall Mwila Doll
« Inquire About This Item »
Unlike many child images in African art Mwila dolls are exactly that: child's play things. (The mwana hiti of the Kwere and Zaramo of Tanzania for example are carried by women of child bearing age as talismans to promote fertility.) The Mwila are a pastoral people belonging to the larger Nyaneka-Khumbi ethnic group on the Haumpata Plateau of southwestern Angola. They are famous for the elaborate hairdoos of their women which feature massive dreadlocks anointed with earth and animal fat adorned with beads. Mwila dolls celebrate the distinctive Mwila coiffure, neck ring and dress. The doll is hormed by a section of lightweight woody plant matter over which Indigenous string, sometimes incorporating recycled materials, forms a skin. Recycled cloth, yarn and beads complete the ensemble. This doll was collected immediately after the end of the Angolan civil war when the region, long off limits due to mine fields and warring armies, was opened up to outsiders. Such dolls are now exceedingly rare. 11" tall, unmounted. Price on request
Old And Eroded Makonde Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
While German explorers, missionaries, anthropologists and government personnel made a concerted effort to collect and catalog indigenous works of art in Tanganyika while the colony was under their rule the British, who took over the task, did relatively little of the same. There are cultural reasons for this that are worthy of a larger discussion but the fact is that after 1914 relatively little came out of the vast, culturally diverse hinterlands of what is today Tanzania. This led to the false impression that the territory was lacking in material culture or that the creating and preserving of whatever carving tradition there had been had largely withered if not disappeared. In fact, a great deal of sculpture remained in the country well into the 1980's and beyond. This mask, which conservatively dates before 1940, was only field collected around 2003. It masterfully depicts an elderly woman with a lip plug. Although the wood is very dense it has been compromised by termites- now long gone. The mask is stable and continue to project undiminished emotional power. While Makonde helmet masks are better known, use of so-called "half-masks" such as this has long been more widespread among Tanzanian Makonde. 10" tall, price on request.
Salampasu Panel With A Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
The Salampasu have long maintained close relations with the Chokwe and Lunda and like their neighbors are renowned for powerful masks performed with elaborate fiber costumes. Less well known are their wall plaques carved in high relief which feature figures, animals and human faces rendered as masks. This example is from a vintage Midwest USA collection. The distinctive Salampasu features of a bulbous forehead, broad pyramidal nose and rectilinear mouth are presented in classic style. Through drying and the weakening of the wood through age and exposure the underlying structure developed a crack which was stabilized professionally already in the 1960's, almost certainly in the US. The polychrome surface and poker-work pattern of circles is original and very well preserved. This rare and beautiful work should attract the attention of the impassioned Congo collector or a museum curator looking for the unusual and extraordinary. 18" high. Price on request.
Rare Mende Doll
« Inquire About This Item »
The role and a use of child-images in Africa is varied and complex. Dolls as children's playthings can be found in virtually all cultures but this does not mean that the form and use of such toys are culturally proscribed. Among some ethnic groups such as the Ambo of Angola children's dolls have a relatively uniform ethnic appearance while in others an individually adorned bottle or stick of wood suffices. Many child-images the African art world describes as dolls are not children's playthings at all. Rather they are used by pubescent and mature women to impart lessons of motherhood, signal age of marriageability or promote fertility. I do not know whether the Mende of Sierra Leone ever had a tradition of fertility dolls. It's possible that a healer might have occasionally proscribed the carving of such figures on a case by case basis. Then again, it's also possible that this early 20th C tribal 10.5" carving with inset glass eyes was carved by an adult for a young girl to play with. Mounted on a hardwood base. Price on request.
Scorpion Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
The Mossi dance a variety of zoomorphic masks including but not limited to guinea fowl, chickens, roan and duiker antelopes, buffalo, fish, hyenas, lions, crocodiles, snakes and chameleons. Such masks fall into two basic types, facial masks which allow the performer to see through an open mouth or cap masks which ride on the head attached to costumes through which the performer can see. This 16.5" long mask is of the latter type. It is the only representation of a scorpion I have encountered in a Mask from this region. As is typical of Voltaic masks it is exclusively decorated with earth pigments in white, black and red sienna. This is a used mask dating to the mid 20th C. Mounted on a hardwood base $780.
Rare Temne Copper Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
The carved wooden masks of the Temne are well documented but their hammered copper and brass masks are largely unknown. Through long-time trader-contacts working out of Freetown, Sierra Leone I was fortunate enough to see a number of such masks over the years including some that ended up in important collections such as the Barbier-Mueller. Some of these masks were made up of several panels in metal and other materials attached together, forming a helmet. Others were like this mask: a single unit once attached to a cloth headpiece draped with raffia. At least one of the Temne metal masks I examined had an image of Cleopatra on the interior- a remnant of the Egyptian copper-wear imported by British traders that supplied the raw materials for such masks and likely inspired their indigenous name: "eron arabai". This mask was rescued from an auction of misidentified, mostly West African odds and ends in Charleston, South Carolina. It's 11.5" tall and is supplied with a custom base. Price on request.
Salampasu Idangani Fiber Mask
« Inquire About This Item »
The Salampasu style is fully embraced in this mask's bulging forehead, narrow eyes and wedge-like nose. African masks made from fiber have been under-represented in museums and private collections. In reality masks made of fiber, leather and other non-carved wooden media were both common and widespread. Among the better known fiber masks are the Idangani Society masks of the Salampasu. Such masks are said to have been danced in male-female pairs. This mask with its luxuriant beard and conical crown represented a male character. Raffia fiber, woven fiber soaked in resin, coiled bark and red, black and white earth pigments. 33" tall, mounted on a custom hardwood base. Price on request.
Mwila Doll 25 Cms
« Inquire About This Item »
Unlike many child images in African art Mwila dolls are exactly that: child's play things. (The mwana hiti of the Kwere and Zaramo of Tanzania for example are carried by women of child bearing age as talismans to promote fertility.) The Mwila are a pastoral people belonging to the larger Nyaneka-Khumbi ethnic group on the Haumpata Plateau of southwestern Angola. They are famous for the elaborate hairdoos of their women which feature massive dreadlocks anointed with earth and animal fat adorned with beads. Mwila dolls celebrate the distinctive Mwila coiffure, neck ring and dress. The doll is hormed by a section of lightweight woody plant matter over which Indigenous string, sometimes incorporating recycled materials, forms a skin. Recycled cloth, yarn and beads complete the ensemble. This doll was collected immediately after the end of the Angolan civil war when the region, long off limits due to mine fields and warring armies, was opened up to outsiders. Such dolls are now increasingly rare. 10" tall, unmounted.
Female Ewe Venavi With Old Beads
« Inquire About This Item »
Like the Fon and Yoruba to their West the Ewe people of Togo and Ghana have a cult of twins. The birth of twins in these communities is traditionally seen as both a blessing and a responsibility. Twin births are believed to be the result of spiritual influence. It is proscribed that each child must be dressed the same and fed together so as not to arouse their capricious nature. And because twins were prone to a higher rate of mortality than other births and understood to be psychically forever linked to their surviving twin , special attention was required in the case of the death of one, or both. Such an event required Ewe mothers to acquire a doll in the marketplace (or to have one carved in the home) and to have it consecrated by spiritualist to act as the home of the deceased spirit. Thereafter it would be the duty of the deceased mother or sister or aunt to look after the carved figurine or venavi (literally twin.) The caring of venavis required ritual feeding and washing but varied in terms of the particulars between communities and individuals. This carving is unusually expressive and charged with personality. It has a rounded much-handled and washed patina. 11.5" tall. $850
Ewe Child Image
« Inquire About This Item »
Herbert Cole argues that such figures as this, often called dolls, should rightly be called "child image" as they are not child's play things. Like the Fon and Yoruba to their West the Ewe people of Togo and Ghana have a cult of twins. The birth of twins in these communities is traditionally seen as both a blessing and a responsibility. Twin births are believed to be the result of spiritual influence. It is proscribed that each child must be dressed the same and fed together so as not to arouse their capricious nature. And because twins were prone to a higher rate of mortality than other births and understood to be psychically forever linked to their surviving twin , special attention was required in the case of the death of one, or both. Such an event required Ewe mothers to acquire a doll in the marketplace (or to have one carved in the home) and to have it consecrated by spiritualist to act as the home of the deceased spirit. Thereafter it would be the duty of the deceased mother or sister or aunt to look after the carved figurine or venavi (literally twin.) The caring of venavis required ritual feeding and washing but varied in terms of the particulars between communities and individuals. This carving imparts beauty to the eye and to the touch. It has a rounded much-handled and washed patina. The boy's coiffure and dress and the high quality of the carving suggest he was fashioned in the 1930's or 40's for a family of means. 9.5" tall. ex Ibrahim Kao. $1250.
Unusual Stylistic Ewe Venavi
« Inquire About This Item »
The treatment of the human form by the carver of this venavi is unique in my experience. The artist was certainly a well-practiced wood worker, with an understanding of the human form and an ability to offset curves to create intriguing visual rhythms, yet I do not recall having seen or at least recognized any other work by this master. I acquired this from Kabiye-born, Lome based trader Ibrahim Kao who had the best connections in the Ewe community of anyone I ever knew. The quality and age of the venavi he collected and exported between 1985 and 2000 put all others to shame. Unfortunately, he was unable or unwilling to provide me with detailed information on the precise origins and age of this marvelously carved, much loved and frequently washed 10" figure. Some long ago loss of fingers to each hand plus the front half of each foot due to washing, drying and inevitable checking. $1400
Ewe Venavi With A Worn Face
« Inquire About This Item »
Herbert Cole argues that figures such as this, often called dolls, should rightly be called "child images". After all they are not child's play things. Like the Fon and Yoruba to their west the Ewe people of Togo and Ghana have a cult of twins. The birth of twins in these communities is traditionally seen as both a blessing and a responsibility. Twin births are believed to be the result of spiritual influence. It is proscribed that each child must be dressed the same and fed together so as not to arouse their capricious nature. And because twins were prone to a higher rate of mortality than other births and understood to be psychically forever linked to their surviving twin , special attention was required in the case of the death of one, or both. Such an event required Ewe mothers to acquire a doll in the marketplace (or to have one carved in the home) and to have it consecrated by spiritualist to act as the home of the deceased spirit. Thereafter it would be the duty of the deceased mother or sister or aunt to look after the carved figurine or venavi (literally twin.) The caring of venavis required ritual feeding and washing but varied in terms of the particulars between communities and individuals. This carving is well worn from ritual feeding and rubbing of the face which has all but lost its features. 8.75" tall. Old age crack from repeated washings visible only from behind. 1960's. $450
Well Used Ewe Venavi
« Inquire About This Item »
This venavi, literally "twin", is either the mate of- or by- the same carver as another on this site (see Ewe Venavi with a Worn Face). The two were acquired at different times from the same source. Both specimens are male, of similar height, patina and age with similar sexual details inscribed on their abdomens. However, one has had its face rubbed and washed until no features remain while this example retains its eyes and has a deeply carved still-present mouth that shows much evidence of having been ritually fed. As Ewe cultural mores proscribe that twins and their representations be treated equally, dressed the same and fed at the same time to avoid even an appearance of preference for one over the other, it would be odd for one of a pair of venavi to have retained its face while the other lost it through presumably more vigorous attention. It is also notable that this venavi was had its feet indigenously repaired- a not uncommon practice on an individual basis that would nevertheless be surprising to find in only one of a matched pair. $8.75" tall $450
!960's/70's Vintage Ewe Venavi
« Inquire About This Item »
This venavi was carved and decorated with underwear with the intention that it would be clothed in the sachet style dress typical of the post colonial period up until today. Unfortunately, the covering has been lost or was in such a state of disrepair that it was discarded. The surface shows much sign of handling and loving care with natural oils darkening the wood to a golden hue. 10.75" tall $350
Ewe Or Fon Venavi/hovi Pair
« Inquire About This Item »
Both the Ewe and their neighbors to the east, observe a cult of twins that dictates special respect for twin births and requires that should one or both die before the age of seven a carving must be acquired and activated on their behalf, to be cared for in equal measure to the living twin or its paired image. This 5.75" tall couple date to the 1970's and have been repeatedly washed and looked after. Among the Fon such figures are often kept in a special box made specifically for hovi with compartments for each carved "child." $250 for the pair.